Grafica News - January 2011

What are the new and growing profitable markets for screen printers?

An exclusive interview with the expert, Mike Young, SGIA Fellows & ASPT member

Grafica was proud to be associated once again with Mike Young's Technical Seminars organized during Screen Print India 2010 at Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai. It may be noted that in year 2009 Grafica had sponsored Mike Young's Knowledge Tour in India, covering various six major cities.

Mike is a SGIA Fellows, a member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology and recipient of the prestigious Swormstedt Award for technical writing. In an exclusive interview with Grafica News, Mike Young first highlights the summary of his seminar at Screen Print India. He followed it up with other current issues. Excerpts from the interview:

Excerpts from the interview:

Please throw light on the principles of "buying screen printing equipment - without confusion". Why printers should not compromise on quality over price?
Purchasing capital equipment for entry level companies is one thing but buying for existing printing operations that seeks growth in both quality and market positioning means 'price' is no longer first, nor second and perhaps not even third in the decision-making process. This is not to say price is not important but other fundamental criteria play a bigger part of the purchasing equation. Experience has shown that very rarely does equipment brought simply on lowest or low price return a healthy profit. 'Price' is what one pays today for suitable equipment that meets current and future needs while 'cost' is the true price one eventually pays for failing to look beyond tomorrow!

What are the 5-top secrets to successfully screen print large formats as explained by you in the Screen Print India seminar?
When originally asked to prepare such a technical paper, I had to take the 'middle-of-the-road' approach as attendees understandably serve a cross-section of the printable markets. With that approach, the 5- Top Secrets were:

  1. Image-to-frame ratio
  2. Fabric grade selection
  3. Screen tension
  4. Squeegee length
  5. Floodbar length & profile, and since human nature will always ask what would the next one be, if there was one to make the 6th
  6. Exposure distance & time All of the above have proven to be serious problems with many large format specialist printers, which typically prevents them from advancing in business growth in a profitable manner.

With the advent of digital age... please give your views on digital and screen. How do you justify adopting large format screen printing in the face of digital?
There is no question that digital is great for short runs, small changes on-the-fly and printing from customers' uploaded files from remote locations, which seems to take up much of today's business model. However, for longer print runs, striking visual impact, aesthetic appeal, colour brilliancy, luster and many other visual and functional characteristics, digital cannot possibly compete. Furthermore, uncoatedsubstrates, surface undulations/texture, shaped or formed will never be an issue for screening.

However, the biggest problem with the so-called “digital vs. screen” is people having their heads deeply buried in the sand believing digital will cause the demise of screen printing when in reality such is far from the truth. While digital has rightly taken much of the poster/signage business, the growth for the industrial side of screening is nothing less than absolutely staggering. Digital should be seen for what it is; a cooperative partner that complements a company's capabilities in the imaging business.

What are other areas where screen can still stand out despite entry of digital (e.g. textile)
While I do not deal with textiles or garments, I believe digital has a limited application in this market for obvious reasons. I think it is also fair to say that printers will try almost anything to satisfy customers' needs—even if the imaging system or other restrictions was not designed or intended to do so. Look how low a sheet run typical offset companies will gladly accept today who would have turned their backs to just 3-4 years ago!

I can be wrong but I believe digital has more or less saturated its penetration in likely market segments. Its advancement, if any, will be on sheer units sold to satisfy the existing outlets rather than on news-breaking technology.

How to achieve excellence for demanding ink deposition and uniformity control for high performance applications? Please elaborate on "ink deposition and uniformity control"
Essentially, screen printing is a twodimensional imaging process. For example, the letter 'A' has height and width and for most commercial applications this is all that matters other than print registration. In other words, it is an 'image' that is being produced by the screen process method and each printed sheet may vary very slightly but unseen by the naked eye.

If on the other hand an industrial coating is required for a consumer product, such as an electrical circuitry (printed conductive line), tight registration may not be an issue but deposit uniformity will be for resistivity properties to make the product functional. The same applies to an electroluminescence; the deposit layer must be absolutely even and uniform without any undulations or blemishes to be visually acceptable. Poor commercial prints can be rejected before shipping but an industrial printed product, particularly those typically requiring a threedimensional aspect for functionality, often is not known to be poorly printed (a failure) until months later once in the field.

Please enlighten us on 'high performance applications' theory and practice in nutshell and scope/potential?
These would include virtually any product were a three-dimensional print makes it functional. Essentially, such print or coating becomes the heartbeat of the product where the end print result must be replicated within a certain tolerance throughout production for conformity and reliability— such as circuitry (printed circuits, membranes, PV/solar), biotech/ medical, electroluminescence, touchscreens, RFIDs, fuel cells,Nanoparticles, etc. The demands to control better the 3-D aspect of a print are soaring as new product technology break-through rely extensively on screen printing to provide one or more crucial coatings and printed layers.

What are the new and growing profitable markets for screen printing - globally and in Indian context?
In a nutshell, the industrial side of the screen printing community continues to soaring to new heights, due to the processes' dexterity and prowess, by providing a print or coating in any shape, form, thickness and selectively as a 'dream-cometrue' solution for countless manufacturing and fabricating industries worldwide. It is screen printing that made miniaturization become a reality, the digital cameras of today,Wii games/play stations, multifunctioning cellphones, iPods, hand-held devices, white goods, membranes, doming, IMD, green energy-PV/solar, computerisationon- the go and all the other battery/electrical gizmoswhere the public at large thought they simply dropped out from trees!

