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Archive for the ‘Industrial Printing’ Category

Custom Printing: Industrial Printing on Wood

Monday, April 12th, 2021

Photo purchased from …

About 30 years ago, when I was an art director and production manager at a nonprofit educational foundation, I worked with a designer and a book printer to reproduce the color and texture of a marbelized, textured paper. This was for an annual report, and the goal was to use a single paper stock for both the marketing portion of the book and the financials. We used a white coated press sheet for everything and printed a photograph of the marbelized paper as a background for all pages of the more elegant marketing section of the annual report. (We also moved the photo around a bit to vary the pattern from page to page.)

This process made an impression on me. I learned that you can make something look other than what it really is by using commercial printing techniques.

About 24 years later my fiancee and I had a house fire. While I didn’t much like the experience, I did learn something about custom printing as we chose materials to rebuild the house. One of these materials was flooring, and I was intrigued by the same process I had seen as an art director. Floor manufacturers were able to use commercial printing techniques to simulate wood grain on various materials and thereby produce flooring sheets and planks that were in many cases more durable and sustainable than real wood but still as attractive.

Initially, I found this somewhat objectionable on a deep level, because I had always been a purist. I always preferred to use real materials and make them look as they really are. Well I got over it. I remember the first time I saw a friend’s composite house-siding shingles. They looked “real,” like wood. But they were concrete, and they could withstand hurricane-force winds. By this time I was also a homeowner—and more frugal and less idealistic than before—and these three experiences came together for me as an “Aha” moment.

Digital Printing and Wood Surface Decoration

Whether it’s real wood with printed patterning or some printed, synthetic base, we are at a crossroads for industrial printing as it applies to the home décor market.

First of all, let’s define some terms and processes. “Industrial printing” is a huge part of commercial printing in general. But it has nothing to do with marketing or education, brochures or books. “Industrial,” or “functional” printing is the utilitarian branch of custom printing. It includes the letters on your computer keyboard keys, the writing on your car’s dashboard, and the numbers on your microwave.

It wasn’t that long ago that industrial or functional printing depended primarily on gravure printing and screen printing. Both of these are labor intensive (i.e., costly) to set up, so for economic press runs, you need to print a huge number of copies. Custom screen printing and gravure also take a long time (for preparation and changeover of jobs), so two things you couldn’t get 20 years ago were immediate turn-around and customization of your simulated wood flooring.

Fortunately for consumers, both of these (speed and variety) have become the norm due to the rise of digital commercial printing, which is ideally suited for “mass customization” and “just in time” manufacturing. So, for instance, instead of needing to order one ton of flooring, a distributor might now be able to order a single, short-run design for one building. This is because of the infinite variability of digital printing.

Another benefit of digital printing addresses the dimensional limitations of the gravure presses that preceded digital technology. The press cylinders had a fixed circumference compared to the laminating presses. Now, on large-format inkjet presses you can produce much wider flooring designs (or designs that don’t repeat regularly).

Better Than Natural Wood

Why do people choose simulated wood products?

  1. They are more sustainable than natural wood.
  2. They may hold up better to the elements.
  3. They may last longer in a damp environment. (After our house fire our water heater developed a leak. The new synthetic basement flooring held up to the flood quite well.)
  4. They may be more resistant to insects (living in a log cabin is romantic until insects damage the logs).

So digital technologies, whether direct custom printing on wood or lamination, can simulate the color, pattern, and surface texture of real wood, but they can do this on vinyl, metal, or composite wood, in such a way that the floors are more durable, water resistant, and stronger than natural wood. (And having struggled with warped wood in furniture, I personally find that flooring that keeps its dimensional stability even in the bathroom—shower after shower–is a blessing.)

Equipment to Look for and Research

Here are some names of equipment for digitally printed wood decoration that you may want to research if you’re looking into this technology:

  1. Inca Onset
  2. Kodak Prosper
  3. Koenig & Bauer RotaJet
  4. EFI Cubik

Ask about flatbed inkjet printers that can print directly on thicker substrates (like doors). Ask about roll-fed, aqueous inkjet printers as well. Make sure the printer you choose understands the nuances of woodworking, cabinetry, flooring, and/or lamination. That is, does he understand how digital commercial printing technology for wood surface decoration supplements the more traditional processes?

Moreover, ask about your options. Will your flooring product be directly printed onto solid wood or a flat, thin substrate (lamination)? Will the flooring be impregnated (i.e., what kind of top coating will seal and protect the flooring)?

