In what we generally refer to as the printing industry, commercial screen-printing has taken its place as the most adaptable and versatile of all processes in that industry. No other printing process can compare in terms of the wide-range of substrates that can be printed on. The term “substrate” has become common usage in screen-printing because it can include the myriad of substances and surfaces that can accept the screen-printing application. Indeed, poster paper and cardstock have long ago made way for plastics, glass, and metal, all of which are now unexceptional. The truth is, any shape, thickness or size can be screen-printed, including rigid and non-rigid materials, as well as flimsy materials like fabrics and textiles.
One of the more important advantages of screen-printing over other printing techniques is the extra-thick layer of the ink that can be applied to a substrate. In addition to various special effects that are possible with the ink application, there’s also the option of using a much wider selection of varnishes and dyes than other processes. And with the advent of digitization and computerized technologies, the entire production cycle has been improved: production is far less labor intensive, cost-effectiveness has been optimized, and the quality of the finished product has been dramatically enhanced. For that matter, practically everything about screen-printing has been improved, including the presses, the dryers, and the ink formulations.
Today, one can’t argue with the superb quality of a finished screen-printed product, whether it’s an intricate logo on a golf shirt, a coffee mug with a four-colour image, or a highly technical printed circuit board (PCB). The colours are brilliant, the registration is right on, and the results are long lasting. And, of course, there’s no need to order multi-thousand units, because even a short run is affordable. Automation has really been the key to productivity - presses can operate endlessly, and with little effect on quality output. Better-quality drying systems also contribute to an improved production process. And innovations like the “rotary screen press” allow for uninterrupted operation, especially when it comes to the larger run projects.
Like many other consumer sectors, today’s customer has become increasingly knowledgeable, sophisticated, and demanding. It’s not uncommon to ask for all kinds of photographs, graphics and designs to be screen-printed on everything from apparel, to key-chains, to travel mugs. Clearly, the days of the one-colour graphic on a sweatshirt are done. And thanks to digitized images and computerized software, even the most complex of projects can be produced, edited and printed. More importantly, the visual impact is quite amazing, and that applies as much to a dishwasher-safe coffee mug as it does to outdoor banners and advertising displays. Colours are vibrant, printed surfaces are durable, and inclement weather has little or no effect.
Commercial screen-printing has established itself throughout every business segment one can imagine – almost every business or industry requires printing or imprinting that uses the screen-printing process. Whether it’s traditional printing on fabrics and textiles, or complex commercial packaging, screen-printing can do it all. And going forward, it’s the knowledgeable, trained and experienced experts who will push technology and innovation even further.