Screen printing remains a key process for many products, most notably textiles and in-mold decoration.
Screen printing has been an important printing process for many products, from textiles and printed electronics and more. While digital printing has impacted screen’s share in textiles and completely eliminated it from other fields such as billboards, the key advantages of screen printing – such as ink thickness – make it ideal for certain markets such as in-mold decorating and printed electronics.
In speaking with screen ink industry leaders, they see opportunities ahead for screen.
Avient has been one of the most active screen ink companies, acquiring a number of well-known companies in recent years, including Wilflex, Rutland, Union Ink, and most recently in 2021, Magna Colours. Tito Echiburu, GM of Avient’s Specialty Inks business, noted that Avient Specialty Inks primarily participates in the textile screen printing market.
“We are pleased to communicate that demand is healthy after a period of insecurity directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Echiburu. “This industry bore one of the most significant impacts from the pandemic due to the stoppage of sports events, concerts, and festivals, but it is now showing signs of a steady recovery. We have certainly been challenged with supply chain and inflationary issues that most industries are experiencing, but beyond that, the prospects for this year remain positive.”
Paul Arnold, marketing manager, Magna Colours, reported that the textile screen printing market is faring well as COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen around the world.
“Consumer spend in the fashion and retail sector paints a positive picture across many regions such as the US and UK, especially in the sportswear market, as live sports event seasons get into full stride,” said Arnold. “At Magna, we experienced a u-shaped recovery since the beginning of the pandemic; five quiet months in 2020 were followed by a strong recovery period. Raw material availability and logistics is still posing a challenge, as is being felt throughout many industries.”
In-mold decorating (IMD) is one area where screen printing is leading the market. Dr. Hans-Peter Erfurt, manager IMD/FIM technology at Pröll GmbH, said that while the graphic screen printing market is declining, due to the growth of digital printing, the industrial screen printing sector has been increasing.
“Due to the pandemic and Ukraine crises, the demand for screen printing inks is stagnating due to production stops in the automotive and other industries,” added Dr. Erfurt.
Key Markets for Screen Printing
Textiles remain the largest market for screen printing, as screen is ideal for longer runs, while industrial applications are also strong.
“We primarily participate in the textile screen printing market,” said Echiburu. “In simpler terms, our inks are primarily used to decorate t-shirts, sporting and team sports apparel, and promotional items such as reusable bags. Our customer base ranges from large multi-national apparel brands to a local printer who will serve communities for local sports leagues, schools, and community events.”
“At Magna Colours, we specialize in water-based inks for screen printing onto textiles so within garments form a key market within that, especially the fashion retail and sportswear markets, where screen printing is commonly used for embellishments,” Arniold said. “Alongside the fashion market, the screen printing process is commonly utilized for workwear and promotional end uses. It’s also used for other forms of textile printing, including soft furnishings such as curtains and upholstery.”
Dr. Erfurt said that Proell sees business in the automotive interior, namely formable and back moldable screen printing inks for film insert molding/IMD, as a key segment, as well as subsequent applications of IMD/FIM inks in combination with printed electronics and the use of non-conductive inks.
“To protect the first surface of such IMD/FIM or printed electronics parts, screen printable hard coat lacquers are required,” Dr. Erfurt added. “Screen printing inks have a good growth in glass applications as well, and here especially for decorating display frames (smart phone and automotive displays) with highly opaque and non-conductive inks. Screen printing inks also show their advantages in the field of security, credit, and banknote documents as well.”
The Evolution of the Screen Printing Industry
The advent of digital printing has had an impact on screen, but so has interest in the environment. As a result, water-based inks have become more common.
“Several traditional screen printing markets broke away, if you think of the decoration of housings, lenses and keypads of the ‘old’ mobile phones, the CD/CD-ROM decoration, and the successively disappearing of the printed speedometer panels/dials,” Dr. Erfurt noted.
Arnold noted that ink technologies and their performance advantages have evolved over the past decade, offering improved on press performance and greater end product quality.
“At Magna, we’ve been continually developing water-based inks that solve challenges for screen printers,” added Arnold. “Some examples include wet-on-wet high solids inks that require fewer flash units, fast cure inks that require low temperatures, and high opacity inks that allow for fewer print strokes to achieve desired result, reducing ink consumption.”
Echiburu observed that the most significant change Avient has seen in the past decade is both brands and printers seeking ways to be more eco-conscious in both the products they purchase and the ways they operate their facilities.
“This is a core value to Avient both internally and with the products we have developed,” he added. “We offer a wide range of eco-conscious solutions that are either PVC-free or low cure in order to reduce energy consumption. We have water-based solutions under our Magna and Zodiac Aquarius brand portfolio and low cure plastisol options continue to be developed for our Wilflex, Rutland, and Union Ink portfolios.”
Arnold pointed out that a key area of change is how environmentally and ethically conscious consumers have become during this time period.
“There are much higher expectations when it comes to compliance and sustainability within fashion and textiles that have influenced the industry,” added Arnold. “Alongside this, major brands have created their own RSLs (restricted substance lists) and adopted many certification systems like ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals), GOTS, and Oeko-Tex, among many others.
“When we think about textile screen printing inks as specific component of the industry, there has been a drive to prioritizing PVC-free technologies, and also a higher demand for water-based inks such as those within the MagnaPrint range,” Arnold concluded. “Screen printers are continuing to adopt water-based technologies as they become aware of the benefits available to them, including softness of handle and print, lower applied costs in production and wide-ranging special effects.”
Post time: Nov-26-2022