And here’s a new one to research: Some current flooring decoration technologies will not only print the simulated wood grain on the flooring substrate but will also add a raised surface texture that mirrors the underlying design. (So it not only looks like wood, but it feels like wood, too, and at the same time the flooring product is stronger than natural wood.)

How Can They Ensure the Quality?

Repeatability is of prime importance with flooring decoration. Where two pieces of flooring abut, the colors and patterns must be consistent, or the floor will be ugly.

I have read online recently about “Digital Twin” (cloud-based) technology that ensures the quality of the final product. The gist of this approach is that computers simulate the manufacturing process from beginning to end while monitoring and controlling all steps of the actual, physical manufacturing process. So in most cases they can predict and/or avoid problems. This allows flooring decoration printers to maintain both color and texture consistency while reducing equipment downtime. And the result is higher client satisfaction, increased production efficiency, and increased profitability.

The Takeaway

What can we learn from this new technology? First of all, sometimes you need or want real wood. But sometimes you don’t, and in fact real wood floors might not be as durable or easy to care for as you would like. So there is a real need for wood simulations, particularly since digital technology now provides not only a visual simulation but also a textural simulation. The products look and feel real, and they’re durable.

So if this appeals to you as a designer, take some time to research the options: digital, gravure, custom screen printing. Consider the infinite variability (the opportunities for mass customization) digital printing provides. And think about whether you want to print directly on real, thick wood (doors, for instance) on a flatbed inkjet press, or whether you want to print on roll-to-roll inkjet equipment for follow-up lamination of the flooring product. All of these considerations will lead you to one or more digital commercial printing manufacturers.

And as with all other printed products, ask the suppliers for printed samples. Your eyes and your hands will make the final decision.

Custom Printing: Functional Printing in the Hospital

Monday, November 18th, 2019

About five years ago my fiancee and I had a house fire. Being a student of printing, and initially having extra time on my hands, I noticed printing samples in all the hotels we lived in. I found printed maps on the walls, informational brochures on the hotel room tables, and pad-printed or screen printed letters and numbers on the stove and microwave.

All of this is considered “functional printing” in that the goal of the printing is utilitarian. (In contrast, you might say that book printing is informational and brochure printing is promotional in nature.)

Fast forward almost five years, and I found myself in the hospital this last week getting a total hip replacement. Again I was a captive audience with time on my hands. So I began to observe the printed products I found in my environment. And, as with the house fire, much of what I found was functional printing (which I have also heard referred to as “industrial printing”).

Samples From the Hospital

The first thing I noticed was the sign above my hospital bed. It read, “Call, Don’t Fall.” The words and surrounding triangle were printed in black ink on a yellow background, and the sign itself had been attached to the ceiling with some kind of contact adhesive.

So what can we learn from this first printed sample?

To begin with, it’s a sample of functional printing because it conveys functional information: If you need to use the bathroom, call a nurse. Don’t get out of bed yourself. You don’t want a fall to complicate matters.

What about the color, design, and placement? First of all, as a captive audience in a hospital bed, I was primarily looking up at the ceiling. So clearly there was no better place to install signage than within my immediate field of vision.

Let’s move on to the shape of the sign, a triangle. A triangle is a simple geometric shape, and the words “Call, Don’t Fall” fit nicely into the surrounding black rule line. Also, as a culture (i.e., in the USA), we have been trained through experience to associate triangular, black and yellow road signs with caution.

So the shape, color, typeface (a serious sans serif, probably Helvetica) all reinforced the (functional) message.

And the placement, which actually reminded me of the floor signage my fiancee and I had installed in movie theaters, was positioned exactly where it would be immediately visible. In a movie theater, people’s eyes are focused on the floor and walls. In a hospital bed, people’s eyes are fixed on the ceiling.

The Menu

From this week’s experience in the hospital I learned that eating is one of the few great joys of hospitalization.

The menu was typeset in a simple, sans serif font in simple columns with clearly readable food categories (headlines) and then printed in red and black.

So what can we learn? Red stands out. Like the yellow of the ceiling sign advising me not to fall, both are primary colors. They are also associated in our culture with important information. Safety and food. What else do you need?

Pad Printing and Screen Printing

I’ve been paying attention. Now that I’m back home and confined to a chair (and writing this article on a cell phone), I’m watching the word “Power” on my leg pump wear off rather quickly.

The printing on your computer keys is functional printing. So is the word “Power” on my leg pump. More importantly, all of the words printed on my life-support console in the hospital were functional printing. 

