In the Groove
Advances in electronic and laser technology and expanded cylinder choices push the dynamic progression of gravure engraving.
By Susan Friedman
Gravure engraving technology and service suppliers are carving out distinct grooves that can help package printers make more educated decisions about handling engraving themselves or engaging a trade shop.
Bob Balzan, VP sales/marketing at Max Daetwyler Corp., says printers who also engrave typically have two to 10 presses, 25-120 employees, and spend $300,000 to $500,000 for an engraving machine.
Engraving service providers contend that taking on the complexities of engraving in-house often results in costly mistakes, and can distract from the core business of package printing or converting. Marty Marino, GM at Southern Graphic Systems' Exton, PA, facility, relates that Southern has taken over several internal engraving operations recently due to cost, environment and personnel challenges. At Southern Exton, a production department completes file stripping and trapping, and then step-and-repeats and marks-placement duties are delegated to an operator who specializes in the mechanics of getting the image onto the cylinder. Engraving is done on Hell Klischograph engravers driven by an OKI front-end.
At CNW, Inc., Cincinnati, where six Ohio engravers are on-line, Production Manager Kerry Smith says the design department often ends up rebuilding "ready-to-engrave" files provided by end-users. "CNW is working with designers in an effort to obtain files that satisfy press and end-user needs," he relates. "Continuous education will be the key to keeping rework costs down."
There is little dissension among suppliers that filmless engraving has taken the upper hand. "Film is actually becoming more expensive than digital," comments Dick Chesnut, president of W. R. Chesnut Engineering. Digital's biggest financial burden remains transition costsprimarily for scanning of older jobs on film, he notes.
New equipment continues to push electronic engraving's consistency and quality forward. Ohio Electronic Engravers Director of Product Management, Dick Dunnington, reports several recent hardware introductions, including the High Output 130 engraving head that achieves cell depths of 130 microns; a head with 275-micron engraving capability coming in early 1999; and Ohio's trans-Cell engraving system, which improves linework through real-time processing of image data. Newer engraving function developments include Midtone Correction, which fine-tunes cells for changes in stylus wear; and Ink Volume Calculator for accurate ink usage predictions.