Just like offset and flexography printing, gravure printing is realised by using a rotary printing press. This means the printing process consists of rotating cylinders instead of sheets pressed on the paper. But in this case the image carrier is different when compared to the other two techniques. This technique involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. The cylinder which contains the image gets engraved, which means that small holes are being made into the cylinder which represent the print image.
As mentioned before, flexo works with a cliché which has raised printing surfaces. The raised surfaces pick up the ink and transfer it to the substrate. In gravure printing it works the other way around; all the small holes in the gravure cylinder get filled with ink and directly transfer it onto the printing substrate. So in this case, the image carrier rotates directly through the ink fountain/ink pan. Other printing techniques make use of separate cylinders which transfer the ink to the image carrier and eventually print it on the substrate. Gravure cylinders print directly on the substrate.
The gravure printing process consists of:
- Ink fountain
- Gravure cylinder (image carrier)
- Doctor blade (scraping off the unnecessary thick layer of ink before it is transferred to the substrate)
- Impression cylinder