One thing is for sure about gravure—the basic technology remains the same, and the quality has also been second to none. What has been different for gravure in recent years is competitive pressure in terms of improved quality from various sources and printing processes. First, flexographic printing has made, and continues to make, inroads in markets that traditionally have been served by gravure. Second, foreign competition—whether it be outsourcing print jobs overseas, or presses that are cheaper to build and buy, but lack comparative print quality—continues to impact gravure printers as they work to compete in a global environment.
The Achilles heel for gravure always seems to be the price. Flexo’s quality is approaching that of gravure, and it’s less expensive. But again, basic gravure technology has not changed: you take an engraved roll, you mount it, you print. The rolls are expensive. So, alternatives must be sought. One alternative is to decrease your costs on the front end, an alternative espoused by Michelle Fontaine, manager of continual improvement, Amgraph Packaging, Inc., Versailes, Conn., and daughter of founder Ken Fontaine.
Want service? Amgraph delivers.
Ken Fontaine founded the company 23 years ago when he bought Amstar’s flexible packaging plant through a leveraged buyout. Today, his three children operate Amgraph along with its 130 employees.
It employs various printing processes including rotogravure, lithography, flexography, and in-house graphics and prepress capabilities to engineer quality into its customers’ products. It plans to employ combination printing in the future. “We spend a great deal of time [before and after] production to learn how we can do things better each and every time we convert, whether it’s the first time at the press or the 100th time,” says Michelle Fontaine.
Amgraph prints on paper, foils, and films using water-based and EB inks. The company uses seven presses (with a new one on the way during 2008), one extruder, and multiple finishing machines, which help meet customers’ custom finishing needs.