The objective of this paper is to determine what factors are important when a particular printing method is chosen. In 1985-86, a study of the European publication printing industry was carried out by the European Rotogravure Association (ERA) in Munich, and contemporary industry leaders considered that Study to be one of the most comprehensive ever made in the publication printing industry. This paper deals with an important part of an ongoing survey of the European Publication Printing Industry - and highlights the development in recent years of the break-even level between gravure and commercial web-offset printing. These studies were the first of their kind and comparable studies have, to the author's knowledge, never been reported.
In 1996, the Summary showed that commercial web-offset printing was very competitive when printing signatures with 16 or 32 pages, and that gravure printing was very competitive from 48 pages signatures upwards, even though the manufacturing costs in the bindery for gathering together a number of smaller signatures in web-offset were not included. Further, the data collected also showed that for those gravure printers who were engraving cylinders directly from digital data Without having to proof the cylinders, the break-even level even for a 32 page signature became very competitive.
About 15 years ago, some commercial web-offset press manufacturers were redesigning the commercial web-offset press, and the Sunday press concept was launched by Harris (later taken over by Heidelberg, now Goss) in 1993/94. Within a few years, a completely new breed of commercial presses was presented for the publication printing markets; not only the traditional 16-32 pages (in short grain), but also larger and wider presses capable of printing 48 to 64 pages oil a single web. There was not only ail increase in the signature pagination but also a significant leap in web speed. Automation of plate processing (CTP-technology), plate Mounting and other press variables led to a sharp increase in productivity and print quality. Web-speed and productivity in web-offset became close to or in sonic instances even higher than in gravure printing. Recently, some indicators have shown that during the last decade gravure has lost its previous market dominance to web-offset printing, and recent investments in new printing capacity in commercial web-offset have outnumbered gravure by 4:1.
These recent developments made it clear that a new survey comparing printing costs, lead-time and quality for printing was needed. During 2005/2006, interviews have been conducted with a Substantial number of printers - both gravure and web-offset printers - using the same kind of Questionnaire as in 1985-86. Data from internationally renowned printers using gravure and/or commercial web-offset have been collected and analyzed in order to determine the relevant break-even level. A similar non-disclosure agreement as in 1985 has been used to ensure that confidential data will not be disclosed, and that it will not be possible to identify any single printer. For the first time, a scientific methodology has been used to compare the printing costs of a few well-defined signatures.
In 1986, the following hypotheses were formulated concerning the important and decisive factors of a customer's choice:
the economy (printing costs and market pricing),
the required lead-time (process speed and productivity),
the market requirements of the product (format and print quality).
In 2006, the hypotheses have been adapted to the present market situation (chapter 3).
Stockholm: KTH , 2007. 55-73 p.
Automatic make-ready; break-even; commercial web-offset printing; long grain printing; publication gravure printing; short grain printing; short runs in gravure
33rd International Research Conference of Iarigai/International-Association-of-Research-Organization-for-the-Information-Media-and-Graphic-Arts-Industries Leipzig, Germany, Sep, 2006