Glass Print Options

Glass Print Options: Digital printing vs screen printing

Digital Print Process

Digital printing vs screen printing: Solutions for printing on glass

Advanced technologies for printing on glass have changed the way we look at glass as a medium for interior and exterior surface design, whether for architectural, commercial, or industrial applications. The choice between digital printing vs screen printing methods today is based not only on the technique, but also on considerations such as location, quantity, trend, image, sustainability, and versatility, as well as more functional and utilitarian requirements.

It’s time to rethink digital printing vs screen printing

The design potential of printed glass enhances the use of glass to enable the creation of unique, beautiful, and functional interior and exterior surfaces, with excellent results. Digital printing and screen printing are in fact complementary approaches, even on the production floor.

Glass processors who have both technologies can effectively shift between the two formats, as ‎needed, to maximize usage and optimize ROI.‎ The solutions are differentiated by the level of customizable design potential, cost-effectiveness, durability, and market demand. Architects, interior designers, and the automotive industry can benefit from both types of printing. In short: It’s not so much a matter of digital printing vs screen printing but rather digital printing AND screen printing!

Screen printing on glass

Screen printing is the oldest form of glass printing still in use. Suitable for both interior and exterior surfaces, it has long been the accepted method for high-volume, durable glass printing production, especially for automotive glass and industrial, large-panel architectural glass applications. Screen printing designs are created using a stencil and applied to the glass surface by spreading ink across a mesh screen. The stencil blocks out areas of glass, as the ink flows through onto the glass to create the design. The glass undergoes firing, providing a heat treatment in which the ink has adhered to the glass. Although screen printing on glass is highly durable with high print quality, the time and cost to set up each color is a disadvantage when the quantities required are not large. The method has a maximum capability of four colors, which also limits creativity and flexibility in design options.

Digital printing on glass

Digital printing on glass is more flexible than screen printing. There are two methods; UV-curable digital glass printing (also called digital UV glass printing) and digital ceramic glass printing. Both can print any digital image on glass, with the added advantage of a virtually unlimited color palette and fewer fixed costs. The differences are in the types of ink used, the printing method, and the drying process. It is those differences that lead to important differences in function and durability.

UV digital glass printing uses inorganic inks, and ultraviolet light to dry the ink on the glass surface. The lack of functional inks and limitations in durability and scratch-resistance limits the use of UV printing, especially in exterior design applications.

Digital ceramic inks are fused into the glass after printing, during the firing stage, so that the inks become an integral part of the printed glass. The versatility of digital ceramic printing on glass provides not only the unlimited design potential to print any image, pattern text, or graphics, but also the versatility to reproduce the appearance of surface textures such as wood grain or marble.

Digital vs screen: leveraging the advantages of digitally printed glass

Digital ceramic glass printing is a rapidly developing and innovative field, yet already proven through years in the market and thousands of installations worldwide. It offers significant advantages and new opportunities in glass printing applications. While in the past, digital glass printing was considered the go-to medium solely for smaller orders (numbering from singles up to the tens), new developments in printer technology are changing that – making digital ceramic glass printing a compelling option for ever-larger orders. Although screen printing continues to be the preferred choice for the huge orders, digital ceramic glass printing is now a worthwhile and cost-effective alternative to screen printing for printing larger batches, even well into the hundreds, as well as on larger surfaces.

The optimized workflow of the digital glass printing process requires less hardware and reduced labor needs, with no need for screen storage, and no additional setup time. Add to that the superior quality, exceptional accuracy, virtually unlimited design flexibility and creativity, adaptability to various industries, and customization opportunities, and it’s a smart choice for many exterior and interior glass printing applications.

Digital ceramic glass printing provides a comprehensive, cost-effective solution that enables a fusion of the aesthetic and functional while maximizing production potential and providing a competitive edge in automotive and industrial applications, as well as in architecture and interior design.