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Helio Print, the advantages of rotogravure for long-run printing

With the acquisition of the H2D printing plant (now Helio Print) in 2018, Riccobono Imprimeurs confirmed their leading position in newspaper and magazine printing, but also their intention to diversify their offer with commercial printing through rotogravure.

The objective behind this acquisition was to take advantage of synergies between Helio Print's capabilities, both in rotogravure and offset printing (mainly dedicated to printing covers), and those of other Riccobono offset printing plants. This synergy can be illustrated, for example, with the production of the national magazine Télérama: the News Print plant located in Lieusaint (77) prints the inside sections, while Helio Print prints the corresponding covers.

Other upsides of the acquisition:

  • the relocation of the production of two major French weeklies printed abroad: Version Femina and Madame Figaro;

  • an active role in preserving an industrial heritage of the Paris Region by preserving the activity of a site that has been operating in Mary-sur-Marne (77) for more than 30 years;

  • nearly 200 jobs maintained

A high-quality printing technique adapted to very long print runs

Rotogravure is a process of intaglio printing, invented in 1820. As opposed to offset printing where ink is retained on the surface of a plate through chemical reaction, with rotogravure, the ink is retained in cells (hollows) engraved on a copper cylinder. The size and depth of the cells determine the intensity of the line. Rotogravure is particularly well suited for fine art photography, as the absence of a matrix makes printing more accurate.

A meticulous preparation process

The preparation of rotogravure cylinders is longer and more complicated than that of offset printing plates. It includes two main phases: During the first phase, called copper plating, the cylinders are immersed in a copper bath and then polished to the correct size. In the second phase, which takes about two hours, the copper layer is engraved with diamond heads and chrome plated to harden the surface.

Once finalized, the cylinders hardly wear out and can print an almost unlimited number of copies. This is of particular interest for magazines or advertising brochures, where print runs can reach millions of copies.

A technique that’s well adapted to press magazines and advertising

brochure printing.

While an offset printing company such as News Print can handle print runs from 20,000 copies and up, Helio Print will only be profitable from 200,000 to 300,000 copies and up, with economies of scale proportional to the size of the print run.

With the knowledge of such an attractive technique, one may wonder why the daily press is not printed in rotogravure. The answer is simple: time. It only takes one hour between the receipt of the print files to the beginning of the printing process on an offset printer. Rotogravure, on the other hand, requires more time to engrave and mount the cylinders, and to set the printing proofs. This is hardly manageable when there are only a few hours between the delivery of the printing files and the first delivery truck!

When tradition meets modernity: Rotogravure at Riccobono Imprimeurs

After acquiring Helio Print, Riccobono Imprimeurs invested 14 million Euros to transform the printing plant into a full-service production center. Controlling the entire value chain avoids disruptions, reduces lead times and keeps costs under control.

The transformation budget included:

  • the update of the rotogravure presses

  • the update of the 16-page offset presses

  • the update of all the cylinder engraving benches

  • the acquisition of new automated finishing lines, intended to package the finished and semi-finished products and to carry out inserts and palletization after printing

  • the integration and upgrading of HP Brochage, a bookbinding workshop, which manages the assembly of signatures

Rotogravure, a traditional technique with exceptional performances

All of this makes Helio Print one of the only two printing companies in France capable of providing a complete service for volumes of up to several million copies. Helio Print is the largest of the eight Riccobono Imprimeurs plants in France in terms of printing volumes.

The plant runs 24 hours a day, 6 days a week and offers a production capacity of 60,000 copies per hour, for jobs ranging from 4 to 132 pages, which corresponds to 100,000 tons of paper per year transformed into magazines and brochures for mass distribution.

The performance of rotogravure printing is combined with a very high degree of format flexibility.

Rotogravure printers can accommodate cylinders with diameters from 800 to 1300 mm, and have a width of 3.08 meters, divisible into a maximum of 12 strips. This allows a wide variety of magazine and brochure formats and is therefore a major advantage for advertising printing.

The environmental impact is always at the heart of the company's preoccupations

Environmental responsibility is a priority for Riccobono Imprimeurs. This fundamentally human issue is taken into account by each Riccobono plant and Helio Print is no exception: the company is certified Imprim'Vert, PEFC and FSC. Helio Print also applies a protocol of waste management and tracking. For instance, the copper films and chrome used on the printing cylinders are recycled and valorized.

After two years, where is Helio Print at?

In a difficult economic context for newspaper printing, Helio Print has been able to adapt by reducing production complexity and costs for its customers. Two years after the acquisition of the printing plant, the efforts of Riccobono Imprimeurs are delivering results.

In 2020, Helio Print took over the printing of all 4.5 million copies of TV Magazine, of which it was already printing 20% of the inside pages and 70% of the covers.

This contract is the achievement of the commitments made by Guillaume Riccobono in 2018 at the time of the acquisition:

  • a 14 million Euros investment to renovate the plant

  • the upgrading of the printing presses and the integration of the binding and forwarding activities

  • the repatriation of the French publications printed abroad

  • a share of 65% in magazine printing, exceeding the commitment of 50 to 60% initially made

Want to know more? Contact us!

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