At this year’s “International Gravure Days” event organised by the European Rotogravure Association (ERA), which took place in mid-October, there was a general sense of relief. The successful development of the Chromium(III) process for the protective coating of gravure cylinders now offers prepress companies and printers the certainty of being able to continue producing gravure cylinders in Europe in the long term, even if the Chromium(VI) process will probably no longer be permitted in the future.
Environmentally friendly and more efficient energy consumption
Without the Chromium(III) process, there would currently be no alternative to Chromium(VI), which would jeopardise the gravure printing industry as a whole. This is of particular importance as the Chromium(VI) process also relies on PFAS substances, which are also at risk of being banned in the near future. This gives the gravure industry the opportunity to switch to a much more environmentally friendly and mature chrome plating process that does not require hazardous chemicals and also uses less energy.
Photo gallery: ERA International Gravure Days 2023
Digital process monitoring
A new generation of electroplating baths for Chromium(III) chrome plating, which will also be used for copper plating, degreasing and de-chroming in the future, is a pioneering technology that enables digital process monitoring. This solution revolutionises the production of gravure cylinders by automatically recording and analysing real-time data to an unprecedented extent and quickly correcting errors within very narrow tolerance ranges.
Overall standard for gravure printing
David Möller, CEO of 4Packaging, also attracted attention at the ERA event when he explained his vision of an overall standard for gravure package printing. His approach is to reduce the effort and therefore the cost of creating fingerprints by making the resulting colour profiles available to gravure printing companies without restriction. In this case, gravure printing would have an advantage over flexographic printing as it does not have a superordinate standard.
There have always been similar initiatives in the past, but this time the large engraving houses and packaging printers (with their own gravure cylinder production) seem to be ready to go down this path together.
The Chromium(III) process, the digital transformation of gravure cylinder production and an overall standard will strengthen the competitiveness of gravure package printing and thus make up for lost ground to flexo printing.