October was “rally mode” month for the Gravure Industry. The ERA European Rotogravure Association held their Annual Conference & Management Meeting in Hamburg Germany on October 5th and 6th with 50 delegates participating. As part of the AIMCAL R2R virtual conference, GAAmericas provided eight speakers in the first-ever “Gravure Tracks.” The first Gravure track with four speakers took place October 21st and the second Gravure track with four additional speakers was held on October 23rd. Then, on October 23rd The Italian Rotogravure Group held their inaugural Roto4All event. Even though it was moved to a virtual gathering at the last minute, an impressive 430 participants logged in and followed the presentations. Indeed, October a month where gravure was in definitely in the forefront.
The events covered topics of gravure technologies to improve performance and reducing cost, environmental cylinder production considerations and sustainability. The Rotto4All had several case studies in which reductions in Delta E and improvements in brand satisfaction were presented.
The brand-new AIMCAL R2R Gravure Tracks was a great opportunity for their members to have the opportunity to interact with our speakers. Joe Steingraeber besides being a speaker on “STATIC Neutral ESA Rotogravure Printing / Lamination” elected to also be an exhibitor and reported he was able to meet people he has not been previously able to contact. The R2R also had live and recorded presentations as a virtual component, and their event website is being kept active for a second week so attendees can view the 80 presentations whenever they have time. We applaud AIMCAL for adding the Gravure Tracks to their agenda. We all have adjusted in the changes taking conferences from live to virtual. The reality will be, the “Virtual” conference will not go away in the future, especially as travel budgets are adjusted. So, we look forward to more interactive solutions from our members and partners.
Industry Innovations and Advancements
GAAmericas has placed lot of emphasis on Roto-Hybrid Cylinders. The premise is to develop a conductive polymer material that will be molded to the cylinder in order to create surfaces for direct laser engraving. Initially, the cylinders will be molded to the largest repeat and then can be adjusted to smaller repeats as needed without remolding. Since it is both conductive and machinable, the polymer can be machined, copper plated, and electromechanically engraved.
The Roto-Hybrid project has also successfully modified a non-chrome Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) top coating. This ultra-thin coating boasts high wear resistance which delivers superior quality and ultra-fine detail printing of high-value manufacturing applications such as security print, printed electronics, printed solar, smart packaging, and standard industrial packaging applications. The team is actively supplying DLC coated rollers to customers in specialist Gravure sectors and is currently at the final stages of enhancing their engravable gravure polymer technology to provide a broader resistance to solvent systems such as Ethyl Acetate.
Beta testing at Bobst resulted in extraordinary detail that can be reviewed in the white paper at: https://gaa.org/technical-comparison-of-new-gravure-cylinder-technology/
Enhanced Cylinder Base Utility
Improvements to the utility of cylinder bases has been covered at length in technical papers and presentations. Visit the following links. https://gaa.org/technical-comparison-of-new-gravure-cylinder-technology/ and https://gaa.org/cylinder-smarts-a-comprehensive-guide-to-essential-gravure-technology/ to read up on the technical considerations covered thus far.
Other options that increase the utility of bases include Thermal Spray Coatings. However, finding a replacement alloy for copper that is engravable requires an alloy that will not only stand up in the press, but also readily take another coating on top of the engraving. Aluminum is great for building up with minimal weight, but it is impossible to copper plate without an interim layer. Spray coating aluminum for the bulk of the deposition and then adding a layer of copper, or nickel is one solution. IRC developed one such CU/Ni alloys that could be engraved and could stand the rigors of the press.
Prior to current offerings, there were many attempts that addressed cylinder base utilization and material replacements. All the major North American base manufacturers had products in the field; all polymer based. The two main issues were dimensional stability and adhesion to the underlying base material. Non-metallic surfaces were another “Holy Grail” and many attempts have been made to introduce Epoxy Resins and the like; with some success.
Innovative solutions such as cylinder base rental, combined with bespoke presses, have addressed the cylinder base inventory issue in limited fashion. The industry continues to strive for universal solutions, but now with much improved material options.
This topic has and should be a prime focus of our Technical Forums; it addresses one of the major time/cost opportunities in our industry. However, our industry needs to follow the Marine Corps culture of Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, rather than waiting for a new, perfect solution to arrive. It’s time to start looking around and seeing what can be repurposed and brought to use.
The immediate need, especially in Europe, to keep using Hexavalent Chromium (Cr (VI)) until a replacement can be implemented is being led by K. Walter Services on three fronts. ChromeXtend is an application process to allow 117 printing-related facilities to continue using Hex Chrome in the EU beyond the current 2024 deadline.
K. Walter has two alternative projects, Helio Chrome NEO and Helio Pearl in the works as direct replacements. Helio Chrome NEO is chromium trioxide chemistry that is up and running in production at selected printers. The Cr³ plating solution does not present the health issues for platers as does Hex Chrome does. Helio Pearl is a polymer-based layer that can be laser engraved. Cost/time efficiencies are achieved by utilizing existing bases and eliminating galvanic processes, currently targeted at short-run Gravure. Beta testing has shown Helio Pearl run to 330K feet (100K meters) without issue. Testing was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and is continuing. Ultimately, a forward-thinking gravure printer could invest in the technology allowing inhouse coating and engraving without the environmental concerns of the past for high-quality short-run gravure.
Awards & Recognitions
The value of the Gravure printing process is best expressed when we strive to be the leader, rather than settle for keeping pace. There is no doubt that the technology is available to meet the premise of, “If you can imagine it, we can print it!”
It is such a shame that we were not able to stage the Golden Cylinder Awards this year. We always receive stunning examples from around the globe, demonstrating the superiority of the Gravure process. We look forward to resuming the awards as soon as is safely possible.
