Chicago printer brings experience home with eco-friendly, small-batch UV glass printing.
Direct printing on glass presents unique challenges. Glass bottles for beverages and specialty foods bring additional considerations. Besides the substrate, there are safety and environmental concerns as well as governmental regulations to take into account. During his 17 years in printing equipment manufacturing, Steve Gilbertson developed an understanding of these issues, as well as an appreciation of the need for environmentally sustainable decorating that eliminates lead, cadmium, and harmful VOCs from the process. In 2010, he put his ideas for addressing them into action, launching his own business, Loggerhead Deco in West Chicago, Illinois.
Today in his new 27,000-square-foot shop, Gilbertson utilizes a state-of-the-art UV process to provide eco-friendly direct screen printing for the small-batch distilling industry. The company primarily serves the craft spirit market, although it also prints some containers for high-end specialty foods such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grilling sauces. With the industry growing by about 35 to 40 percent a year, Gilbertson views his business as an opportunity to use his technical knowledge and familiarity with bottle decorating’s special requirements to attest to the viability – and profitability – of environmentally responsible processes.
“Quality and the ability to compete with ‘portfolio’ brands on the shelf are what matter most to our customers,” he explains. “Keeping up with decorating trends is extremely important to them, but for the most part, they’re small operations. They don’t want to buy container loads of glass, and they’re looking for just-in-time runs of about 1000 pieces that won’t impede their cash flow.” While Loggerhead’s environmental emphasis may not be the first thing customers look for, Gilbertson notes that employing eco-friendly decorating is an added selling point they can include in their blogs and literature to help set them apart.
Sometimes referred to as applied color labeling, printing directly on glass offers a number of advantages in bottle decorating, including the potential for 360-degree wrapping and even full-bottle graphics that won’t wrinkle, scuff, peel off, or be affected by moisture. At the same time, the process is technically challenging and subject to governmental regulations on several fronts.
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