In the case of the life-support console in the hospital, I made the assumption that all printed words and letters had been added to the plastic pieces with pad printing (a flexible plastic or rubber bulb transfers the ink to the substrate) or screen printing. Perhaps in the near future digital inkjet (direct-to-shape printing) will be the technology of choice.

To get back to my leg pumps, a $60 appliance made to keep me from getting blood clots in my legs can afford to have its “Power” label rub off. In contrast, a $300,000 (life-or-death) appliance in the hospital has to have writing that stays put and doesn’t rub off with light use. (Mistakes could happen.)

So how did they do it? My educated guess would be that UV inks (which remain stable on non-porous substrates) were used, or that some kind of transparent sealant (a topcoat) covered all of the functional printing on my life-support console to provide “rub resistance.”

What We Can Learn From This Case Study

  1. Stay out of the hospital.
  2. Wherever you go, notice the presence of functional printing. You’ll see it on your car dashboard, you computer, and even your sewing machine.
  3. Notice the colors and shapes used in functional printing. Consider how these relate to the cultural associations with which you have grown up. Some colors suggest certain things. Remember that these colors may suggest different things in other cultures. (Sometimes, these meanings can even be the opposite of one’s own culture. For instance, if I understand correctly, the connotations associated with the colors black and white are the opposite in Japan and the USA.)
  4. Look at your computer keyboard. You may see the letters wearing off. Or, you may see a protective coating. When you look at other samples of functional printing, look for protective coatings the manufacturer has used to coat the printed type and improve rub resistance.
  5. Do some research on pad printing, screen printing, and direct-to-shape inkjet printing to better understand the present (and probable future) technologies of functional printing.

Custom Printing: Drupa’s Focus on Industrial Printing

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

I’ve been reading a lot about industrial printing recently. I’ve seen an expansion of printing over the last several years, growing beyond its traditional role in publications and marketing toward a greater role in functional or industrial decoration.

For instance, when you look at the keyboard of your computer, you see letters, numbers, and other symbols that make it easier for you to communicate with the computer but that are not in themselves decorative, educational, or persuasive. Yet they are nevertheless printing.

If you open your computer, you will see all the printed circuitry through which your computer sends electrons as it functions. When I was a teenager and pursuing my hobby of electronics, we made printed circuits by hand with etching baths (acid, essentially), and block-out solutions you could apply with a pen. The solution would keep the acid from biting through the underlying metal, leaving a pathwork of metal that became the base of the printed circuits (a process akin to fine arts etching). Now this is all done digitally, and the inkjet printing devices that produce the printed circuit boards are still doing a type of printing.

Or look through any home décor establishment, and you will see all manner of tiles and wall-covering materials that have been inkjet printed or dye sub printed with special industrial equipment. And all of this is still printing.

Enter drupa, the Printing Super-Tradeshow

What has piqued my interest is that the main printing trade show, drupa, to be held from 5/31 to 6/10 in Dusseldorf, Germany, will focus specifically on this aspect of printing: items and processes made to be functional first, and decorative second.

To quote from an article I just read about drupa 2016, “a strong focus at drupa 2016 will be the advances in industrial printing, specifically packaging, glass, textile, ceramics, flooring, laminates, wood, wallcovering and decorative printing, as well as printed electronics” (“drupa 2016 to Highlight Advances in Industrial Printing and Printed Electronics During Show,” source: Messe Dusseldorf North America, 1/22/16).

New Technological Advances and Their Implications

The article goes on to say that “packaging production and industrial printing applications are recognized today as growth markets.” (Werner Dornscheidt, president and CEO of Messe Dusseldorf). Considering the “death of print” meme circulating through the media during the last few years, it is encouraging to see that the markets for packaging (which is in itself functional because it contains and protects, as well as advertises, consumer products) and industrial building materials (enhanced by digital printing technology) are growing. This flies in the face of the “death of print” naysayers. It also provides opportunities for advancements in custom printing technology (for instance, finding the best ways to print on a flooring tile and then bake in the pigment so time, exposure to the elements, and foot traffic won’t wear it away).

“drupa 2016 to Highlight Advances in Industrial Printing and Printed Electronics During Show” notes InfoTrends figures showing that “worldwide mass-production of decorative products accounted for just under half a trillion dollars in manufactured goods in flat glass, ceramic tiles, flooring/laminates, textile and wall coverings.”

