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Role of advanced screen printing in packaging

September 8, 2010 7 comments

Hi Folks,

Recently I was invited by “Modern Packaging & Design Magazine” which is published by Infomedia 18 Limited to write an article on the role of advance screen printing in packaging as a guest columnist.

Many of you might have read my article if you are receiving their magazine, but if you have not read till now then here’s it…

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TECHNICAL ARTICLE, By Bhargav Mistry, MD, Grafica Flextronica & DMI
Published in Magazine “Modern Packaging & Design” Vol. 6, No. 1 | Jul-Aug 2010
(Copyrights remains with the publisher)

Screen printing process evolved over the years. Today, it offers ample innovation & creativity, thus playing a major role in packaging because of the availability of advanced screen printing machines, UV technology coupled with availability of innovative special effects inks.

Screen printing is a simple yet attractive process. The main reason is that in screen printing, the purpose and the art is to transfer something, almost anything more or less liquid through a screen!

It harnesses the natural phenomena of mechanical movement, flow and the interaction of liquids and solids. In screen printing, it is possible to attain controlled film thickness up to 300 micron. Besides, the printing medium – ink – can be almost any material that can be suspended in a fluid and which has a particle size that is ideally one third of a mesh opening.

Also, the visual impact that screen printing process can create is simply marvelous. The durability of the inks, the vibrancy of the colours, especially considering the harsh outdoor weather conditions for outdoor applications (sunlight, rain, snow, wind, etc) and its vast flexibility, all contribute to its unique capability. Screen printing is possible with any ‘semi-liquid’ product (various inks and dyes) on a number of rigid, semi rigid or soft substrates. Thus, these characteristics make it the most versatile printing process available.

Advantages of screen printing process

* High rub and scratch resistance, which is mainly required in industrial printing

* Vibrant colour

* Due to availability of high quality screen printing inks with better light fast pigments, 3-5 years of outdoor life for any kind of applications can be achieved

* Wide range of substrates of various thickness, size and shapes can be printed easily

* Good ink film and mechanical stability allows to screen print on complicated and rigid substrates.

* Knowledge and process calibration provides high dimensional stability

* Screen printing enables to achieve a degree of flexibility that is unavailable in other printing process

* Flexibility of short runs to large industrial volumes

* Inks are available as per application

* Possible to print on fragile matters

Advanced printing technology

Quality in screen printing seems to have come a long way. Today, with automatic precision machines, it is possible to get a result that years ago would have been a dream.  In the last decade, from a predominantly manual printing process there has been a big shift from manual operations to semi-automatic and NOW fully automatic printing machines. There are more numbers of screen printing machines sold today than it was five to ten years ago  because it not only involves low investment which is a big advantage for those wanting to join the screen printing business, there is also scope for creativity. The screen printing technology today is faster, better and cleaner.

Despite any type of screen printing press can be used (including manual and semi-automatic), the best press for that kind of work remains for me the cylinder press with automatic feeding, for reason quite often combination with offset, of speed, productivity and quality of result. And, for the same above reasons, the UV technology is also the best available one in the present and the future, both for technical and environmental reasons.

UV Curing depends upon the type of UV ink of varnish and of the thickness of the deposit: it is useful to know that in UV systems, a varnish even thick of several mm, will cure easily and instantly. For example, for metallic inks or some other printed chemicals, it have to be tested and set at very different speed and UV light intensity.

Complementary role

Screen-printing is a fantastic technology that is used by many industries with so many old, new and not yet discovered applications – both flat (plastics, cloth, metal, thin to thick papers, sunpack/sunboard, rubber, leather, wood, glass, ceramics, etc) and non-flat substrates, by using appropriate machinery and inks.  Further, this process is also widely used for printing packaging boxes, duplex and sapphire mono cartons, labels and cards, UV effect on packaging materials for cosmetics, toothpaste, jewellery … the list is endless.

Special effects!

