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Gravure printing is a process by which the image is engraved onto an image carrier and uses a rotary printing press. The image is etched into a printing plate, and the printing ink is transferred directly to the paper. Gravure presses generally print on rolls of paper as opposed to sheets of paper and gravure printing is one of the most efficient and widely used printing operations.
Gravure printing is an industrial printing process and it mainly used for high-speed production of large print magazines, catalogues, and wallpaper. The typical products for which gravure printing are used include:
- Food Packaging
- Wall Paper
- Wrapping Paper
- Greeting Cards
- Furniture Laminates
The three main types of gravure printing include: (1) Publication gravure which is used for long press runs of mass-circulation periodicals, directories, and catalogs; (2) Packaging gravure which is used for folding cartons and a variety of flexible packaging materials; and (3) Product gravure which is used for a continuous printing surface with a repeating pattern such as textiles. Gravure printing is also commonly used for labels and competes against flexography.
Gravure printers are not very common throughout the United States due to the costs and need for skilled laborers. The process requires very careful preparation, but if prepared properly produces very high quality and color. Gravure printing has several advantages over digital and offset printing for medium to long runs because it is a simply process only requiring four basic components. It is also able to print on lower quality mediums and still produce high quality color printing. Gravure printing is also able to use the widest variety of inks including UV, water based, solvent, metallic, and fluorescents because of the precise ability of the gravure cell to lay down a very precise volume of ink.