Five Trends in Screen Printing Process
Trend No. 1: Fast changing image of screen printing:
The very mobile or high end smart phones or iPods, tablets that you are holding in your hands have the imprints of screen printing. The helmets you wear, the bike you ride have designer decals on both sides; the car you drive has the speedometers and dashboards – all screen printed. If you are a cricket fan, notice that almost every bat has multiple designer stickers screen printed, and t-shirts, helmets, PVC cheer sticks, balloons, or flags that the cricket fans are holding in the stadium – all screen printed. And do not forget, we are living in high technology electronic age. Every electronic product that you use has a PCB (printed circuit board) inside, screen printed of course.
A high level team of printing company engaged in automobile and aeronautic decals printing and high end graphics, walked into Grafica’s stall at Gulf Print & Pack’13 in Dubai. During the discussion, the gentlemen did not mind sharing with our team that they have as many as 30 semi – automatic and fully automatic screen printing machines! This is the quick glimpse of fast changing trend in screen printing.
So, screen printing is more than what people may tend to think about printing visiting cards, letterheads, invitation by using out dated and tedious method what we call “manual screen printing”. Screen printing is an artistic as well as technology oriented process. From its age-old method, ‘silk’ screen printing has transformed into an advanced technology.
Its distinct advantages: It has its own distinct advantages: versatility, suppleness, wide range of applications, brightness and solidity of colours of outdoor applications, possibilities of special effects in graphic and textile; and wide range of presses available for different applications – Multi – colours press very large size for graphic applications; Multi-colours rotary screens to print textile in roll; possibility of combination with other imaging or printing process (offset, digital, etc.).
The visual impact that screen printing process can create is simply incredible. The durability of the inks, the vibrancy of the colours, especially considering the harsh outdoor weather conditions for outdoor applications such as automobile decals, helmet stickers, indoor/outdoor advertising display boards, etc, (it withstands sunlight, rain, snow, wind, etc).
Applications, unbound: Screen printing has wider applications in commercial graphics (packaging included), industrial (almost every industrial segment needs the imprint of screen printing process), garment decoration and textile printing as summarised below. (It is virtually impossible to list out total number of applications of screen printing process).
• Value addition on offset printed commercial and packaging.
• Stationery • Sports goods
• Art (Serigraphy)
• Cosmetic containers
• Toiletry containers
• Wooden products
• Glass & ceramics
• Plastic Cards, Credit Cards
• Foot wear
• Ladies/Mens/Kids wear printing (full fabric printing)
• Textile printing
• Heat transfers/Tag-less labels
• Jute bags
• Cloth bags
• Garment tags, stickers
• Packaging for Garments/Saree/clothing
• Automotive decals
• Automobile meters
• Parts of electric appliances
• Membrane switches
• Liquid crystal display
• Automatic vendors
• Metal name plates
• Print Circuit Boards (PCBs)
• Hybrid Circuits
• Solar Cells
• Mobile keypads, iPod, iPads
• Medical patches and many more…
Trend No. 2. Advancement in screen printing technology comes of age:
“Necessity is the mother of all invention.” And that applies to screen printing as well.
So, now there are:
1. Screen printing machine (semi-automatic or fully automatic – alas NOT MANUAL tables anymore!)
2. Screen making set up thatincludes: polyester yellow mesh or fabric (alas NOT nylon mesh anymore); fabric stretching unit with tension meter; aluminium frames (alas NOT WOODEN FRAME anymore), emulsion coating equipment; screen exposing machine; screen drying unit, and other accessories.
3. The screen that is the imagecarrier (considered the ‘heart of screen printing’)
4. Squeegee (the ‘heart of thescreen printing machine’) supported by a ink coater
5. The substrate on which youprint which depends on the job. (Screen printing process can be used to print on numerous paper and non- paper substrates – both semi- rigid and rigid – pvc, wood, glass, tile, ceramics, fabric, metal, etc).
6. UV Inks, varnishes, UVspecial effects (and emulsion and chemicals needed for screen making) (to be forbidden solvent ink wherever possible since it is hazardous)
7. Drying system to print,depending on the ink used (UV curing, IR/Jet Air/Wicket Dryers as against racking system which requires huge space.
8. QC tools (like tension meter, UV thickness meter, spectrometer, etc)
Trend No.3 : Emergence of Multi-process printing solution & fast spreading value addition concept:
It is believed that screen, offset and digital printing will co-exist for different types of jobs. These days, many offset printers are ‘falling in love’ with screen printing as witnessed by us during various printing exhibitions. In the last couple of years we received more visitors from offset, packaging and digital than screen printing.
