Flexographic vs. Rotogravure Printing: What’s Right For You and Your Budget?

Can’t decide on the printing method to use for your business? Flexographic printing and rotogravure printing may be two of your best options. Though these two have the ability to print high-quality images on a vast array of substrates, they differ in terms of production cost. Read on to know what’s right for your budget.

When it comes to choosing the right printing method for businesses, two familiar types are always put to battle: flexographic printing and rotogravure printing. These two are the most popular commercial printing methods — not to mention the most reliable. 

In making your decision when it comes to choosing for the right printing technique to use for your corporate needs, two things must be at the top of your head: quality and affordability. 

Both printing technologies boast of the ability to print high-resolution images on different substrates. The only difference is the versatility of use and cost of production. 

To determine the associated costs of each printing technology, let’s take a look at their features and benefits from the perspective of the following factors: 

  • Equipment investment
  • Production costs
  • Printing operation
  • Storage costs

 

Equipment Investment

The two different printing methods have their own machines and press equipment. This is probably the first and biggest initial expense you’re going to make. On average, a high-end 8-color flexographic press costs about US$1.8M. On the other hand, a rotogravure press of the same class costs about US$2.3M. 

Equipment-wise, the cost of each machine looks close, but US$500,000 may be a significant amount of savings for some businesses. Worth noting is that you should be leaning to brand new machines instead of used ones. There are significant disadvantages to purchasing a used flexo press

 

Production Costs

To determine the cost of production, we’ll have to look at the cost per printing plate, how many rotations it can make, and how long it can last.

One square centimeter of flexographic plate costs between US$0.03 – US$0.45, which can make 50M to 100M rotations. On the other hand, a rotogravure cylinder costs US$0.02 – US$0.03, and a cylinder can last over 100M rotations.

It’s evident that the cylinders for rotogravure printing are much cheaper. However, you should also think of the cost of repairs or replacements in case of damage. If a cylinder gets damaged, the whole cylinder needs to be replaced. But a flexographic plate is built by region. So should one get damaged, you can save on costs by only purchasing a replacement for the damaged region. 

Worth noting as well is that rotogravure printing is better for shorter runs because the cost of the cylinders is lower. But flexographic printing is more efficient for longer production runs, having fast lead times, fewer ink costs, and reduced energy consumption.

 

Printing Operation

Speed and Efficiency

A flexographic printing press runs faster than a rotogravure press. The former can run at 300-500 meters per minute. The latter only has a 120-200 meters per minute running capacity. 

When changing jobs, a printing press can also waste substrates in the process. Flexographic job changing only takes 0.75 to 1.5 hours and substrate wastage is only at 80-100 meters. In rotogravure printing, the job changing process takes 1.5 to 2 hours long, wasting 200-300 meters of the substrate.

Energy Consumption

Flexographic printing is more energy-efficient than rotogravure printing, with an electric consumption of only 140 ton/10K.m^2. This is compared to the 160 ton/10K.m^2 electric consumption of rotogravure printing.

Ink and Solvent Consumption

A flexographic press makes use of less ink and solvents than a rotogravure press, hence more cost-efficient in terms of materials used. The differences are shown in the following table: 

Rotogravure Flexographic
Ink Consumption 39.07 kg/10K.m^2 21.27 kg/10K.m^2
Solvent Consumption 111.60 kg/10K.m^2 63.94 kg/10K.m^2

 

Storage Costs

Storage considerations must not be taken for granted in order to properly preserve the quality and efficiency of your printing equipment. Luckily, flexographic printing materials are easily stored because they’re made of lightweight and flexible materials like elastomer and photopolymer. This enables you to pile them on top of each other for easy and safe storage while saving on space and shelving. The average storage area you need for flexographic plates, anilox, and sleeves is 200 square meters. 

Rotogravure printing materials require more thought and space in terms of storage. The cylinders weigh heavier, hence cannot be piled on top of each other. Cylinders alone would require 100 to 500 square meters of space. 

Both commercial printing methods are great at producing high-quality and high-resolution prints. However, one outweighs the other when it comes to costs. The flexographic printing process offers more versatility and efficiency, so if you compute the numbers, it definitely does cost less than rotogravure printing. If you’re looking to make the switch from gravure printing to flexography, here’s how to make a smooth transition

 

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