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Shop Talk: From T-Shirts to Touch Screens

(September 2015) posted on Tue Oct 06, 2015

Many people, even inside the industry, struggle to get their heads around the extent to which screen printing touches all of our lives.

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By Andy MacDougall

Screen printing as a manufacturing process has definitely arrived. In fact, it walked through the shop door, kicked over your daddy’s hand-print setup, and began seriously flexing its muscles a few decades ago. It used to be (and still is) known mostly as a versatile medium for printing flat graphics as well as the dominant decoration method for fabric. But over the past 20 years, industrial screen printing has helped alter the very foundations of the modern world. Screen printers now make critical components of cell phones and solar cells, among literally thousands of other consumer products, medical devices, architectural elements, and industrial components we use every day, things most people can’t even imagine. All with a stencil and squeegee.

I think that’s amazing. Why don’t more people know about it?

We’ve lived through the predicted demise and death of screen printing in the better known applications. Amazingly, it’s still here. Nobody is arguing that digital wide-format graphic and textile printing hasn’t transformed our visual world – and not just by putting a sign shop on every corner. Digital printing has redefined and increased the use of outdoor graphics, creating entirely new products and markets that didn’t exist before. And it continues to drive growth in the advertising print trade, even as traditional magazine, newspaper, and TV ads shrink. We live in a land o’ logos, with more printed things than ever before. Are they all digitally produced? Not quite. The reality is that you can’t swing a squeegee without hitting something that was screen printed.


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