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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.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Wim Zoomer

Versatility Screen printing can be easily adapted to many requirements and needs. Production setups range from manual to fully automatic. Materials that can be screen printed range from traditional inks (UV curable, solvent based, or water based) to adhesives, pastes, and much more. Substrates are almost unlimited.

Measurability Immediately after printing and drying, the characteristics of the printed deposit can be evaluated to get a clear measure of performance, such as electrical conductivity or resistivity, voltage, magnetism, peel strength of two adhered materials, and more.

Controllability Repeatability is a critical factor in screen printing’s growth in industrial applications. Manufacturers are able to control various parameters to get consistent results, and test the printed deposit to monitor quality and build statistical process-control data that is often a requirement in these fields.

Scalability The characteristics above enable very large quantities of a product to be manufactured using screen printing. This is obviously important in any manufacturing environment to support required output and decrease per-unit costs.

Together, these characteristics represent screen printing’s unique selling proposition in the field of functional industrial applications. They also make screen printing the perfect match for manufacturing flexible printed electronics. This field is exploding, with some forecasts predicting the market will be nearly three times its current size by 2026, growing to approximately $70 billion.

[Forecasts for the total printed and potentially printed electronics market. Courtesy of IDTechEx.]

Printed electronics include the familiar membrane switch circuits as well as a host of newer technologies that many may not think of as printed electronics, including electroluminescent applications; OLED screens and wiring; RFID tags; smart packaging; photovoltaic (solar) cells; IML (in-mold labeling) and IMD (in-mold decoration); skin sensors and patches to control the release of medication or cosmetics; and much more. Look for these applications to flourish while other new uses are discovered that can take advantage of screen printing’s unique capabilities.

For more from our "SWOT: Changes & Challenges" special issue:

Editorial Insights
Screen Printing: A Technology at a Crossroads, Steve Duccilli

Why Industrial Applications Hold Tremendous Promise for Screen Printing, Mike Young
Screen Printing: King of Textiles, Charlie Taublieb
A Partial List of Industrial Applications for Screen Printing, Wim Zoomer

The Limitations of Screen Printing in the Graphic Arts, Tamas S. Frecska
Why Web-to-Print Software Matters for All Printing Businesses, Eileen Fritsch
A Sampling of Web-to-Print Software, Eileen Fritsch

What if Screen Didn't Exist? Andy MacDougall
Are Screen Printers Part of the Maker Movement? Kiersten Wones

Threats to Screen Printing, Inside and OutMark Coudray
Digital Ceramic Printing: A Logical SuccessSophie Matthews-Paul


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