This article presents useful predictions from exhibitors at SGIA.
By Gail Flower
Mike Young, Consultant
Imagetek Consulting Int’l, North Haven, CT
The commercial side of traditional screen printing has changed immensely, if not radically, in favor of digital during the past decade or so, which was clearly evident at the SGIA Expo. This was in spite of the sudden uplift exhibited around the show with activities related to screening. Call it what you will but the switch or acceptance force behind digital imaging technology is greater than the sum of screen printing practitioners, a work in progress that will continue for the foreseeable future, albeit at a slower pace. This upward trend is a natural when digital has proven to be a superb asset, as a resourceful solution and cooperative processing partner for the lower quantity/mostly unprofitable end of the customary screen print scale, since it is compact, provides quicker turnarounds and more practical than traditional screening for many facets of the marketplace. While digital has perhaps a lot more room for growth as progress and newer developments come on line, it is far from ever being an outright replacement but rather a partnership in the business of imaging. Contrary to belief, commercial/graphic art screen printing is alive and well, which will continue in niche markets such as inline multicolor and time-honored jobs/applications—where alternative imaging/coating technologies are unable to participate due to cost, technical aspirations or aesthetic appeal.
Werner Wade, President
Colex Imaging, Inc., Paramus, NJ
It’s obvious that anyone attending SGIA tradeshows during the past decade is aware of the escalation of wide-format digital printing technology at the expense of screen printing. We do not believe that screen is dead or dying. Screen still has the advantage of lower ink costs than digital, faster printing speeds, and the ability to print on thicker media and mix PMS colors in two fountains. Digital printing, on the other hand, is not sitting still as the unit breaking point for choosing digital over screen keeps moving higher. Digital printers admit that jobs of 200-300 should go to screen. For the future, we do not see our digital printing customers buying screen equipment, but most screen printers are purchasing wide-format inkjet printers if they want to stay in business.
Ryan Moor, President
Ryonet, Vancouver, WA
Things are going digital. Look at what happened to traditional film cameras in the past 15 years. With screen printing, most would say that digitally printing a shirt is a way out from directly competing against screen printing; this is mainly due to ink cost and production speed. But what about digitally imaging the positive on screen itself? I think this could be real close to hitting the industry in an affordable way. Several companies are working on faster and affordable ways to achieve direct-to-screen, when one does it for the $15-20k price point, game over for film output.
What conclusion can we draw from so many sources? Many agree that screen printing will survive in a healthy condition but that digital will be used more than in the past, especially for short runs. Screen printers will use more CTS, more automation, and more direct-to-garment. Gains in productivity will come from steps such as combining printing and cutting operations in the same equipment.
Customers will expect printers to use environmentally friendly inks, such as UV and latex. They will also expect a printer to be a one-stop-shop with many capabilities. Customers demand top quality from start to finish, rapid turnaround, and excellent service in all aspects of the transaction. Making choices as to which is the least costly and most efficient way to print remains with the printer. The customer just wants lower prices for projects and more services to come from a single print-service source. This opens up new requirements for providers, or else new possibilities for partnerships with companies supplying auxiliary services.
Finally, for those printing for the garment industry, printed labels will continue to replace the sewn-in tags that scratch the back of a wearer’s neck. Both men and women will look for a little differentiation and a little flash in their apparel with the personalization of metallic inks and fibers, embellishments, puff decorations, studs, and foils. These trendy decorating techniques are taking T-shirts that are often viewed as utilitarian or recreational garments to a new level in the fashion world.
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