In the meantime, Cory Francer, Editor in Chief of Packaging Impressions shared the following link about a previous Golden Cylinder winner, Print Master in Thailand:
What’s Happening on the Press?
New Presentations and Findings
- Twin trolley systems allow the trolley to be split after removal from press. The cylinder heads to the “cylinder room” & the inking part of the trolley heads to the “ink room” for cleaning and preparation for next job. All this activity takes place while the press continues to run.
- Patrick Potter of FlexoWASH in his presentation “Cylinder Washing Reimaged in the Era of Sustainability” at the R2R shared a case study in which a capital investment into a 4-stage cylinder cleaning automated line, cleaned 80 to 120 cylinders per day while also reducing the supplies used by 50% and minimizing needed labor.
- Enhanced controls and monitoring technology help to maintain variables, make adjustments, and provide objective QA data. Kevin O’Shields of BST NA in his presentation “Using IoT Equipment and Cloud Data for Production QC Control” showed how using available technology reduces makeready and increases throughput and quality.
- Drying lengths have become much shorter, due to better technologies available today, along with shorter web paths with less waste between jobs. Dr. Kia Bär of adphos in his presentation “NIR drying reducing energy needed and reducing CO2-output” at the ERA and R2R proved we all need to be open to new technologies and not stand back and watch.
- Extended Color Gamut (ECG) technology is deployed across analogue and digital printing processes in label, flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated board industries. Jonathan Giubilato of Bobst at the Roto4All presentation “oneECG The Future of Rotogravure Printing” pointed out adapting ECG gravure printers show Increases in annual machine productivity by + 40% Decreasing waste by – 50%.
Next month we will cover more presentations from the events in October.
Additional Insight Into ECG
What is ECG?
Extended Color Gamut printing (ECG) typically utilizes 7 colors – CMYK + Orange, Green, Violet – to achieve a color gamut larger than the traditional CMYK and avoids the use of spot colors. ECG printing uses up to three additional ink colors on top of the conventional colors of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK), enabling a match with >90%+ of the Pantone book, compared with the previous 65%.
Brand owners and consumers perceive color variations as a lack of product quality, negatively impacting brand identity and customer loyalty. A brand’s colors should be consistent irrespective of the printing process, the substrate, and the country where production is done. Standardizing through ECG helps ensure perfect reproduction and repeatable consistency of brand colors.
ECG for Gravure Printing
Gravure holds an enviable reputation for color consistency, so why introduce ECG? Well, you may not have a choice, but one obvious reason is having one ink set, consistently in the same print stations, resulting in much simpler and faster change-over times.
Standardization through the supply chain and the full control of all variables such as register (in particular), ink temperature and viscosity, in fact any machine parameters that can affect the final result are pre-requisites for a successful implementation of the Extended Color Gamut process in rotogravure printing.
There is also the challenge of limited screen angle options in Electronic Engraving –what about Laser Engraving? Next month, we will look into what the engraving options are and the very latest technical developments.
An Old Friend of Gravure Staying in Touch
Last month, we briefly discussed the heritage and technical impact of Publication Gravure on our industry. We recently had the pleasure of discussing this and other related topics with one of the early members of Gravure Technical Association (GTA) and the Gravure Research Institute (GRI). Both GTA and GRI had been in existence since 1947 and were forerunners of GAA.
Bill Malinese Jr. called to find out why he had not received anything from us in the mail lately which introduced a whole separate conversation about how the world has moved on to digital information platforms. Bill reminded us during that discussion of some great challenges that had to be overcome. For example, how do you get a Rotogravure-printed Sunday supplement in the hands of every American that wanted one, across all 52 States – simultaneously? Given the technology that was available at the time, it was a daunting task. Now, of course you can just post your magazine online and it ready for the taking instantaneously.
We spent a very happy half hour chatting with Bill and could have continued for hours (and hopefully will in the future). Thank you, Bill and thanks to all the entrepreneurs and ingenious people who developed Gravure technology. Theirs are the shoulders that we stand on today.
University Gravure Days are Here Again
On October 29th, Western Michigan University hosted its 36th Annual Gravure Day. The event was virtual this year, but still gave 150 undergraduates and many graduate students an exciting welcome to the world of Gravure via presentations from many GAAmericas members. Walter Vail presented GEF Scholarships and Opportunities. Bob Speiss of K. Walter presented “Breakthrough Innovations for Gravure Cylinder Making.” Allan Bendall of Saueressig presented “Digital Transformation of Cylinder Production Processes.” Rod Sosa of Fres-co presented “Gravure and Flexible Packaging.” And, Tony Donato of the GAAmericas presented “Strengths, Distinctions and Uniqueness of Gravure Industry.” Hopefully, the presentations will inspire the students to look for employment in Gravure-related companies.
Don’t forget that the GAAmericas website is a tool that serves all members and partners.
By visiting https://gaa.org/ you can…
- Post job openings: https://gaa.org/post-a-job/
Tony Donato emphasized to the students at WMU’s Gravure Day to watch for job postings, so we need members to keep posting those openings.
- Read and submit white papers and technical resources: https://gaa.org/technical-library/
We’re always looking for more white papers as a way of sharing best practices with our entire Gravure Community. Please submit yours to be featured online and in future newsletters!
Students can make submissions too! Encourage all students to submit technical papers https://gaa.org/awards/technical-writing-endowment-awards/
- Make award nominations
We have not received any “Cylinder Society” nominations for 2020. If you have someone in mind, email email@example.com and ask for the nominating form.
Industry News From Around the World
Below are some October News Release highlights. To review them all, please visit https://gaa.org/global-news-highlights-for-october-2020/
And, if you want to look at last month’s GravurExchange and releases, you can find them at: https://gaa.org/news/