An interview with: Sido van der Ploeg, one of our gravure experts

About Sido:

  • Sido has been working at LPF for 22 years now. He started in 1996 as a temp at the rotogravure press after graduating from high school.
  • During his early years at LPF he combined work with a part-time operator study. This study ran parallel to his work at LPF and lasted 3 years.
  • Since then Sido has also followed a masterclass in gravure printing at the ‘GOC’ (Grafisch Opleiding Centrum). Sido’s favorite parts of this masterclass were the challenging case studies.
  • Sido is currently a teamleader at the gravure printing press at LPF.
  • When asked about the function:

“It’s a very technical and practical function. You get to see your work come together before your eyes. You start with an empty roll of film and turn it in a beautifully printed-end product. Getting to work on a print with my own hands and overseeing every step of the process is what I like about this job so much.” – Sido.

And this process is not a one-and done kind of job. Aside from a controlling function during production runs, every new production run has it’s own set of settings. The inks need to be a certain viscosity and have a certain color. The waltzes have to be at a certain pressure. The same goes for the doctor blades. Messing up means you end up with a inconsistent print.

Graphical perfection
Working as one of our gravure experts is also a very precise function:

“You have to make sure everything is just right. Prints will be completely thrown away if even a little dot is mis-aligned. Many logo’s and images that you see packaging consist of several layers. A logo often uses different layers to get to a very specific end-color. If one of these layers is just 1 mm out of position we consider the print a failure.” – Sido

The team
Of course you’re not alone in this function, so being a team player is very important as well. We always work with a team of 3: the captain or team leader keeps an eye on the general machine performance according to Sido. At LPF we are somewhat unique: our operators do their own quality tests during production instead of having a different department do it post-production. These tests are also a part of the captain’s responsibility.

The captain’s right-hand is responsible for everything related to the inks. The colours viscosity is important and so is the end-color. This end-color is generally based on a mix of different colors, and reaching the desired end-color for all 9 printing waltzes is no easy task.

Finally, the left hand is called a ‘rolleur’ and is responsible for all the work related to the substrate (the base material that is to be printed). Making sure the right substrate is picked, that there’s enough and preparing it for production. This person is also responsible for the substrate’s performance/ runability throughout the machine.

Closing thoughts from Sido?
Gravure experts are way more technical than people might think. Me and my team all know the gravure press intimately. In part because we do our own quality checks, and in part because we always contribute to the machine maintenance work. I would fully recommend this function to any young graduate who is unsure of what to do next and likes a combination between graphic work and working with your hands. Working in a team and trying to reach the perfect print together is a constant and fun puzzle. it’s also a very safe job:

“Thanks to current market developments there are a lot of people learning for office jobs, but few people who know how to operate a gravure printing machine. I could walk away from LPF today and have a new job at a different firm tomorrow. The demand for good operators is just very high and will only increase in the coming years.“ – Sido