Screen printing on glass meets a new industrial revolution
Screen printing on glass can enhance the uses and value of glass, making this ubiquitous, practical, and durable material into a versatile “canvas” for a wide range of mass-imaging industrial, commercial, and architectural applications. It can create a special kind of decorative glass that is durable and scratch-proof, with an anti-glare effect and safety-glass properties. Screen-printed glass typically has acidic and moisture-resistant features that can preserve the colors for decades. Other advantages of screen printing on glass include the ability to print on various glass thicknesses, on unlimited sizes, 3D objects, and uneven surfaces.
Advances in technology for screen printing on glass enable varied decoration styles, with consistent quality over long production runs, and high durability for both external and internal surfaces. Yet even with the advances and strengths of screen printing, it still has some drawbacks and limitations. In the past decade or more, digital technologies have taken printing on glass a significant leap forward. More recently, with the rapidly accelerating technology advances of the past few years, digital printing is revolutionizing the world of printing on glass; it now offers an innovative alternative alongside the “tried and true” screen printing.
How does screen printing on glass work?
Traditional screen printing has a long history, and indeed, this process of printing and coating glass hasn’t changed much over time.
To create the desired design or effect on glass, a design is created on a stencil. When ink is spread by a squeegee across the mesh screen, the stencil design blocks ink from flooding certain areas. In the other areas, where there is no block, the ink is forced through the mesh screen onto the glass, and the outcome is a high-quality image. The printing can be fairly precise and the degree of transparency can be adjusted.
This screen printing on glass technique is used to create repeatable patterns as well as solid areas of a glass panel, which can separate or conceal areas.
The colors in screen printed glass are limited to designs that combine a maximum of four colors. Each color requires preparation of a separate screen and setup. The glass is tempered (heat strengthened) and the ink is “fired” to the glass at a high temperature, fusing it to the glass surface. Heavier ink coverage results in increased image durability, with coatings that enhance resistance and enable exterior applications. The inks can be organic or inorganic for different types of applications.
The basic method of silk screen printing on glass hasn’t changed much over many decades, but the equipment and materials have seen advances and improvement. New ink technologies, such as those from Dip-Tech parent company Ferro, provide high product performance for many different applications, including automotive, architectural, and decorative glass.
Ideal applications for screen printing on glass
Due to the high fixed costs and long setup time required for each screen printing run, this technology is especially suitable for high-volume glass printing production. Large-format equipment and systems enable large runs of glass panels that have the same, repeated design. Opaque and translucent colors enable a variety of surface finishes. Screen printing has many advantages, particularly for the massive runs of automotive glass, which requires one-color printing, and high-volume, large-format flat-glass applications.
Digital ceramic glass printing – a powerful alternative to screen printing
Screen printing on glass offers excellent results and benefits for selected applications. But, for many others, digital ceramic printing provides distinct quality and operational advantages, along with added value and new opportunities. Digital ceramic printing on glass is an alternative with higher flexibility, enabling dedicated short, customized runs and innovative, creative decorative glass options.
Thanks to advanced techniques and technologies, such as offered by Dip-Tech, glass is increasingly being used as a decorative material, to create new and unique interior and exterior surface designs that are beautiful and vibrant, as well as functional, sustainable, and cost-effective. One of the benefits of digital ceramic glass printing technology is the capability to produce on-demand printing, and easy introduction of new designs and unique products with natural effects, unlimited color possibilities, and extremely high levels of detail. It is ideal for architecture and interior design applications, ranging from the largest building facades and curtain walls to kitchen backsplashes, shower walls, and even glass furniture. The list is virtually endless.
Printed by Cooling Brothers Glass Company
For automotive glass, as well, Dip-Tech digital ceramic printing offers new opportunities and versatile solutions. Offering unlimited design flexibility, zero setup costs and time (no screens!), it’s well-suited to the short and medium runs required by automotive replacement glass. And, it’s a great way to incorporate color and style for customized print runs.
The strong market demand for creative and decorative capabilities in design has made digital printing on glass an essential competitive tool, to complement and in some case replace screen printing. The capability to produce customized, small – medium quantity runs opens the door to more business, both for the automotive glass industry and for the infinite design potential of architectural and decorative glass. With the high quality and remarkable speed of Dip-Tech New Era technology, digital glass printing becomes a great solution not only for small batches but for series of hundreds of units as well.