In this world of shopping and mall culture, buyers are attracted by the packaging they can see and/or touch. Before that tryst with packaging, they also carry the memories of advertising (both print and electronic), outdoor posters, etc. As they walk into the shop, first they are also confronted with eye catching POPs and POS posters, placards and other marketing gimmicks. 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.

So, special effect screen printing is a great way to excite consumers. The range and variety of effect is extensive and it provides the marketer, print buyer and designer with a number of exciting possibilities they may never have thought were viable.  This is because of the latest developments – machines and inks.

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. FESPA spent a lot of resources to make a special book named “SENSATIONS” that shows many of those screen printed special effects.

The packaging can be printed through many techniques: offset, flexography, screen and digital printing or other. However, only screen printing allows to add those “special effects” enhancing the final product due to its versatility. These possibilities, combined with off set, digital, flexo or classical screen graphic, open a huge niche to many screen printers who will be able to offer customers truly enhanced and unique products and images to increase sales.

This is obtained by the addition of some surface effects that will catch one or several senses of consumers: The view or look of packaging which makes a initial difference – it is like first impression is the last impression … but now consumers want to touch by the feel of it and sometimes, why not rub and smell it. Amazing though, several of these effects can be used on the same item (multiple special effects, like we try at DMI institute). It can also replace, often at a lower cost, some other technologies such as hot stamping, doming, silvering under vacuum.

Specialty Inks & Varnish

The print buyers these days want something different from their competitors and are prepared to pay a fair price for that. They will accept a much higher price if the printers bring a very special enhancement of their product packaging image. So, one of the most interesting niches in the graphic screen printing fields is the printing of special effects, using UV special effect inks.

The inks available in the market range from luminescent to tactile, from glitter to mirror. The impact they can add to designs is breathtaking.  Screen printing effect can enhance any marketing campaign and may give it that extra competitive advantage. One may also enhance the effect with ink or an overprinted varnish. Varnishes have become a popular finish on wise labels especially because it gives the graphics a much greater richness of colour.

A gloss varnish over a matte surface is a more subtle approach that inspires curiosity. One sees a shape under the light or notices a smoother feel against a more resistant matte solid area. Similarly, coarse, high luster effects are created with thick coatings of varnishes that have large particle sizes. It is a striking way of printing reversed out images of icons or logos, an ice effect or extremely fine line patterns. A wrinkle effect can be created when a UV varnish is cured under UV-A light.

There are thermo-chromic inks. These are sensitive to temperature change and can be used for time temperature indicator labels. Irreversible ink types, which do not change back to the original colour, indicate if perishable goods have been stored for too long or at to warm a temperature.

Packaging for the blind

For blind people, the “Braille” texts on labels or packaging are printed. Here, a thick varnish screen printed is widely cheaper than micro-embossing through die-cutting or embossing technologies. Embossing is a slow and expensive technique (for the tool itself). It can be easily replaced by screen printing of thick UV varnishes.

Security

The security feature of screen printing is immense. This feature can be used to protect the brand against counterfeiting or tampering. RFID labels are used to provide security and efficient tracking and tracing of products, cases through the supply chain.

I have a customer of mine in Mumbai who is into packaging (with offset and screen printing unit) whose clients are happy that he offers something different every time because of UV special effects which they feel a luxury value addition especially in case of cosmetic, and such luxury product packaging. He strongly feels that UV special effects are not only luxury value addition for customers but a ‘safety net’ as well. Because of the very nature of special effects, it will help the companies in protecting their brands from duplication.

RFIDs

One fantastic application of screen printing is the printing of both antennas and transmitter/receiver in RFIDS : Radio Frequency Identification.  This is beginning to replace at short and medium term the classical barcodes that need to be caught at very short distance. The printing of those items, both on or inside of the packaging itself or on a special label to stick on or in, is ideally suited for screen printing in that sense that it is the best technology to print the conductive silver, carbon or nano-particle inks for the antennas or receptors.

