Just how enormous the spectrum across which gravure printing is used can be judged from the variety of places where we encounter its products in our daily lives, from the newsagent, to the supermarket, the pharmacy, our own kitchens or hotel bedrooms. According to the European Rotogravure Association (ERA), there are some 1200 gravure presses operating in Europe alone and every year more than 1.2 million gravure cylinders are produced.
Number one for packaging printing
It is in packaging printing in particular that the development of gravure has been really dynamic, and this is especially true in Asia, where gravure commands an 80% share of the flexible packaging market. In recent years, gravure has registered strong growth in the tiger economies of south-east Asia in particular. With nearly 1500 packaging gravure presses installed in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam there are almost twice as many operating there as in Europe. Over the last few years, packaging printers in Asia have invested heavily in modern gravure printing technology and Asia accounts for a not insubstantial share of the record recent sales of the European press manufacturers.
Gravure in particular has done well out of the current Corona crisis. The consequence of events being cancelled is that short packaging runs of special designs have given way to long runs of standard designs and a real boom for gravure. That being said, it is likely that once Corona is behind us the trend to frequent design changes and shorter runs will resume, and this will above all favour printing methods that are quick and flexible. However, this should be no problem for gravure. Over the last few years it has put its house in order and boosted its efficiency in both prepress and press down times. At the same time, the press manufacturers have also developed compact gravure presses that are ideal for shorter run jobs.
Consistent print quality
Gravure is well positioned as a result of numerous technical innovations in both printing and prepress. The fact that gravure is a technically simple process explains its dominance in the expanding markets of Asia. It stands for high and reproducible quality and outstanding run length capacity. The technologies used for cylinder production are mature, can be controlled precisely and are fully automated. Over the years to come, this is an area where direct laser engraving will become increasingly important.
Provided that gravure is not only able to maintain its high technical standard but also to carry on optimizing the process, it should be able to retain its position in the printing markets of the future.