With the improvements in dye sublimation fabric printing and inkjet direct to fabric printing it is easy to see how consumer demand is driving new developments in this custom printing technology. In addition, the growing desire for bespoke solutions (one-off print jobs) ideally positions the new digital technologies for mass-customization of interior design work.

Furthermore, although it’s not clear yet exactly how this will play out, additive manufacturing advances (3D custom printing) have allowed interior designers (as well as fashion designers) to add 3D components to their printed products.

What You Can Take Away from Messe Dusseldorf North America’s Article on drupa

  1. All of these functional printing opportunities existed before the advent of digital printing. The products were just produced using analog technology, such as offset, gravure, flexography, and custom screen printing.
  2. Producing these functional print jobs with analog technology required long press runs to make the work cost-effective.
  3. Now, with the rapid growth of digital printing, it has become economically feasible to create as few as one copy of a tile, window drape, bedspread, or printed glass window.
  4. As designers and print buyers, it behooves you to widen your definition of commercial printing. There are multiple opportunities beyond designing and producing print books, posters, brochures, and signage.
  5. The confluence of 3D printing advances, an increased interest in functional printing, and digital printing in general may forever change the paradigm of consumer buying. Instead of going to a manufacturer or retailer, you may just download a file, 3D print a physical object, and decorate or customize it with your own in-house custom printing equipment.

Custom Printing: That’s Weird. How Do They Do That?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Have you ever picked up a mug or a golf ball with a particularly interesting graphic and wondered how the manufacturer could possibly have printed it? After all, if most presses print flat images on flat substrates, just how can a graphic be printed on an irregular surface?

Or think about functional or industrial printing, in which the graphics are intended for informational rather than design or promotional purposes. How can a commercial printing supplier put a logo and text on the face plate of an appliance or a piece of electrical equipment when the surface is uneven?

Printing on Industrial Control Panels

I read an article today on Screen Web. “Printing on Porcupines” by Tamas Frecska (3/18/03) raises some intriguing issues in describing how to print on control boxes and other industrial components.

When you think about it, there are three options:

  1. pad printing (a direct printing option)
  2. decal printing (an indirect method, which is not as attractive or durable as the other options)
  3. and screen printing (a direct printing option)

Pad Printing

The first option, which I have described in prior blog articles, involves transferring an image from a gravure custom printing plate onto a silicone pad (like a bulb), and from the pad onto an irregular substrate (concave, convex, spherical, cylindrical, or uneven). For example, you would use such a process to print an image on a spherical golf ball. Since the silicone pad is flexible, it will compress as it is pressed down onto the golf ball, and the silicone surface will conform to the irregular surface as it deposits the ink.

Frecska’s article notes that such a technique might be appropriate for printing on an industrial control panel or box; however, the silicone pads are somewhat fragile. Therefore, the printing process would quickly damage them. The bolt heads and other protrusions on the industrial control panel would tear up the pad and require its frequent replacement.

In addition, silicone pads cannot be stored for long (and they quickly degrade, unlike custom screen printing equipment, for instance).

Finally, according to Frecska’s article, pad printing inks don’t adhere well to powder coated metal surfaces.

Printing and Affixing Decals

Frecska’s article goes on to note that decals would be another option for decorating a control panel with an irregular surface. For instance, you might print one decal for a logo, and then another decal for pertinent numbers or other information about the control panel. Then you would apply these to the powder coated metal individually. This way you could avoid all the metal pieces that stick up off the surface of the control panel.

The problem with this approach, according to Frecska’s article, is that in some cases regulatory agencies require that such functional printing be permanently attached to the surface of the control panel (or other industrial item). Adhesives of any kind are apparently not considered adequate. Therefore, you might even need to add rivets to the adhesive labels, which would not be efficient.

Furthermore, if you decide not to produce a series of individual small labels but rather to diecut holes for the protruding bolts and tags in one large label so it will lay flat, this process can become very expensive.

Screen Printing

In such a case as printing on an irregular surface of a control panel or box, custom screen printing would be ideal except for the fact that the bolts and other protruding elements of the control panel face plate would tear the screen. Or they would keep the screen from laying flat against the control panel or box. (For custom screen printing to work, the screen must maintain adequate contact with the substrate.)

So “Printing on Porcupines” by Tamas Frecska proposes an innovative solution. Cut holes in the screen to accommodate all the protruding parts of the control panel, or other industrial equipment, on which you’re printing.

Frecska notes that such a process would need to be manual (some custom screen printing is automated). However, he does not see this as being a problem since the print runs for such components are usually very small (100 to 1,000 copies).