1. Digital-screen combination: This is yet another good sign. There are many digital printers who have also screen-printing units to meet the market demand for ‘total print solution’.
2. Offset-screen combination for VALUE ADDITION:
3. Digital, offset, screen combination.
There has been a growing trend of many offset printers and packaging printers embracing screen printing process for carrying out print finishing in house instead of depending on outsourcing.
Why value addition?
Sharjah based Silver Point Printing Press has recently bought one more Swing Cylinder Press with inline UV from Grafica to meet the non-stop and growing demand for value addition which is offered with the application of various decorative UV to give touch and feel effect over duly commercial and packaging jobs.
In today’s highly competitive business environment, print buyers are certainly looking for something different which really differentiates them from their rivals. Ultimately, the packaging in a shelf carries its look, its power of attraction for the consumers, and eventually the feeling of touch, or we can rightly say, today packaging is all about sensation – look, touch, feel, smell. Same principle applies to all commercial jobs other than packaging – value addition is a must.
The most promising is the use of a wide range of ‘special effects’ thanks to the think tanks in the screen printing industry driven by FESPA, an international association of various national printing associations including India.
UV Special effects currently used in the market are:
• Commonly used UV Matt and Gloss
• Fluorescent (glow in the dark)
• Scents / Rub and sniff
• Glitter (silver and gold)
• 3D reflective
• Rough finish
• many more…
Trend No. 4: Focus on Quality, productivity & Standardisation:
Today, with automatic precision machines, it is possible to get a result that years ago would have been a pipe dream. For example, by manual screen printing reproducing photorealistic images on t-shirts was next to impossible, but now with automatic direct to garment textile screen printing machines, garment printers are able to print what the customers want with speed and accuracy.
In India, many of the large screen printing units are matching to international standards, and beyond, in a competitive marketplace because of use of high-level equipment and high – priced consumable supplies.
The industry (customers) allows minimum tolerances for the rejection besides mandating for Just in Time production and deliveries. Today, there exist different systems designed to help the screen printers to achieve better result. But it revolves around the simple concept or standardisation of the entire screen printing process.
Also, Screen printing industry is now waking up to the reality of UV-age. More and more screen printers are now adopting UV and dumping the foul smelling solvent which many feel a curse to the screen printing. Yes in some areas such as decals and industrial printing UV has not made successful inroads and still they have to use only solvent inks.
Shift from manual to automation: In the last decade, there has been steep increase in the number of screen printing machines and UV curing system (also screen making set up) sold in the last couple of years than it was five to ten years ago. There has been a big shift from manual to semi-automatic and now fully automatic system. More and more printers are now adopting automation and using quality raw materials, process standardisation, documentation of parameters for each job since in screen printing every job is a new job involving unique process parameters, use of materials (inks, chemicals, mesh, etc) with different specifications.
Over 50 companies engaged in garment manufacturing as well as garment printers (job workers), and also jute bag manufacturers, have installed our automatic direct to garment screen printing machine along with complete screen making system who had huge manual long tables.
Trend No.5: Growing urge for Education and training:
Screen printing is now quicker, cheaper, produces better quality images and offers a number of special applications. Having advanced machines in place is not sufficient to run a profitable screen printing business. Being able to truly master printing high quality images, using the screen printing process, also takes much longer, because there are a number of variables involved.
Since we started workshops (always houseful with average 50 participants) in our DMI institute in 2006, till today over 2000 printing professionals (owners and staff) from India, USA, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc, (screen, offset, packaging, flexo, textile printing segments) attended our 3-day workshops. They were of the opinion that without proper knowledge, screen printing technology cannot be used in a profitable manner.
I would conclude by saying that while technology is the lock, education is the key to unlock the numerous opportunities in screen printing. I leave the screen printers to decide whether to take both (technology and education) or anyone! Those who grab both will stand winners in the market.
Key to success is technology adoption and knowledge up gradation!
“Two years ago, when I saw some wonderful creative samples at DMI institute, I realised the potential of screen printing process … I strongly believe, in screen printing every step is a ‘science’. So without learning this ‘science’ nothing can be printed qualitatively. By learning new techniques we can assimilate it in our daily practice. Mr. Narendra Paruchuri,
Managing Director, Pragati Press, Hyderabad
“You simply redefined the “Screen Printing Industry” of India to a different dimension. In the last six years your institution and activities have grown to multiple folds and you created significant mark in the chosen field. Nobody in India has approached screen printing so seriously and you created an international bench mark for the Indian screen printing industry..” Prof. Dr. Rajendrakumar Anayath, The Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences, Bhiwani, Haryana
Enjoy this cool Sunday…