Silkscreened Labels Keep On Selling
With new technology and processes, silkscreened labels continue to hold their own in an ever-changing industry.
Silkscreened labels continue to stand the test of time. Known for their durability and staying power, they have helped users be a little more organized, a lot safer and, as times would have it, more politically aware. Running the gamut from bumper stickers and equipment labels to hard-hat decals and political signs, silkscreened labels remain an important component in the printed products industry.
"Silkscreened labels are generally made for surfaces that are frequently exposed to the elements and that go through regular wear and tear," explained Jim Talion, marketing manager at Adcraft Decals, a label manufacturer based in Independence, Ohio. "They serve a specific purpose and are made to withstand time and abuse."
Talion said that silkscreened labels present a very lucrative market and are worth distributors' attention. "Manufacturing these labels is our specialty, and it has sustained us for more than 40 years," he noted. "The fact that we have been in business for so many years is a testament to the products' profitability."
Bob Roeda, owner and vice president of sales at Roeda Signs & Screentech Imaging, a full-service graphics house based in South Holland, Ill., said that his company produces screen-printed decals, along with a growing influence in the digitally printed arena. "We have a full-service large- and grand-format digital printing facility that is focused on high-resolution point-of-purchase posters and large, solvent-based vinyl banners, mesh banners, decals for varied substrates and vehicle wraps," he said.
Like Talion, Roeda said that the screen-printed label market is very profitable. "Original equipment manufacturers and simple equipment decals are some of the biggest markets today, and they are very lucrative," he said. "There are countless companies that need decals to mark their equipment. Once these accounts are landed, there is a good chance that there will be repeat orders."
Roeda also pointed out that screen-printed plastic styrene displays for the retail industry are on the rise. "If distributors have retail accounts, they should offer their clients printed or digitally printed displays," he advised.
Roeda and Talion agreed that silkscreened labels can be sold alone or as add-ons. Roeda said that many manufacturers tend to bulk order. "Equipment manufacturers tend to purchase large numbers of custom and safety decals in one order, and then reorder the items as supplies get low." He also said that municipalities and associations also prefer to purchase a variety of decals at once.
Talion said that because Adcraft Decals specializes in silkscreened labels, there are a number of variations that they can produce. "We can add lamination, embossing and urethane doming, and are able to use different colored materials," he said. "This gives people a variety of options to choose from."
Roeda said that although decals are a vital part of his company's print production, Roeda Signs & Screentech Imaging also prints on a variety of substrates. "We print on paper, posters, foamboards, thin plastics, PVC, aluminum and banners made from different materials," he explained.
When it comes to manufacturing challenges, Roeda and Talion said that difficulties range from finding the right adhesives to simply remaining competitive. Said Talion, "We must stay abreast of new materials and adhesives, and other components that will help us offer our distributors better service."
Roeda agreed, "Finding the right kinds of adhesives that will adhere to certain plastic products has proven challenging at times." He said that the plastic industry uses oily plasticizers to manufacture many of its products—making it increasingly difficult for adhesive manufacturers to produce products that will adhere to the plastics.
However, Roeda believes that if there is a will, there is a way. "In spite of this, adhesive and vinyl manufacturers continue to increase their research and development efforts, and usually come up with new products that work well," he said.
As for new products and processes, Talion said that while there are a number of developments in inks and adhesives, other forms of technology have revolutionized the industry. "Manufacturing technology has really expanded, especially in high-speed and multiple-color station-type printing presses that use less manpower, but have a much faster output rate," he said.
When asked if he had ever encountered an unusual request for silkscreened labels, Roeda recalled the times when his company produced a velvet lexan microwave display for a Turkish company, bush pilot airplane decals for an Alaskan company and portable toilet decals complete with a high-tack adhesive for a large Austrian company.
Talion said that while silkscreened labels currently seem to have a very strong presence in many markets, Adcraft Decals' polyurethane domed products could profit from more exposure. "This is an area where we think our distributors are missing the mark. We don't think that they are offering these products enough to their customers," he said.
In order to get distributors off to a good start, Talion and Roeda offered some helpful suggestions. Said Talion, "Distributors should know more than just what graphics and artwork their customers want on the finished product. They should also know where the label will be placed, and whether it will be subject to the elements, chemicals or regular use." He said that knowing these details in advance will ensure that customers are satisfied.
By way of advice, Roeda encouraged distributors to speak with manufacturers regularly. "We are here to educate and help distributors develop the right product for each application," he said. "Based on my observations, I believe that many distributors will have to undergo some form of digital printing training in order to introduce this new process to their customers."
"As long as people need attractive and durable printed labels, there will always be a place for silkscreened products," Talion said.
Roeda said that his company anticipates a bright future for digital screen-printed products. "We don't know yet whether digital printers will produce decals at a faster rate and provide higher-quality products than what is currently available," he said. "But, Screentech Imaging is incorporating both processes in order to stay ahead of the competition, as well as to give customers a variety of options."
By Cynthia T. Graham