‘Substitute substrates’

Continuous advancements and developments in polymer technology, expertise and cost-effective manufacturing, plastics is replacing traditional materials in many fields (environmental conditions apply!). These include : PVC, Polypropylene, HIPS, Lenticular Films, Polycarbonate etc. Polypropylene Sheets are extensively used for blister packaging, cardboard boxes etc. Polypropylene finds application in Disposable Containers,  Embossing, Gift Box Making out of clear sheets, Freight Packaging, etc. The trend these days is to use a substrate with a low density which also makes it affordable. PVC Sheets and Polypropylene Sheets are the best suited for screen printing. Polypropylene as a material is very eco-friendly and can be easily recycled. It is accepted and widely used all over the world for different applications. It is preferred by screen printers because of its low density and very economical cost. Similarly, PVC for screen printing purpose is a very good option. A good quality PVC sheet makes a good surface for a screen print because it has a pre-coating on it; even if the material gets old the coating is never hampered.

Perfect expertise needed

The main problem is of course the adjustments of registers, knowing, for example, in offset if each sheet printed simultaneously in four or six colours is perfectly registered, it can be some differences from one pallet to another. In case of UV spot effects, the register problem is crucial and requires a perfect control of the different elements of the image.

Some special effects will have to be entirely designed or separated from parts of the original image: this means that either a studio or an individual that created the image and/or yourself are able to prepare the needed proper part of the file: this is of course very important. In PDF, the problem of layers and transparencies can be difficult to solve: it also depends upon the quality of the files received from the customer or its studio.

As those effect will quite often have to be overprinted on inks and/or substrates printed with other technologies (offset, digital printing, flexo, hot-stamping, foils, etc.) a huge care must be taken. For example, even, for a simple high gloss spot varnish above a classical offset print on paper or board, be sure that the offset inks are over-printable: this means that they must not contains any wax, or worth, silicones, or of course that the so classical automatic powdering has been eliminated by the offset printer through a careful automatic brushing.

Patience please

Screen printing is now quicker, cheaper, produces better quality images and offers a number of special applications. But advanced screen printing with high level of automation is not everybody’s cup of tea. Having advanced machines in place is not sufficient to run a profitable screen printing business. There is no profit “from the press of a button” like in digital printing arena. There is no short cut. Because not only does the set-up process take considerably longer than other techniques, but 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.

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.

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I hope you must have enjoyed reading…

Special regards,

Bhargav

14 point to become successful in printing

August 29, 2010 6 comments

Hi folks,

Received a nice SMS from one of my friend which had a good management lesson so I thought to share with you because most of the time we loose our temper for no reason. But now you got the solution.

A profound and breakthrough thought:
“If U can’t change the ‘Person’
Then
‘Change’ the person..!!

Also few important points to share with all my students because I am noticing this as a regular problem with all the new comers. So kindly read them carefully because these points may help you to be a successful person in life.

1. Take up printing as your profession only if you love it. It’s a grueling life and only one’s passion to become printer can overcome that. Remember that initially you may need to sacrifice quite a bit, especially your personal life.

2. Printing is nothing but fine art according to me. Printers, on other hand, is that much more. It is a way of life. You need to constantly look for new techniques, ideas and innovations.

3. A successful printer always prints for himself and for his satisfaction.

4. You need to maintain and sustain the efforts and results; and this requires years to resolve, dedication and hard work not just in printing but in every profession.

5. Talent does not matter much, yes frankly I believe that talent is overrated concept. You can cultivate your skills. Anyway, talent is not much use without the other ingredients – hard work, keeping oneself focused and staying motivated.

6. There are talented printers, there are hardworking printers, there are smart printer and there are printers who are great in getting access. However, it’s rare to find someone who possesses all these qualities.

