Though some have written screen printing off, many in the industry believe it is still viable in certain sectors
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The rise of digital has led to proclamations that screen print is an old-fashioned process that is on the way out. But there are industry commentators who argue otherwise. Peter Kiddell, director at Prism, is one such person. He believes screen's demise has been overstated and that, while it's clear it has taken a hit from digital, it remains a relevant process in a number of sectors.
Bill Kippax, managing director at HG Kippax, expands on Kiddell's argument: "In the point-of-sale market (POS), the decline is inevitable as the speed and quality of digital improves. This is also being accelerated by the reduction in the length of print runs."
But, there are other markets that rely on the special inks and colours that screen-printing can offer. These include more industrial sectors such as architectural glass, short-run ceramic work, security cards, scratch cards, electronics, membrane switches and printed graphics on mobile phones. "Even screen printing POS is still profitable where multi-shifts are used for a reduction of overhead costs," adds Kippax.
The screen process allows printers to print with thermo-graphic inks, which change colour as the temperature rises, in addition to molten metal, oil and resins. It's also ideal for jobs that are too large in size for litho and too long a run for digital, according to Kiddell.
"I went to see a printer who was doing a major campaign for a well-known retailer," he says. "Every sheet was screen-printed and they had glitter, structured varnishes and special colours."
Kiddell adds that while the market has dropped dramatically, screen print is starting to recover and is proving popular in China and elsewhere in Asia for printed electronics.
Future developments in the sector will focus on the pre-press and post-press areas, enabling screens to be manufactured and recycled in a faster time at a lower cost.
"As a six-colour print line can now be set up in 30 minutes and with a maximum register set-up of five sheets, technology needs to change to prevent bottlenecks," explains Kippax.
When making an investment, consider the market for the process, as well as the applications you want to use it for.
"Screen is now a lot more easy to control as now it's more automated and accurate," says Kiddell.
What's new in screen process presses
- Pira International's study, The Future of Printing on Signage, revealed impressive growth in the signage market. The study showed that screen printers are still the biggest producers of large-format print behind offset. However, more than 40% of members of European screen-printing organisations said that they now offered digital print
- Fespa published a new edition of its Planet Friendly Guide in May, which is available free of charge exclusively to members of its national associations. It contains up-to-date environmental information for screen and wide-format digital printers
- PRISM will hold its round table meeting Digital & Screen Printing Conference in Luton on I October
- Indian screen press manufacturer Grafica Flextronica managing director Bhargav Mistry hailed the recent Printpak exhibition as the best show in the past four years, adding that focus had shifted to specialised applications, while standard products have been adopted by digital and offset printing