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Surface design in the digital age – Expanding possibilities with glass

By Arch. Niv Raz, Head of Architecture Team, Dip-Tech

 

As architects, we’re constantly searching for the right textures and patterns for designed surfaces, to complete the site specifics and appearance of our projects, and to harmonize between different elements of the design. There are always new trends to follow, and cultural and historical elements to consider. While some surfaces in a project may be made of natural materials, such as stone, wood or metal, others may be made with manufactured materials. Often budgetary or functional requirements dictate the use of manufactured surfaces, even if the appearance of a natural material is preferred.

 

Glass is one of the most popular functional and sustainable manufactured materials employed for architectural surfaces, and for good reason. With its ubiquitous availability, relatively low cost, and energy-efficiency advantages, it is well-suited to a wide range of exterior and interior surface applications. Add to that, the design versatility of being able to print on glass, and it’s clear why almost every project incorporates printed glass surfaces in some way -- whether in retail projects, housing, public buildings, office buildings, urban design, or others.

 

Glass can be used to create new and unique surface designs for exteriors and interiors that are beautiful and functional. Used in facades, balustrades, balconies, wall covers, floors with ceramic tiles, kitchen backsplashes, doors, and even furniture, glass can mimic the surface design of natural materials, such as wood or marble; or it can take on an entirely creative and unique appearance especially designed for the project.

 

Technologies for surface design on glass

 

There are three main technologies for glass printing available for surface design on glass. The existing technologies are differentiated by inks, printers, and software; and each offers varying degrees of durability and versatility.

 

Features
Screen printing
UV digital printing
Digital Ceramic printing (Dip-Tech)
Fixed costs – screens,  storage, maintenance
Extremely High
None
None
Setup time (before printing)
Very Long
Low
Low
Interior/Exterior applications
Both
Interior only
Both
Multi-Color Images
3/4 colors
Unlimited
Unlimited
Customizable
Low
High
High
Transparency
Semi controlled
Fully controlled
Fully controlled
UV/Acid
High
High
High
Functional Inks- Etch, Slip resistance, conductive
Yes
None
Yes
Scratch resistant
High
Low
High
Applied on curved surface
Yes
Yes
Yes
Tempering
After printing
Before printing
After printing
Laminated Glass
Yes
Yes
Yes
Insulated Glass- frame printing
Yes
No
Yes
Coated Glass
Some
None
Some

 

 

Screen printing offers high durability, suitable for external and internal surfaces. Inks are transferred onto a substrate through mesh, with certain areas blocked from the ink with stencils, to create the design. It is limited to designs combining a maximum of four colors. Because there are high fixed costs and a very long setup time, screen printing is suitable only for very large quantities of glass panels, all with the same design.

 

UV digital printing uses organic inks that are fixed and dried to the glass by UV lamps. As a digital technology, this method offers the possibility to combine unlimited colors in the same design. With no fixed costs or setup time it is useful for small quantities and customized orders where each panel is different. However, due to limitations on durability and scratch resistance and a lack of functional inks, surface design applications are limited.

 

Digital printing with ceramic inks is the most innovative and versatile technology for surface design on glass. On the one hand, digital ceramic printing enables the use of an unlimited color palette, to create almost any image. The tsatns tecdiv> me srentipted.

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