Grafica News - Mar 2016

Industrial printing: Indispensable & ever growing!

Imagine your average day. Your smartphone, Tablet, TV, washing machine, refrigerator, AC, crockery, tiles, laptop, PC, bike, car, tractor, electronic gadgets, electrical equipment & home appliances ...

Everything that has some kind of function contains to some extent, industrial printing!

“It might not be ink that is deployed, it could something like silicon that helps the device to work, but it is industrial printing in that it uses a process such as screen printing to integrate an aspect of the process that enables the product to work,” says Frazer Chesterman, Co-Founder, FM Brooks, part of the Mack Brooks Exhibitions Group, Organisers of 'InPrint' Industrial Printing Expo, UK, in an online interview with Shripada Bhat, Editor, Grafica News India, as he announces the forthcoming mega industrial printing expo titled “InPrint 2016” to be held on 15-17 November, 2016, in Milan, Italy.

“It is an exciting time for print service providers to be involved with industrial print. The interest in this segment is high, (for instance it is now the third largest market for venture capital investment after clean technologies and social media),” he adds.







Interview:

Please explain the meaning and scope of industrial printing:
Since the launch of the InPrint Show back in 2012 we have been asked 'What is Industrial Print'? Or how do we define it? Industrial printing is where printing is used within the manufacturing process. This could be functional or decorative and may be the printing of a fluid, substance and not necessarily an ink. In terms of printing technologies this includes screen, specialty, digital, inkjet and 3D. Being an integrated part of the production line itself, industrial print refers to a procedure whereby ink or another liquid substance is printed or deposited onto a product. It is being applied in various industries: from functional print that enables an electronic product or device, part of a highly technical manufactured product or an individually designed item, to decorative print onto various surfaces such as wood, glass or plastic, Special technologies such as 3D print are used by industrial designers for prototyping, or to generate single unique products – example might be in medical or dentistry. Our definition includes also packaging as an industrial process.

Industrial print is both defined by the applications that it is active in and the speed and productivity it can achieve. Quality is paramount within industrial print but if printing is to be used within industrial environments then it must be fast to be correctly classed as industrial.

Printers must aware that whilst shorter runs of products is a trend within manufacturing, a one off print of a ceramic mug or tile or tshirt that is done at a gift shop, is not industrial printing.

Where do you see industrial print within the overall printing sector?
In the manufacturing industry, there is a strong demand for technological innovations, supported by considerable pullfactors from the consumer side. At the same time, the developer community is bursting with energy. For printers, new business opportunities in the industrial sector are enhanced by the continually growing range of applications amid evolving technology for applying inks, coatings, liquid & 3D material to more and more substrates.

What's the statistics?
Industrial print benefits from automation and is the only sector of the printing technology industry to show a two-figure growth rate. Back in 2012, the industry experts - I.T Strategies made a realistic estimation that the value was then around the $100 Billion mark. And that they predicted growth of around 20% in 10 years to $120 Billion. This valuation is a direct estimation of the value of the print, not the entire value of the production of any one industry. Since then they have revised this upwards as growth has accelerated to 36% growth for the year 2014-2020 due to demand for certain products and an increase in adoption for inkjet which is complementing rather than dislodging traditional industrial print technologies.

What is the role of screen printing technology in industrial printing?
We see the continued importance of screen printing as a functional printing process, particularly within automotive and electronic manufacturing. As these sectors grow and innovation continues particularly with smart technology, screen printing remains in a very strong position and will continue to grow in demand.







What about Inkjet technology?
We also obviously continue to see the growth and demand for inkjet within manufacturing. The show sees plenty of examples of inkjet printing onto objectives both from a packaging perspective (direct to shape) and within other manufacturing applications such as automotive shape. In addition inkjet and digital continues to grow within décor applications. Whilst the growth may be difficult to predict the nature of consumer trends and a demand for mass customisation means inkjet is increasing in its use in markets such as laminate flooring and luxury vinyl tiles.

What are the challenges of Functional print?
Functional print for inkjet is at a more formative stage of development as the demands are considerable. However, in electronics, pharmaceutical and medical are reckoned to change soon. Demands for functional print are considerable, because often the ink or fluid is expected to perform both a functional and decorative role and might have to bend around a shape up to 90 degrees whilst withstanding temperatures of 180 degrees C! This is challenging ink chemistry to develop hybrid solutions and new formulations to meet this demand. It takes time and investment, but I know ink makers are rising to this challenge and have a long term development view.

