Grafica News - January 2018

"Screen Printing Process is Changing, but not obsolete"

"Screen Printing Process is Changing, but not becoming Obsolete. WHY?" When first confronted with the question, I immediately thought of a notable fitting line from a popular Hollywood actor who famously avowed, "Old but not obsolete!" Contrary to the belief of many, let's try to see why this process is aptly becoming the antithesis of decline and ultimately obsolescent.

One could reasonably claim that the world of commercial screen printing was developed largely by necessity, to provide multiple duplication of signage and posters, which were once painstakingly hand painted by sign and poster writers. This was screening’s first breakthrough to greatness in the latter part of the twenty-century.

On the industrial front, the screening process helped to pioneering modern electronics, printed circuits — the very reason why the word "printed" became an integral part of its official nomenclature.  The process was later seen as a game changer in the world of manufacturing, and beyond, as a reliable and trustworthy resource during product fabrication stages, perhaps considered as its second greatness. 

No doubt one of the foremost benefit of screen printing is its unspoken flexibility to adapt, bend and twist to provide almost anything thrown at it — in distinct contrast to any other imaging technology.  Be it circuitry for mobile phones, digital cameras or control panels, friendly touchscreens, complex instrumentation, medical trans-dermal patches, nano particles for protection or product improvements, visually striking special–effects, or countless other commercial, industrial, electronics and medical applications — thousands of everyday products that we take for granted would have never seen the light of day had it not been for the screening process’ adaptability.

Yes, the playing fields have steadily changed over the past two generations, where digital technology has embraced much of the traditional screenable markets, due to its on-demand capability with ease and lower initial up-front cost per print. However, does this leave the process of screen printing to flounder aimlessly in unfavourable waters? The present real-life state of the screening industry will clearly indicate otherwise.

In most occasions, the application of screen printing is what provides a product its sole sense of purpose or significance, the actual heartbeat if you will, where economically acceptable imaging alternatives are not a viable replacement. This is where the screening process prominence solidifies itself by ensuring its dominance now and way into the future.  The modern world has come a long way, where screen printing have left an indelible mark on products and technology that relies extensively on the process, such as computerization, miniaturization, security, communication, transportation, logistics, education, healthcare, household/white goods, reusable energy, aviation, military/defence, sports, law enforcement, entertainment/amusements, and so much more.

As a process, screen printing is used less today for mainstream advertising and POP/POS — where its foremost purpose is simply to announce, communicate, display or promote.  But much of that market is now questionable and under rapid attack.  Retail shops struggle to stay open while others are closing down en masse for good in favour of online shopping.  Such a setback to traditional commercial printing translates into far-reaching pruning of advertising/promotional budgets, as online retail business continues to flourish and prosper at a startling rate.

On the other hand, virtually everything else that must aesthetically appear striking from the ordinary, or function in one fashion or another, has to inevitability be screened for reliability. As new and improved products are constantly brought to the marketplace, the demand of screening printing must likewise keep abreast of the rapid technological advances of the twenty-first century, and the next. The whole world depends on it, otherwise mankind would not be enjoying the fruits of modern-day living and surrounding technologies we have grown to rely on.

Agree, screen printing is an old but very much a tried and tested process.  However, it is far from being obsolete. Unlike with other printing technologies, new markets are constantly being created, where the only sustainable solution to successfully produce an image, or apply a special conformal surface coating, is by screening due to its innate ability to generously adapt — not replace!

Mike Young
Imagetek Consulting, USA
Member, Academy of Screen and Digital Printing Technologies (ASDPT).

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