April 14, 2024

Industrial Screen Printing – An overview of processes and applications

Screen printing, also known as silkscreen printing or serigraphy, is the process of forcing ink or other media through a piece of mesh or screen to create an image, design or text. It is commonly used for printing on surfaces like paper, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic, etc

Types of screen printing processes
There are a few key types of screen printing processes used in industrial applications:

– Manual screen printing: This involves manually moving screens and squeegees by hand. It is useful for small batch productions but not suitable for high volume applications.

– Automatic screen printing: Automatic presses are used which can move screens and squeegees automatically with the help of programmed hydraulic or pneumatic systems. Machine speeds are faster than manual processes and repeatability is high.

– Rotary screen printing: In this process, the substrate is fed into the machine on a cylindrical drum or wheel instead of moving individual pieces one by one. Multiple stations allow printing with several screens simultaneously to print multiple colors or layers. It is very high speed with throughput of thousands of pieces per hour.

– Flat bed screen printing: Here a flat substrate sheet is placed on a flat bed or conveyor belt while flat, rigid screens and squeegees are registered and moved across to print the image. It has lower throughputs than rotary but can handle a variety of substrates.

– Pad printing: Similar to screen printing but uses a silicone pad to transfer the ink which is then deposited onto the substrate. It can print on uneven surfaces and intricate 3D pieces. Used for product labeling and marking.

Applications of industrial screen printing

Industrial screen printing has a wide variety of applications due to benefits like versatility, accuracy, speed and cost effectiveness. Some key applications are:

– Fabric printing: Large scale printing of designs on fabric for apparel, home furnishings, banners, etc. Rotary machines are commonly used.

– Textile printing: Printing designs, patterns or logos onto fabric materials like cotton, polyester, silk, etc. Pigment, discharge and plastisol inks are suitable.

– Circuit board printing: Screen printing machines print conductor traces of electronic circuits with silver or copper-based conductive inks onto boards with high precision and adhesion.

– Product decoration and marking: Screen printing designs, images, text or identification codes onto a diverse range of industrial and consumer products. Common examples include labels, appliance exteriors, tooling, medical devices, electronic equipment, automotive components, toys etc. It personalized products on a mass scale.

– Container printing: Printing images or text onto rigid or flexible containers, bottles, cans, boxes, bags, jars etc. using screen printing for branding and marketing applications in food, beverage and other industries.

Future trends and developments

Some key emerging trends and developments in industrial screen printing technology include:

– Automation and integration with Industry 4.0: Advanced robotics, sensors, vision systems, IoT connectivity in screen printing machines for increased automation, process control, real-time monitoring and data analytics capabilities.

– Specialty inks: Development of innovative inks like UV cured, light emitting, conductive, 3D structural, transparent, scratch and chemical resistant inks for new applications.

– Multi-process integration: Combining screen printing with additional processes like pad printing, digital printing, embroidery, laser engraving in single integrated machines.

– Sustainability initiatives: Ink and solvent recycling, use of water-based inks, automated cleaning systems, energy efficient machines to reduce environmental impact of screen printing operations.

– Customization and versioning: On-demand short runs, versioning and mass customization enabled by advanced computer controls, multi-head screen printing, vision inspection and workflow management software.

industrial screen printing has evolved greatly from manual image transfer processes to sophisticated automated machines capable of high precision, high speed and mass customization output. With ongoing technological advancements, it will continue playing a vital role in product decoration, circuit printing and various industrial applications well into the future.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it