29.11.2016

Gravure in transformation – Ukraine in transformation

ERA’s Packaging and Decorative Gravure Conference this year took place on 3-4 November in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Thus ERA returned to Ukraine, since the ERA Packaging Conference 2005 was held in Kiev, following the Orange Revolution. This year the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, set in force by 1 January 2016 after a long period of negotiations and another uprising on the Maidan square in the winter of 2013/14, was the momentous background for the event.

The conference, which was attended by over 100 participants from European and Turkish packaging and decorative gravure printers and engravers, as well as the supply industry and print buyers, discussed the ongoing transformation of the Ukraine and the current changes and challenges of the gravure printing industry. A visit to the plant of Ukrplastic, one of the leading Eastern European packaging gravure printers, rounded off the meeting.

ERA Secretary General James Siever commented on the event: “The conference not only discussed gravure’s answer to the challenges from the market and other technologies, but also demonstrated ERA’s confidence in Ukraine’s transformation process and its course towards Europe.”

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Two complementary presentations showed significant steps forward in productivity in the gravure process, with a new cylinder concept and a novel press design. Rudi Weis-Schiff of Janoschka explained a new rotogravure cylinder concept for flexible packaging, to address the popular perceptions of gravure as heavy, expensive, slow and old. Gravure has a marketing problem: flexography and digital printing are more active in self-promotion. The decline in run-lengths means that a greater proportion of press time is now spent on job changeovers, and startup waste is a larger proportion of the substrate used. Janoschka and Windmöller & Hölscher’s “think out of the box” solution is to halve overall investment, floor space, cylinder costs, set-up and make-ready time, waste, production costs and delivery times. The Dynacyl cylinder concept has pre-manufactured cylinders with a steel core and a polymer coating, which can quickly and easily be turned down on a lathe to the required circumference, and then electro-plated to provide a copper surface for engraving. A completely new cylinder can be prepared and ready for print within 72 hours. Because only the core is steel, the cylinder is lightweight and can be hand-carried and transported by conventional couriers in a corrugated card package. As part of the concept, it is proposed that the cylinders will be rented instead of bought.

Ulrich Harte of Windmöller & Hölscher then presented the new Dynastar rotogravure press for ultra-short runs. He noted some difficulties with digital printing for packaging: the print sequence cannot be changed for reverse printing, there are limited spot colours and no metallics, a primer layer is needed, and the ink costs are about three times conventional inks. W&H therefore decided to optimise the gravure process for short jobs. The press design is focussed on job changeover time, which is halved compared with conventional presses. The Dynacart trolley carries the Dynacyl cylinder, and includes the whole ink supply and doctor blade systems, all pre-adjusted. And it is side-loaded into the press, which also means that the printing units can be placed closer together, saving space and reducing the amount of web in the press. In a test, four printing units were changed over in less than four minutes, from printing back to printing.

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