Hugh Griffin
Monday, March 23, 2009

Engraving is the only printing process using fully recyclable water-based inks which emit zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) on press and do not require the use of chemical solvents to clean presses.

With the explosion of digital communication and arrival of "virtual businesses," companies and professionals are recognizing a growing need to differentiate themselves as "Green and credible businesses." Designers requiring exacting and consistent color and fine detail, as well as professionals dependent upon security and "the ability to authenticate originals" choose engraving for its unique benefits.

The ever increasing uses of engraving often go unnoticed by a casual observer. While engraving has been the process of choice to project a distinct and "premium brand image" for 500 years, contemporary stationery, packaging, certificates and negotiable documents use engraving for many reasons. With product counterfeiting rampant, many labels and packages now use engraving because it's a "tactile" process which cannot be easily and anonymously faked with 'flat' digital printing.

Engraving, perhaps the oldest known printing process, ironically turned out to be ideal for use in modern desktop printers because water-based inks don't melt and contaminate printer drums.

While some presume engraving is an expensive printing process, actually it's not when designed thoughtfully. Frequently found on premium social stationery, the use of engraving often has less to do with the final cost of those items than the "nature of the social stationery business" itself - being typically a 'low volume, high mark-up' enterprise in expensive locations.

While some intricate designs can be very labor intensive and expensive to engrave, they tend to be exceptions amongst the millions of engraved impressions produced daily. Engraving presses generally cannot apply multiple colors in a single impression like an "offset" or "litho" press, but that's because they apply 4000 pounds of pressure to imbed inked images directly into papers.

While Law, Finance, Accounting and other professions have long recognized the prestige, archival life and security advantages of engraving their stationery on watermarked papers, other businesses rely upon engraving's ability to produce unique images which hold their color and quality indefinitely. Many specify engraving for art printing, "collectibles" and other graphic products created to appreciate in value over time.

Perhaps the most interesting trend over the past 20 years has been the incorporation of designer typestyles, new and unique colors, and finishes which are the antithesis of "your grandfather's engraving" (even though the use of "classic" typestyles" and black ink still dominate). With advances in technology, engraving not only remains "contemporary," it's becoming steadily less costly, easier and faster to get (thanks to digital composition and automation replacing the days of "hand-cut dies" and hand-fed presses).