Commentary on current developments in gravure forme production

The next step of evolution

Ansgar Wessendorf, editor of the internet platform Gravure Global

What is the current state of gravure printing, whose future prospects are almost exclusively linked to further developments in printing cylinder production? However, the future of the process is not be too bad if a global corporation like Continental is now active the market of gravure cylinder production.

Engraving directly into elastomer
At this year’s virtual.drupa, Continental introduced a new, future-oriented technology concept for the production of elastomer rotogravure printing cylinders. Called “DynaSurf”, this new concept completely dispenses the galvanic processes of copper and chrome plating. Instead, the black elastomer surface is processed directly with a high-resolution fiber laser or with the electromechanical engraving process.

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Previously, Heliograph Holding and Rossini with Ecograv had already presented their Helio Pearl and Ecograv concepts respectively for single-layer gravure cylinders. In contrast to Continental, their engraving layers consist of a special polymer material. In this context it is worth mentioning, that Helio Pearl is currently available only for direct laser engraving, while the Ecograv concept is solely based on the electromechanical engraving process.

The technological status quo
All these solutions have in common that they only need three process steps for the production of gravure cylinders:

  1. Coating the cylinder
  2. Grinding/polishing the monolayer
  3. Imaging (engraving) of the coating.

In addition, all three companies almost make the same statements regarding the status quo of their respective projects. Printing tests with the monolayer gravure cylinders have been very satisfactory and in some respects even exceeded the initial expectations, for example with regard to the ink release characteristics. However, further field tests are required before market introduction.

However, the chances of success are extremely favorable. For more than 10 year, the three companies worked on the development of their single-layer, directly engravable gravure cylinders. Success would be an important evolutionary step for gravure printing. This could not only open up completely new and very promising opportunities for gravure printing but also strengthen its competitive position in the long term compared to other printing processes.

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