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Is It Time to Consider Industrial Screen Printing?

More accessible, increasingly automated technology opens new opportunities.



Is It Time to Consider Industrial Screen Printing?


HE INDUSTRIAL SECTOR for screen printing has been growing and becoming more accessible to a larger clientele. Industrial printing can be defined by two distinct processes.

One: Printing on component parts (i.e., a part of a headphone speaker, the glass on an iPhone, etc.), customized to a customer’s specifications.

Two: Printing on an industrial scale. This generally involves automation, which ranges from basic systems to turnkey equipment with vision, automatic loading/unloading, and conveyor linkages to automated packaging systems.

Although the technology is more accessible, anyone interested in competing in this sector must choose wisely. In addition to understanding the options, it’s important to ensure any new technology is reliable, configured correctly for your process, and well supported.


Technology that expands what is possible with screen printing is becoming more obtainable. The proliferation of new inks has made UV-LED curing more affordable. It’s ironic that what was once thought of as a limitation compared to digital printing (the screen) has become a driving force in innovation. A mixture that is already printable is simpler and more cost-effective than programming machine-specific parameters for variables like glossiness and viscosity. It also leaves more freedom to experiment.

Custom machine options might also help expand into printing on new types of parts. Say someone has numerous cup printing machines, but none that accommodate a newly made product with individuated specifications. In addition to more specialized equipment, such an application could benefit from 3D-printed fixtures. More affordable than traditional, manual machining of tooling specific to each part design, 3D printing can open opportunities for a wider audience to support a wider variety of applications.

If you’ve been to a department store during the past few years, you’ve probably noticed an aisle or two dedicated to bottles of all shapes and sizes. Digital printing is contributing to a renaissance in bottle designs by making it possible to apply prints once achievable only through hot stamp processes. Requiring printing on flat material in a multicolor format before pressing the image onto the bottle, hot stamp is a long, multistep process that requires screen printing. In contrast, printing digitally requires only an image file; the machine does the rest. Granted, high costs still present a significant barrier to entry for cylindrical digital printing systems, but if the past is any indication, this will change. Some vendors already offer bottles that are tailormade for one person at a reasonable cost. What was once a multicolor process requiring multiple custom screens is now a process that can be individualized for each customer.

However, businesses that differentiate themselves with technology tend to be discerning consumers. It’s important to also differentiate between a screen-printing machine supplier and screen-printing machine manufacturer, particularly one with the knowledge and experience to customize equipment for your process.

A direct connection with a manufacturer also can be invaluable for getting answers about what ink would be ideal, and whether or not you should use UV- or solvent-based inks.


Is It Time to Consider Industrial Screen Printing?


More screen printers than ever can use automation to boost quality and productivity while reducing labor costs. In terms of throughput and repeatable print quality, going from a manual press to a semi-automatic screen-printing machine could provide results rivaling those of large businesses that specialize in promotional printing. Features such as integrated UV curing and automatic loading and unloading of parts remove tasks that would otherwise take up room in your facility and be sinkholes of time.

UV inks are ideal for industrial scale printing because curing is instantaneous. Multicolor printing also is easier with UV inks than solvent-based formulations, while higher screen thread counts facilitate more intricate designs.

One commonly over-looked aspect of UV inks is adhesion. Glassware is particularly prone to ink scratching off. Pretreating with arcosil, a thin, invisible-to-the-eye silicate coating, is the best way to keep the image in pristine condition (even after the product goes through an industrial dishwasher.) The resulting ability to use UV inks without worrying about ink chipping could help provide an edge over your competition.


Fully leveraging the latest capabilities requires attention beyond the printing process. Keeping the screen printing and packaging lines close to one another and/or connected is a popular strategy for maximizing throughput.

Packaging equipment has also advanced. Automation options range from pick-and-place systems for putting product in boxes, box shrink-wrapping, and individually wrapping each product in plastic. Overall, the only limiting factors in automating your process are your budget and any process-specific limitations on replacing manual labor (even the most highly automated facilities tend to have at least one person overseeing each step).




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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