Why This Is Relevant

You may wonder how this pertains to your work, particularly if you never produce design jobs for industrial or functional printing.

More than anything, an article like Frecska’s “Printing on Porcupines” can challenge you to ask the question, “How did they do that?” when you see a printed product that intrigues you.

In addition, this expanded mindset might lead you to consider not just one option, but rather multiple options, for custom printing your job. The more printing techniques you understand, the more options you have, and the more likely you are to find the most economical and most effective printing process for your particular project.

Finally, an article like “Printing on Porcupines” can open your mind to just how broad the field of custom printing really is. It extends well beyond promotional and educational materials into a huge realm of industrial or functional printing opportunities.

Nothing can benefit your career, or your craft, like keeping an open mind and expanding your awareness.

Book Printing: How to Approach a Functional Print Job

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

I always prefer to work with people who are more knowledgeable than I in their particular field. I consider these to be my gurus, and in the field of custom printing I have a number of resources for whom I am grateful. They have been a huge help in the following job.

Specs of the Functional Print Job

A client of mine is producing a print book of color swatches, in many respects very similar to a PMS swatch book or a color book you might find at a paint store. It contains 60+ leaves (120+ pages), and its only binding is a single screw and post assembly (one screws into the other, holding all pages together at one end of the print book). Each page has a full bleed color on one side (a process color build) and black-only, descriptive text on the other. The size is a little over 1.5” x 3.5”. So it’s very small.

Approaching the Experts for Advice

This is really more of a functional or industrial printing project than a commercial printing project. It’s a bit out of my area of expertise, so I chose two trusted advisors at two separate book printers to provide estimates and advice. What I like about them is that they always challenge my specifications for job estimates. This actually makes them particularly valuable because they always see things slightly differently from me, and they come up with novel questions and solutions.

As a functional print job, this project posed a few novel issues to consider:

  1. What will the clients do with the product? How will they handle it? What is its purpose, if not to convey information or a brand?
  2. Will everyone get the same product? Or will the screw and post binding be removable, and will some print books be altered prior being sent to my client’s clients?
  3. How long will the color swatch book be useful before it needs to be replaced by a new edition with new colors?

The Answers Lead to the Printing Process

After discussing the project with my client, I learned that some clients will get different iterations of the color book. For some end-users, my client intends to pull out some of the pages and replace them with other color swatches.

What This Means

  1. First of all, this is why the print book has a binding mechanism that can be disassembled and reassembled. In prior years, my client had been using plastic screw and post assemblies for binding, but apparently they broke easily in disassembly. So my advisor at one of the print shops suggested metal screw and post assemblies and worked this into his price. These would last longer and could be disassembled and reassembled more easily. My client could swap out pages without distress.
  2. The end users of this color book would need to use the books regularly. Therefore, protecting the heavy ink coverage on the pages would be important. The natural oil in the user’s hands might cause problems with ink rub off. I asked my two advisors to look into this. The verdict is still out.
  3. Since the press run is short (100 sets of sixteen books), the product is ideally suited for printing on an HP Indigo press. Fortunately both printer/advisors have access to this equipment. Based on the need for color fidelity, I made it clear early on that only the best digital press (the HP Indigo, in my opinion) would do. (This reflects the industrial printing nature of this product. More than with many other kinds of commercial printing jobs, in this case color accuracy and consistency over the entire press run are crucial.)
  4. An HP Indigo does not coat the printed product in-line. Both vendors would need to subcontract this work after the Indigo digital press had completed printing the press sheets. Outside work slows down the schedule, but, more importantly, it also raises the price. However, given the nature of digital printing (in this case with liquid toners), I wondered whether a cover coating would even be necessary.
  5. The client had requested rounded corners on the job. The samples she sent me showed this had been done in prior years. When I received pricing from the vendors, I heard two different stories. One vendor would do the diecutting for $160.00. The other would send it to a subcontractor, and the overall price of the job would go up significantly compared to the cost of a square-edged printed product.

