Grafica News - Mar 2016

Propelled by growth in manufacturing sector, industrial printing has bright future!
- By Michel Caza

First of all, Screen and Digital are the two powerful printing technologies that are used today in many areas within the ambit of printing that could be broadly categorized into commercial (labels, packaging, value addition) & graphics (signage etc), textile & garment, and of course a broad spectrum of industrial applications.

Secondly, we as print solution providers (who used to treat themselves as 'printers' … offset, screen, digital…), should have a self respect that we are much more than simple printers. But when we are into screen printing, we may feel that our 'craft' will disappear in front of digital technology. Because, we are so graphicallyminded that we have the feeling that digital printing took over screen printing and will / may replace it! Because Visual communication is what we see!

The digital printing market will - globally - have to jump (thanks UV piezo flat bed ink jet printing) into so promising textile and industrial fields as the graphic market now reaches a point of saturation. We now know that 50% of the graphic applications of digital printing are in the hands of companies of which the core business is or was screen printing.

Screen printing as a technology reacted, using digital for pre-press, using CTS for screening, using multi-colour (4 or 5) huge press, creating new workflows with faster setting, fully UV technology, automatic screen reclaiming, drying, coating, exposing, washing, drying… in a manner to be more competitive for smaller quantities against digital printing or against offset printing for bigger quantities… especially for the 'Special Effects' applications.

TIPS to screen printing companies:
Move to industrial applications. But you are supposed to have the tools, digital or not, the technologies, the ability and knowledge… Again, use your imagination and…… MARKET IT!

How can a potential customer know what you can offer to him, if you don't tell him about your capabilities? You simply stay out of nowhere!

Industrial applications – the future of screen printing process: Industrial screen printing is the major part (almost 50%) of all the applications of screen printing process and the part where a maximum of attention must be given in the next few years, together with textile screen printing (35%) of the application. India is / may be an exception, but graphic and sign are now no more than 20% of the applications in Western countries. There is tremendous growth in sight for print Decoration - a little - but mainly participation in the production of an incredible number of products, objects and machines of all kinds. This sector will also grow through 3D printing.

Prospective studies show that both techniques – screen and inkjet - will grow tremendously in these areas in the next three years! ( see statistics graph ).Screen and inkjet printing and development in the industry, it is only regrettable - anyway for us in the European countries - that most of it will be done ... in Asia. But of course, for Indian printers, it is an "excellent opportunity"!

In electronics, for all the circuits, flexible or rigid, membrane switch, keyboards, touch screens, etc. screen printing remains for a long time the main tool. The inkjet, thanks to nano-conductive inks and new heads will develop for small series. It will be the same in glass, ceramics, automotive, wood and laminates industry, IMD (In- Mould Decoration) too, always together with screen printing, without competing with it. Speed and large series remains the appendage of screen printing.

Health and medical applications, without even waiting for the 3D uses screen printing (patches, mobility measures, glucose, thermometers, various tests, RFID antennas transmitting the data collected in the effort, inscriptions on blood bags and perfusion, etc.). These prints can also be decorative, marking, in addition to their participation in the production of a lot of products ...including food (with ink jet and for screen printing). Anything that can be liquid, semi-liquid or paste can be printed through a head or a screen!

For a long time, I recommend digital printers - often screen printers too - to think to evolve from the saturated market, increasingly competitive in the advertising printing to that of the interior decoration, textile printing and industrial printing - less pressure on prices and delivery times, possibility of a less irregular production.

In a second stage, think of electronic applications, as already some screen printers do, to photovoltaic, rigid or flexible cells and membranes switches. These electronic applications will also grow as textiles will increasingly "think" of I can say so.

3D, which much remains yet an embodiment of the inkjet printing, will develop. Here I do not mean the 3D "familial" gadget, but the very technical and professional that will grow in prototyping, research, health, construction and many more applications that we cannot yet imagine or dream of.

Screen printing – still going strong!
As I said earlier, in screen printing, 20% of applications are graphics or signage. 35% textile (especially garment) and 45% covered by industrial applications. Do you know that screen printing is involved in 90% of the manufacturing - visible or invisible - of smart phones and other mobile ... Whether in a car there are screen printing, visible or not, within 50 elements and not only in the glass and the dials! Same is in the glass industry, flat or hollow. Even if, forgetting Asia, we think of France, the largest screen printers - there with the highest number of technicians, are the screen departments in electronics, glass and automotive industries.

Talking about electronics – it is still in Asia, screen printing again, companies that have 2-3,000 employees in departments often divided into several sites - Circuits, solar cells and others.

So, screen printing is far from dead and buried and that we have too often narrow and limited vision of our own technologies and their applications.

