Q&A: Printing Inks for Industrial Applications
by Marabu North America
Integrating screen, pad and digital printing into complex production processes requires expertise in made-to-measure solutions. From functional and decorative liquid coatings to UV-curable, solvent- and water-based inks, the respective benefits of screen, pad and digital printing go beyond conventional graphic applications.
Question: What is industrial printing?
Answer: Industrial printing is performed during manufacturing – that is, it forms a stage within the process. There is a huge variety of complex forms, substrates and surface finishes involved in the process. Printing can be done on metal, plastics, textiles, glass, ceramics, wood or other materials.
Question: What challenges are presented?
Answer: Marabu’s inks for industrial scenarios are developed in line with a clearly defined, customer-specific requirements profile. This profile takes into account the properties of the substrate, the type of application and the qualities of the finished printed product. Controlling the ink’s characteristics right from the start includes resistance to chemicals and mechanical strain, light fastness, opacity, gloss, color brilliance and odor – in addition to its compatibility with downstream processes such as bending, machining, welding or molding.
Question: What industries benefit from this type of printing?
Answer: When it comes to automotive applications, the expectations placed on the design of individual components are high – and so are the quality and safety requirements. Screen printing is ideal for detailed dashboard components such as speedometers, switches and other controls. Membrane switches and keyboards – an integral part of many electronic control units – also place specific requirements on the printing process.
Question: What standards are applicable?
Answer: Screen and pad printing inks can be used to create unique designs on packaging of all shapes and sizes. High adhesion and rapid drying mean seamless production processes and finished products that are scratch-resistant, even when packaged in bulk. Inkjet printing directly onto PET or glass bottles opens the door to completely new possibilities in packaging designs. Depending on system configuration, it is possible to complete smaller custom jobs or large-volume production runs at very high speeds. Generally, the UV-curable inkjet ink must meet stringent criteria.
On PET bottles, the ink must
- adhere well to the pre-treated substrate, yet be easy to remove during recycling and
- be low-migration and deliver particularly high coverage.
On glass bottles, the ink must be resistant to
- packaging contents, such as high-percentage alcohol or perfume, and
- the heat generated by pasteurization processes.
Technical markings on audio, electrical and household products must be resilient in the face of heat, exposure to chemicals and general wear and tear.
When printing on medical devices, inks must comply with standards such as United States Pharmacopeia Testing – Biological Reactivity Testing in Vivo, Plastic Class VI (USP Class VI). They must be durable enough to withstand sterilization products and processes. In addition, it must be ensured that no ink ingredients make their way into the human body.
Question: What role does digital printing play?
Answer: Digital printing for industrial applications is on the rise. Digital printing ensures fully reproducible results and makes it possible to frequently switch designs from project to project, without the need for costly and time-consuming machine changeover.
In the field of decorative surface finishing, applied as primer, finishing and protection, Marashield liquid coatings can lend a unique look and feel to decorative glass back splash panels for kitchens. Further possibilities for inkjet inks include photo-realistic prints on windows or glass countertops. Plus, digital printing with the UV-curable UltraJet ink series can be used to produce a high-end wood-look effect for furniture, doors, floors or panels.
For textiles, digital printing opens the door to new, more cost-efficient design options for a wide range of fabrics, whatever the length of the material roll being used.