What You Can Learn from this Case Study

  1. At this point I have no final answers, just questions. Fortunately, I have two respected advisors who will tell me the truth about the job. So the first point I would stress is the importance of developing strong professional relationships with commercial printing suppliers, and using them as resources for their expertise.
  2. Consider the function of a print job. Making it pretty is useless if the colors are not faithful or consistent throughout the press run. Conversely, keeping the price down by omitting the cover coating (such as a UV coating) makes no sense if this omission will allow fingerprinting and skin oils to damage the product.
  3. Consider how long the printed product needs to last. Is it a brochure that will be read and discarded, a print book that will be kept for decades, or a functional printing product that must endure harsh use and be color fast for a number of years?
  4. If you have a tight budget and no definitive answers, have your printer list the component prices of the job in a “menu” format. Perhaps some things can be sacrificed (like the rounded corners in my client’s job) to meet the budget. At the very least it will show you what components of the job are the most expensive. If you see what elements of a job need to be subcontracted, you can in some cases replace these with in-house procedures your printer can do himself. This will save money.
  5. Always get printed samples. In my case, I will get HP Indigo digital samples for my client. She can put both a UV coated and an uncoated sheet (hopefully from her own color book art file) through some stress tests to see if she really needs the cover coating.
  6. When in doubt, return to suggestion #1 above. Develop professional relationships with experts in your field. Do this before you need their help.

Custom Printing: What Is Industrial Printing?

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I just had my mind opened by an article entitled “Industrial Print Has Awesome Potential. But What Is It Exactly?” I read the article, written by Marcus Timson, in the 2/8/13 edition of A very interesting read.

So What Exactly Is Industrial Printing?

Timson’s article defines it as “print that does not have the primary purpose of carrying a promotional message. It is print that is part of a manufacturing process. That either enables the function of a product or that enhances its appearance or decoration.”

As I make a cursory visual scan of my office desk, I see a number of items that fit this description. And I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. For instance, all the keys on my computer keyboard as well as my calculator have been printed with alphanumeric characters along with function keys and branding (“emachines,” for instance). The monitor is an Acer, and its bezel includes a screen printed logo as well as screen printed notations for the “on/off” switch, volume control, etc.

Why Does Industrial Custom Printing Matter?

All of these electronic gadgets would be useless without this custom screen printing work. The notations don’t promote anything (except, perhaps, the logos), but they convey vital information, information absolutely essential for the use of the equipment.

Timson’s article goes on to note that industrial printing may not necessarily be done with ink. For example, the seven layers of silicone screen printed behind the glass of a tablet computer, which allow the tablet touch screen to operate, fit the category of industrial custom printing.

Another reason industrial printing is important is its potential for growth. Since many of the venues for print, such as magazine printing and newspaper printing, have been shrinking, it’s encouraging to see areas of commercial printing that are in fact expanding—such as industrial printing.

Industrial Custom Printing Embraces Multiple Technologies

Industrial printing is “process agnostic,” according to Timson’s article. It depends on multiple technologies, including screen printing and inkjet printing. And I would assume that flexography has a place in industrial printing as well.

About a year ago I visited a local custom screen printing operation, and I was intrigued by the geographic globes and molded plastic machinery panels the vendor was producing. He had screen printed the underside of the tinted, semi-transparent material, and had then heated and molded it into intricate 3D forms, such as spheres (the globe) and contoured control panels.

With the definition of industrial printing noted in Timson’s article, we can look at electronic printed circuits in a new light as well. The electrically conductive paths in the circuit boards are screen printed onto the plastic base material. This also qualifies as industrial printing.

What About Coding and Other Marks?

Think about the MICR printed alphanumeric characters on the bottom of your checks. These are not just ink; they are magnetic ink.

Essentially, Mark Timson has expanded the definition of printing from ink or toner on paper to the application of “a functional fluid that actually enables the product to work or that codes, marks, or provides some kind of functional contribution to the product itself.”

This Includes Architectural Design, Too

Timson mentions doors, ceramics, and glass in his article, and includes an industrial drawing of a modern house, with call-outs showing all the various ways industrial printing has contributed to the final living space. He even includes textiles such as wall coverings and window treatments: all manner of small print runs on “unusual surfaces that play a decorative role.”

Why You Should Care

I think that opening one’s mind to the concept of industrial custom printing is an important step. It’s a new way of seeing printed products: a new lens, if you will, through which to view printed material. I for one am looking at my keyboard, monitor, even the microwave, with different eyes. I am seeing what had been invisible, or at least I am seeing those commercial printing applications to which I had become inured through constant exposure. I am also seeing the artistry. There is room for aesthetics in this arena of printing. Clearly the industrial designers have applied design principles to their work (for instance, think of the artistry of an iPod, iPhone, or iPad).

The other reason I’m intrigued and encouraged is the persistence of print. As long as consumer products need markings, labels, or even packaging, there will be room for ink, toner, and other fluids printed on plastic, fabric, glass, wood….


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Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
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