Some of the known Applications of Industrial Screen Printing
(For marking, identification, decoration & mostly part of the fabrication/product applications)

Screen printing is arguably the most versatile of all printing processes. Different inks can be used to print on a numerous surfaces/substrates such as textiles, ceramics/tiles, wood, paper, glass, metal, and plastic and many other materials. The advantage of screen printing over other print processes is that the press can print on substrates of any shape, thickness and size. Apart from serigraphy and normal commercial applications, screen printing is now widely being used in many industries

Applications of screen printing under 3 broad categories: Commercial & Graphics, Textile/Garments, and Industrial:

Industrial Applications:

  • Automotive, motorcycle, bicycle, planes, boats, carts-Car dash, brake parts, battery, electronic parts, motor parts, tyre marking, decorative and technical decals, (decoration, marking and fabrication)
  • Blackboard surface for chalk writing (fabrication)
  • Cards, credit and others (decoration, marking, safety)
  • CD, DVD (marking, decoration in line and outline),
  • Value addition over duly printed digital and offset printing jobs
  • Ceramic: Direct printing on ceramic, bone china, etc.- printing of ceramic decals or transfers (decoration)
  • Decorative parts for interior and outside architecture, On any type of material or substrates. (decoration, marking)
  • Digital cameras & camcorder (marking, fabrication)
  • Electronic printing = components: Rigid and supple PCB – printed circuit board of class 1 to 3 - (fabrication : printing conductive silver, carbon, copper, nano particles, for (IMD) etc.).
  • Encapsulated item such as liquid crystal, thermal and light sensors, glucose meters and test strips (fabrication, marking)
  • Fascia (marking, decoration)
  • Food such as cakes, chocolate, goodies, etc. (decoration or/and fabrication)
  • Gambling machines, flippers (fabrication in circuitry, decoration in general)-Gauge (marking)-Glass
  • Flat glass : architectural glass, automotive glass, heaters, antenna, oven, induction plates, microwaves, (fabrication, marking, decoration)
  • Hollow glass : bottle, glass, phials, (decoration & marking)
  • Hygiene, medicine, healthcare and body safety: Anti-virus and bacteria deposits on wall papers, decals, coverts, thermometers, blood pressure measurement, blood and other drip pockets, transdermal patch, bio-controls, insulin skin distributors, temperature disposable strips (marking and sometimes fabrication)
  • In mould decoration (IMD) for many industrial items (decoration and fabrication)
  • Keyboard, external decoration and internal parts for computers, telephones, mobile, cellular, smartphone, tablet (decoration, marking & fabrication)
  • Labels of all sorts, internal & external (decoration & marking)
  • Leather for book binding, shoes, clothes, belts, balls, gloves, etc.(decoration & marking)
  • Light detector (with photo chromic inks, fading inks)
  • Lighters, pens & other small objects (decoration)
  • Lighting OLED (fabrication)
  • El /Luminescence for safety when dark (fabrication, marking)
  • Magnetic surfaces (fabrication with ferrous inks)
  • Mechanical parts with hard solders, resists, insulating, etc. (fabrication)
  • Membrane switches, inner layers (decoration and fabrication)
  • Non slipping items or surfaces (fabrication)
  • Packaging (decoration, special effects, marking, technical indications, on many materials)
  • Photovoltaic Solar cells - rigid and supple, for electricity and heat production (fabrication)
  • Plastic & metal containers, boxes, For all purposes in so many industries…. Impossible to decline all of them! (decoration, marking)
  • Printing on extruded, moulded or injected plastic on white, brown or other goods (decoration, labeling, technical indications)
  • RFID, antenna & receptor (fabrication on decal, packaging, objects, etc.)
  • Resistors, battery, sensors, detectors, resistors, (fabrication)
  • Safety & security print on banknote, card, etc. (fabrication, marking)
  • Ski, snow and surf boards, (decoration and technical deposits)
  • Temperature meters (fabrication with thermo chromic, thermo black inks)
  • Touch screens (fabrication)
  • Tickets for lottery or other (fabrication with scratch, sniff, rubber effect, etc)
  • Toy & game industry (decoration, marking, technical data)
  • Weapons, helmet & other military equipment (marking, camouflage, fabrication)
  • Wood industry - marqueterie and decoration, clear or colour coating, glue deposit, (marking, decoration & fabrication)

“There are of course many other applications … and so many non even existing yet to come! The countless technique of finishing (in cutting, folding, vacuum forming, metal and plastic work, mounting, etc.) are, as well as textile printing, another subject. Some of those applications are also made using inkjet, pad, hot stamping, hydrography, engraving or other unusual printing techniques as they depend also of our area.”

Michel Caza, an International screen printing expert, was the Chairman of ASPT-USA & past President of FESPA. This article is an excerpt is from his article that he wrote for FESPA-Italia and published reproduced with his permission.

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