Asia is the prime manufacturing provider of these existing and emerging technologies for economical reasons, with India having a striking advantage due to language relationship, political standing and many generations of closeness to the western hemisphere in trading.

What is your positive view on Indian screen printing..over the years?
Without a doubt, India has lost more than a generation of screen printing experience from a global perspective. However, it has more than made up for its absence from the marketplace by focusing on high-end graphics, industrial, electronic and bio-tech applications. Due to this, it is very difficult to estimate its growth but I will stick my neck out and suggest the rate is at least tenfold the present European and North American markets!

Your quality preaching to screen printers in nutshell?
India has proven its international clout with its aspirations to quality—but that is simply not enough! Instead of a few challenging printers from the western hemisphere, greater numbers should be competing between themselves. It is the only way the Indian screen printing community can become a major player, in national strength and integrity, and be recognized globally for such. India does have what it takes but needs to do so in greater numbers rather than just on a few occasions!

Take us down memory lane on Mike Young vs Bhargav, his Grafica and DMI - and your connection:
I was first invited to the DMI, I believe in 2005, as it was being established. What amazed me most about this 'private' project was I simply could not image anyone (the director, Bhargav Mistry in the case) devoting some much time, energy, space and valuable resources to put this whole enterprise together and make it work. In truth, I had my doubts but it did work as judged by the international awards the Institute has won collectively by its top-performing students.

What’s the importance of professional education?
In the western hemisphere, it is estimated that less than 3% of professional screen printers (support staff too) have received any recognized or formal job training. When you hire someone, there is an expectation you should get close to a 100% from that person but the reality is probably less than 10%! Why not double that or even triple it? Such can only be accomplished with some form of proper training. It was once said the most expensive form of training is no training at all. Interestingly enough, training never stops, it is continuous work in progress! I constantly read articles and listen closely to people of all stripes in my ever ending quest to learn something everyday—something Michel Caza does for sure do too.

Your views on the existence of DMI
In December 2010, I had the opportunity to revisit DMI. A number of changes were obvious; least of all the classroom was larger and somehow, represented a professional ambiance rather than a scholarly one. Students had full used of the well-equipped printing area; from darkroom to screen making, printing to various drying systems and screen cleaning/reclaiming to numerous processing/testing instrumentation.

If that was not enough, there was a fully stocked library of tech books on various aspects of the process as well as several commercial trade magazines stretching back to the '60s. In some respects, this is made more remarkable especially when one considers it is a private institution first and foremost yet it will accept students who cannot pay and then takes the trouble to find them jobs upon graduation!

During my revisit, I was fortunate and very honoured to present the latest graduating students with their Certificates.

I wish them all well in their pursuit of practicing their newly learned skills for the betterment of the industry that will have a great future in India.

Your thoughts on Grafica machines and its leadership
Although I am no longer in the printing machine business I can nevertheless make professional observations. As far as I know and have seen, Grafica is a solid wellrounded domestic manufacturer of well-made screen printing machines, dryers and supporting equipment. While it is not for me to compare them to imports or other domestic brands, in most cases, comparisons are not an issue since Grafica's vast range represents great value economically—oftentimes a number one consideration with many screen printers of any stripe in India.

Who am I to judge the leadership of a truly successful company? If I had to make a comment somewhere on its leadership I would say they are not in the business of designing printing equipment to directly compete technically with imports. In my estimations, Grafica strives all-out to make the best domestic equipment possible economically to match perfectly their home marketplace and beyond. To achieve this, they must predetermined an acceptable 'market price' for a given model and produce the very best within that target to succeed.

Please tell us all that you want share with the screen printers in India other than all the above questions.
I think the above has comments have summed up the best of what can be shared. That said, I urge any company wanting to buy new capital printing equipment to obtain a copy of the first seminar session conducted at the Screen Print India Expo, “Buying Screen Printing Equipment — Without Confusion”. It covers many pitfalls companies make in the decision-making process and helps to make the purchase a 'win-win' situation for both customer and supplier.

Mike Young can be reached at Imagetek Consulting International

Mike has worked alongside major European and leading domestic screen printing machinery manufacturers in sales & marketing, a judge for the SGIA Golden Imaging Awards, legal expert witness and a frequent seminar speaker in all aspects of sophisticated and high-definition industrial printing. Mike has penned over 170 technical articles and presented numerous papers worldwide - many which have been published in a variety of industry trade magazines.

The internationally renowned Troubleshooting Chart (to be found in printing shops worldwide), either as a promotional printed wall chart or slide-rule, is Mike's creation. He has published several technical books on advance screen printing techniques, including the superbly-illustrated The Register Guide about achieving print excellence.

Mike operates Imagetek Consulting International, a Connecticut USA-based consulting firm, which uniquely trains, troubleshoots, problemsolves and enhances the performance of screen printing operations worldwide. Imagetek has become a leading authority in the areas of obtaining superior performance; by providing unique process training to advance skills, improving overall quality, close-tolerance and productivity while reducing operating costs and waste.

Since when you have been fascinated to do more educational tours in India and why?
This fascination, if that is what it is called, took place the first time I set foot on Indian soil. I collected many business cards then and noticed something very strange about them—a large amount of screen printing companies were ISO Certified—an obvious contrast to their European/North American counterparts. At the same time, however, I could tell they did not have the necessary experience, knowledge, skills or techniques, for whatever reason, that would help to take their companies up to the next level in performance—hence my close relationship with the education factor—something I referred to as advance process training.

The 'Knowledge Tour' conducted last year to six cities was just but one great start and believe this could be a reality during non- Screen Print India show years.

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