Tell us about your InPrint exhibitions:
InPrint is the exhibition for industrial print technology. This event is exclusively designed for this emerging and highly promising sector of the print industry – a key marketplace for state of the art functional and decorative printing in industrial production, including speciality, screen, digital, inkjet and 3D technologies.

InPrint-2015 in Munich had focussed on manufacturing, not traditional print. Inkjet and digital printing was given plenty of attention at InPrint but also screen and pad printing. The fact is that the highly developed nature of screen printing and its unrivalled quality remains a very important part particularly of functional printing. For instance smart phones, a highly innovative technology contains both functional and decorative screen printing. Functional screen is used in the device itself to print layers of conductive materials to help the working of the product. Decorative screen is deployed for the back and the white around the screen itself.


Tell us about 3D printing:
I believe that the true value of 3D is in industrial printing where it already plays an active part for specialist component production and prototype manufacturing. We can see that inkjet printing onto 3D objects (printing onto shapes with inkjet) will grow both for packaging applications such as cosmetic cylinders and automotive parts.

So, our InPrint expo was about developing technologies and yes 3D has perhaps a few different interpretations. InPrint had showcased industrial print technologies for screen, speciality, digital, inkjet and 3D printing for the application segments functional, decorative and packaging printing. The emphasis of InPrint was very much on product decoration, ie functional printing that goes onto other objects, and less so on 3D printing (ie creating shapes by additive or subtractive means). Quite a few companies that appear in the 3D search filter are not actually involved in real 3D printing.

And what about 2D?
Even the 2D inkjet itself was almost a kind of silent revolution. It has quietly changed 60% of ceramic production to shift entirely to inkjet within the space of 4 years and is mooted to using inkjet other transferable markets such as textile, wood decor, glass decor and other surface imaging applications.

Why?
Because I think there is a coalescence of consumer demand and technological maturity. There is a definite need for manufacturing to generally reduce its response time, to be closer to customers and to be able to meet demands of local taste as well as increasing time to market whilst delivering good enough quality. With the advent of single pass digital inkjet this is now a real possibility for speed, quality and cost. Economics is still the most effective driver of change assuming quality is good enough.

Do you think Inkjet itself is not regarded as being a complete replacement technology?
No. To some extent it provides a specific solution that in itself gives new production advantages. For example, it gives designers the chance to express themselves creatively without the heavy risk burden of carrying a lot of stock. This trend towards localisation of production is really suiting inkjet and we expect this to grow.

Currently, this is a more noticeable trend in packaging and décor.

Decor: Probably industrial printing has been involved in some way in the decoration and creation of either, a wood floor, a textile, wallpaper or indeed furniture. Industrial printing plays a tremendous role in the decoration of our environments, increasingly so as the shift towards selfexpression continues and customisation is placed at a premium. In addition, decorative applications such as wood flooring is seeing the beginnings of a revolution in production where floors can be printed to order, to suit a specific design without prepossessing the need for a long production run of gravure printed product which tends to be more conservative and less customised to taste and very time-consuming to set up.
Decor is almost as big as it encompasses surface imaging and the drivers for personalised spaces, customised finishes and self expression from the consumer market as well as the need for producers to create product cost effectively are meaning inkjet is being used significantly in this area. Digital printing technology is incredibly important in decorative printing as a complement to analogue.

Packaging is part of industrial printing: Packaging is the single biggest category in industrial printing. It has tremendous importance in product sales and product identity meaning the personalised capabilities of printing directly to an object gives marketers value and it enables more effective targeting. With innovation in special inks for screen printing on high end luxury products as well as the increasingly visible direct to shape inkjet revolution, this segment is an exciting and buoyant one within industrial print.

Finally, tell us about InPrint 2016 – Milan, Italy:
InPrint 2016, the Industrial Printing technology exhibition will take place on 15-17 November 2016 in Milan, Italy. It will feature some 150 exhibiting companies attracting visitors across the globe. Details are available on our website: www.inprintshow.com

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