Still Going Strong

Gravure’s unmatched quality holds up a large part of the flexible packaging segment.

This year has made for an interesting economic ride. Few want to say the United States is in the throes of a recession, but even a cursory glance at fuel prices is enough to know that the economy is hurting. Despite the current economic woes in the United States, gravure printers are enjoying continued success. Although customers are always on the lookout for the printer who will cut them a break here or there, gravure printers are riding the wave of flexible packaging, exactly the type of packaging that demands the quality that the gravure process routinely delivers.

This is not to say that flexo printing hasn’t made continued inroads. However, gravure printers are learning that there is a place for both processes, sometimes even adding flexo capabilities to their businesses. Gravure, however, remains at the forefront of long runs that require repeatable quality all the way through the print run.

The state of gravure

Fast changeover ability, cost, feasibility for short runs—none of these has ever favored gravure. However, Richard ­Kirchhoff, Reynolds Flexible Packaging, says, “gravure is still the most highly regarded printing process for packaging due to its high print quality and its ability to convey graphic detail for shelf appeal.” Flexible packaging and retort packaging are two market sectors that benefit from gravure’s quality—two types of packaging brand owners demand.

“Origination fees (costs for having cylinders made) are always a concern for some customers, especially when they are comparing gravure to plate systems,” says Alex Magen, plant manager, CLP Industries. “We are fortunate to have much lower origination fees than are typical in North America and Europe, which helps. And the customers who recognize the value of quality and have long runs appreciate the value of a gravure cylinder.”

Despite the current economic situation, the converters packagePRINTING spoke with said that business at their shops has increased. “The economic conditions are not affecting package printing, but customers are always on the lookout for suppliers who can provide effective solutions with high shelf appeal and increased speed to market,” says Kirchhoff. Magen concurs. “These are certainly exciting times in the industry, but we remain strong,” he adds. “The market for flexible packaging is still expected to grow substantially, and the economy may well be helping us as costs for rigid packaging and transportation increase. Pouches look better every day.”

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