Old Method Still Awash in Applications
The silk may be gone, but screen printing is here to stay
By Stacey Wenzel
Although screen printing is one of the oldest forms of printing, it shouldn't be thought of as ancient history.
Screen printing, formerly known as silk screening, still has its niche within the industry and is a popular printing method for labels, decals and advertising specialties.
The technique is similar to stenciling, where an image is transferred onto a screen that is typically made from polyester.
The ink is poured on top of the screen and forced through the open areas with a squeegee. This allows the ink to be placed directly onto the material.
"It's considered an off-contact type of printing," said Bob Talion, executive vice president for Adcraft Decals, Independence, Ohio.
According to Talion, the screen puts down approximately 10 to 15 times more ink compared to other types of printing such as flexography or lithography. The exact amount of ink depends on the mesh openings in the screen.
Carl Gerlach, director of marketing for Gill Studios, Shawnee Mission, Kan., said the ink used in screen printing differs from the water-based inks that are typically used with flexography or lithography.
"The screen carries the color pigments and that's what gives it its thickness," said Gerlach.
One of the key factors that sets screen printing apart from flexography or lithography is its durability. Talion said that durability is one of the reasons screen printing is commonly used for outdoor applications.
"The ink is more like paint. It's much thicker and more durable," Talion said.
He also noted that although improved flexography inks are becoming available, screen printing lasts longer, withstands harsh weather and is UV resistant.