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Mike Horsten, Mimaki General Manager of Marketing examines progress in digital printing on glass

Some time ago, when I was looking at the possibilities for glass printing, it seemed that digital technology was going to leave this type of process alone. Glass was difficult to print on and the adhesion was problematic. The solution? Stick to traditional methods.

That was until the development of ceramic glass inks and other technologies that started to appear in the market. However, these still required the glass to be baked after printing. This meant bigger markets were unable start using this technology because of the non-existence of suitable finishing equipment in the digital world.

These challenges prompted us to embrace the glass industry with newer digital printed UV-Curable inks.

Ink technologies have begun to change and new applications are now available following developmental help. So much of the help came from silkscreen technologies that have been available for a long time. This includes the introduction of primers to enhance adhesion, flaming, corona treatments, even plasma treatments. Tried and tested in the traditional world they helped the digital environment to understand how this could be used for printing with UV inks.

The results varied and the quality of the adhesion was quite different to the old ways. For example, digital printing requires less ink so the ink combinations with the different glass types complicated the process. That is why we are constantly reviewing what we are doing. The newest method we have been playing with is spraying a silica layer which creates an adhesive bond that UV-Curable ink loves.

With the same printers that we have been using for POS signage, short run packaging and even promotional items we can now print on glass. The exciting thing about the glass printing world is that it offers an extensive array of production options.

And the results are stunning. The quality of the prints is better than any achieved by traditional processes and the number of different colours available is impressive. The glass industry has a new friend – digital print. Short run production, special objects or even art can now be printed on glass and finished with a UV coating for protection.