7. Concentrate in quality rather getting quantity. Keep patience because that’s the key towards success.

8. Never get tired of failures, keep experimenting and develop new ideas.

9. Competition is healthy:
Once I was waking on a beach early morning all alone. I was assuming my waking speed was very fast unless someone overtook me.

Competition in business or amongst students is the same because it make you realize what you are and where you currently stand, competition alway strives you to deliver your best.

10. Academics are important:
Education helps you understand the basic of social behavior and also teaches how to write and talk, which is very important to launch a new career.

11. Experience is the best teacher
Read a lot. Develop a systematic reading habit in your life. But remember that experience is your best teacher, especially when it come to printing. You need to carve your own space in the organization, which happens only with time.

12. One should alway have some hobby in life. All successful person in life has one.

13. Adopt a GURU
It’s unfortunate that India does not have a history of printing education. To overcome this problem, I recommend you should assist someone. Your GURU will not only guide you and help you develop your skills, but also let you access high-end equipment.

14. If you respect your colleagues, seniors and customers, you will be respected by them.

So, relax and enjoy this beautiful rainy Sunday.

Good news and ideas are on the way so keep in touch.

Bhargav

Watch my educative film on screen printing process

Hi Folks,

First of all a happy rainy day. Now the time has come to beat the heat because this morning the grass was wet with dew. Finally mumbai is blessed with rains.

Every saturday I usually work late night 3 to 4 midnight and sometimes even on sunday afternoon because next day its relaxing day with no phones and not obliged to reply any emails…

Today at home, relaxing this evening and working on my ambitious project, revamping my technical slides which I was presenting in my workshops till now. Anyway I have to finish soon before my next workshop which is scheduled from 1 to 3 July 2010.

In my new presentation I would like to incorporate all my recent and past experiments with many new ideas. Even though I conduct live workshops but still I would like to include many (HOW TO) video illustrations of each process in screen printing step-by-step.

GREAT NEWS!!!

On 12th June 2010 in mumbai I would be presenting my FILM “SCREEN-ON-SCREEN” which is an Educative Film on screen printing process. This event is organized by Screen Printers Association of India (SPAI).

In this film you will see right from screen preparation to screen printing all with advance techniques using latest equipments. This film reveals all secrets about advance screen printing process and it took me more than three months to complete this entire 1.5 hour long film.

Last year my company organized 15 road shows all over India and more than 1200 printers till now enjoyed watching my unique film. So its a great chance for you to watch my FILM in Mumbai, the only city I have not screened yet. I invite all of you to come and educate the latest techniques in screen printing.

Don’t forget registration is very much compulsory so come prepared.

Download Registration Form if you wish to participate.

ROAD SHOWS!!!

Grafica’s NANO-PREMIER LEAGUE is set to kick start nationwide road show starting this month.

NANO PREMIER LEAGUE (NPL), is a complete in-house screen printing solution offered by my company to give complete freedom to screen printers.

The first show will begin from Nashik 17-Jun-10, followed by Aurangabad on 18-Jun10 and finally at Pune on 19-Jun-10.

I will be presenting the features and advantages of all machines combined in NPL package plus a presentation behind making of NPL.

There will be technical/commercial disclosures for printer who wants to decide on the spot to purchase our NPL super saver combination package. Also there will be a special discount only on that particular day for those who wish to book on the same day.

If you are planning to go for automation this is a right beginning. So come duly prepared to get an exclusive offers from me on that day.

Also there will be live demo of these wonderful inventions of Grafica and a huge sample gallery will be kept for display to see all latest DMI’s creations in process color screen printing (100 LPI), print finishing, wedding cards, paper carry bags, chocolate box and packaging. A unique folder having 16 different special effects will be hand over to everyone present on that day. This shall help screen printers to get more creative ideas.

The admission is free, however, entry is strictly by registration for printers only.

Download registration form

Checkout more information on my companies website and on our recent GraficaNews and stay updated.

Have a showering week.

Bhargav

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