Gravure is a printing process that has been spoken of relatively little of late, compared with other printing methods that have undergone a speedy transformation. However, the fast-moving consumers’ demands have been pressing on gravure printing just as much. These demands include increasingly short-run production and time-to-market, packaging customization, ready to recycle packaging substrates, and the need for global brand color consistency.
“Gravure is still the most highly regarded printing process for packaging due to its unique capability to create fine print and incredibly sharp definition graphics with an unmatched eye-catching shelf appeal – all at very high speeds and low costs,” says Jonathan Giubilato, Gravure Product Line manager at Bobst Italia, the company’s Center of Excellence for gravure printing, laminating and coating technologies.
“However, the time has come for gravure to get out of its well-established comfort zone of medium and high-volume productions and become a printing technology to be considered for all of today’s market requirements.”
Color consistency is conformity that brand owners aim to achieve on a global scale because when it comes to their favorite brands, consumers tend to perceive the lack of color consistency as a product quality issue. Therefore, printers and packaging converters must deliver on this quality request. The adoption of Extended Color Gamut (ECG) technology is one of the key innovations that can help achieve it.
oneECG partnership system for gravure
oneECG for gravure printing presses is an open-partnership system to multiple suppliers, developed for use with solvent-based and water-based inks. oneECG partners along the value chain collaborate to achieve the highest color stability, repeatability, and consistency and are certified to ensure the quality of results on Bobst gravure ECG ready presses.
The adoption of the Extended Color Gamut printing in gravure can bring many additional advantages and the 100% repeatability of color consistency and print job quality.
The benefits of extended color gamut printing on gravure include –
More effective job preparation, reliable color profile activities offline, and keeping the variables controlled on the machine;
Savings on inks and time as there is no need to change colors in the print units at job changeovers. ECG fixed palette colors always remain on press;
Enhanced agility on print cycles even for shorter print runs, with significantly reduced time to market;
Possibility to make a series of job variants share the same engraved print cylinders;
Fewer cylinders and Pantone color inks in stock;
Reduction of parts to be cleaned, saving operator time and material costs;
And, the technology is retrofittable on installed gravure presses.
Giubilato concludes, “The time has come for the gravure printing technology to become an active part of the packaging industry’s ongoing transformation. We have achieved outstanding results following intense R&D investments and print trials, and there is no doubt that ECG in gravure represents the next big leap in flexible packaging printing.
There is an exciting opportunity for gravure converters to embrace the sector’s next significant step-change and ensure the best future for their gravure operations. As a turnkey industry partner, Bobst has everything in place to support them, making the switch.”
Extended color gamut printing – our view
Extended color gamut printing has been around for more than 25 years in various forms. In our estimation, it has been currently adopted to some extent for monocartons on sheetfed offset presses. Multiple schemes such as the early Pantone Hexachrome 6-color system and other 7-color and even 8-color systems usually employ extra green, orange, and violet inks. Notably, many of the digital presses have 7-color capability. The idea is to avoid special colors as far as possible and save time and money on inks and wash-ups for changeovers and makereadies.
For flexible packaging printing, ECG has been suggested mainly for CI flexo presses by several manufacturers and notably by Bobst, which makes a special flexo press suited for this type of printing. Since gravure is still the dominant technology for flexible packaging printing, it is interesting to see a major gravure press manufacturer bringing or suggesting ECG capability to gravure printing.
Since gravure presses are typically 8 or 9-color machines nowadays, the philosophy of reducing special inks is feasible. Still, it will require a standardization level that has not been there earlier except on the fastest presses. It may also require industry-wide standardization of the 6- 7- or 8-color inks that are to be used, and which in themselves generally need to be fine-tuned according to the film or laminate being used. Nevertheless, this suggestion could lead to high-quality printing and cost savings but with investment in measurement and knowledge.