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The Future of Functional Printing

(December/January 2016) posted on Thu Jan 28, 2016

Screen printing's versatility is solving imaging challenges in countless industrial settings.

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By Wim Zoomer

Our special "SWOT: Changes & Challenges" issue brings industry experts together to consider strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to screen printing. Zoomer's addition to the "Strengths" section outlines why screen's place in the field of functional printing is rightly deserved.

 It’s becoming clear that screen printing faces increasing competition from other printing processes, including inkjet, for applications that are mainly decorative in nature. Does that mean screen printing is doomed? No; on the contrary, it has a secure future, provided that the industry recognizes its potential in other areas. Screen printing began as a process for reproducing decorative images – posters, display graphics, outdoor advertising, etc. Those markets still exist, representing around 20 percent of screen-printing production today, but they are declining. As an industry, we should shift our focus to substantial markets and challenging applications that offer interesting prospects for growth.

Increasingly, these opportunities can be found in industrial settings, particularly functional uses where screen printing deposits a liquid substance such as an ink, paste, or adhesive that, after drying, imparts a product’s actual function. Put simply, without screen printing, these products would not work.

Most people don’t realize just how extensively screen printing is used in functional applications. Did you know that screen printing plays a dominant role in the manufacturing of money? Or that the black pattern you may have noticed around the circumference of your car’s windshield is screen printed? Perhaps someone you know suffers from diabetes and uses throwaway test strips to monitor the glucose levels in their blood. These are also screen printed, and billions of them are used annually. These are just a few common examples that don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Screen printing has proven to be an essential and affordable way to manufacture products requiring the deposition of such functional materials as electrically conductive silver and carbon inks, pressure-sensitive adhesives, glass pastes, water-based enzymes, and more. What makes screen printing so relevant in these functional applications?

Uniqueness Screen printing is unlike any other imaging technique, with the ability to deposit an average wet-film thickness of between 10 and 30 microns at a reasonable speed.


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