Indian giant starts fully automated gravure cylinder production

India, as all of Asia, is a gravure printing dominated market. Yet the growth of digital and especially flexo printing in this region also affects the gravure printing industry. Therefore it is necessary to invest in new state-of-the-art technology in order to remain in a leading position.


The leading Indian gravure cylinder maker Afflatus Gravure clearly understood this and has invested in October 2015 in the country's first entirely automated robotic cylinder production plant. The company has installed Think Laboratory's FX2 laser system in a clean room at its plant in Noida. The cylinder making line is equipped with two robotic systems, which move the cylinders from one station to the next. The entire system is operated by a single technician who also controls the engraved cells with a high resolution microscope. The system is designed to produce up to 60 gravure printing cylinders a day.


Quality boost


Despite of the achieveable high quality, the mature electronic and mechanical engraving process has its limitations according to Afflatus, therefore the company invested in new technology in order to maintain their leading position in quality, as well as to produce more economical and to remain environmentally friendly as well. Think Laboratory's FX2 system provides just that, the resolution is as high as 600 lpi (240 l/cm). Gravure cylinder lasering is a single step process, due to minimal laser spot size of 8 micron the achievable resolution is better when compared with other methods. Whats more interesting is that laser engraving avoids the typical saw tooth effect. Direct laser engraving also allows control of cell geometry and size. All this facilitate finer text and improved contrast in halftone areas as there is more or less no variation in tone around and across the cylinder. Afflatus also reports an improved ink transfer to foil substrates, which results in smooth halftones and no pinholes.

Afflatus produces cylinders on a Think Laboratory line for applications in flexible packaging, decor printing, embossing as well as security applications. This is for both the Indian market, as well as for Exports. Currently they are working on establishing electronic printing in India.


Afflatus stated that they observed 11 key benefits with the new system: solvent consumption can be reduced, image will be of higher resolution, reduced medium (substrate???) consumption, lower roughness improves runability, higher mileage, better text readability and higher contrast, no variations across and around cylinder, if different variants of the same job are run then no change needs to be done with the ink for CMYK cylinders, smooth dot transfer to foils and no pinholes, usability for water based ink.




Environmental benefit


Besides a boost in quality, the new system also brings environmental benefits. Afflatus says that the same density can be achieved while reducing the ink consumption significantly. In real life application they saw a reduction of ink usage by up to 20%, which also means a reduction of solvents and other VOC's (volatile organic compounds). Subsequently this leads to a lower energy consumption for drying, and therefore leads to a smaller carbon footprint.


Afflatus Engraving


The engraver just opened its fourth plant in the city of Kolkata, and are planning to install a second FX system from Think Laboratory at their plant in Sarigam in the West Indian state of Gujarat. Currently the company engraves about 11500 cylinders a month, the new investment in capacity will increase the capabilities by 25% up to 15000 cylinders per month. According to estimations, about 150000 cylinders are engraved in India every month, of which Afflatus will produce 10% soon. This makes Afflatus to the leading engraver in India. The trend to extend gamut printing is also visible in gravure printing in India, therefore Afflatus is looking into implementing this technology into its portfolio.


Next to the Think Laboratory equipment, Afflatus also has installed a Spectrum engraver from Ohio Gravure Technologies, and mechanical engraving equipment from Daetwyler Graphics.


Afflatus has been founded in April 2006, and currently employs more than 600 workforce at its four plants in Noida, Sarigam, Chennai, and Kolkata. Their turnover is USD 20 million. The company is a qualified supplier for Nestle, Pepsico, ITC, Unilever and Britannia.