The European publication printing industry and its markets have undergone profound structural changes between 1986 and 2006. This thesis is an investigation of these changes and of how the publication industry has been affected, as well as of the balance between publication gravure and commercial heat-set web-offset. The publication printing market has grown substantially during 1986-2006, and the increase in volume is about 250%, from 5 million tons to 13 million tons of paper. In 1986, gravure was the dominating publication printing technique. Since 1986, however, web-offset printing has grown substantially, and the process has today a much larger market share of the European publication market. This domination is also reflected in the investments in new printing capacity since 2000, where 70-75% has gone to commercial heat-set web-offset press manufacturers.
This thesis focuses on the reasons why the balance between the two competing publication printing techniques, gravure and web-offset, changed between 1986 and 2006. It also studies the main driving forces determining the developments of these techniques and their related processes as well as their competitive strengths. Is gravure a printing process suitable only for very large runs, for huge volumes and for large markets? The changes in the European media market have affected the two major segments of the publication market; magazine and catalogue printing. In the magazine market, print runs in the segments of medium to large titles have decreased, and catalogues have changed from a single, thick catalogue to thinner; more targeted catalogues.
This thesis is based on two studies. The first, focused on the market requirements and techno-economical comparisons of gravure and web-offset in 1985-1986, was carried out by the author as the Secretary General of the European Rotogravure Association (ERA), and the second, in 2005-2006, has investigated the present situation on the European publication markets. The methodologies used in the investigations have been questionnaires (the originals 1985-86 have also been used in 2005-2006), surveys, literature studies and a substantial number of interviews with representatives of print buyers (publishers and catalogue producers), printers and all the major suppliers to the industry.
Given these changes, how can the competitiveness of publication gravure be improved and what strategies should a publication gravure printer use in order to survive in a very competitive European market? With shorter runs in very fast running gravure presses, the turn-around time in the cylinder-engraving department becomes very critical. A Double Ender gravure press for paginations from 16-64 pages, with an alternative up to 96 pages, where only four cylinders are needed, in combination with high-speed laser engraving of the cylinders, may be the answer.
Stockholm: KTH , 2007. , viii, 134 p.