From the Editor: Screen Printing in 2016

It was an innovative year for our field, and for this magazine.

A friend phoned me recently and asked me to have a look at a logo he was planning for his company’s 125th anniversary. His conundrum was that he wanted to leverage the impressive history of his business while stressing its commitment to innovation and cutting-edge technology, but that’s not the easiest creative brief for any designer to tackle. How do you call attention to your legacy without coming across as old-fashioned? (There is a reason DJs play Elvis at golden anniversary parties instead of Kanye.)

Our conversation reminded me that my company, ST Media Group, also celebrated a big anniversary this year: our 110th. And as you know if you’ve read Guido Lengwiler’s definitive “A History of Screen Printing,” the process for which this magazine was named originated exactly a century ago, in San Francisco. Yet both of these milestones went unnoted in this column until now, the final issue of 2016. I realize now that Screen Printing and its parent company share the same dilemma faced by my friend. We’re also very proud of our history, yet mindful that we must continually evolve with the industries we serve to remain relevant.

As it happens, 2016 was a very good year for innovation in specialty printing, and our pages reflected this. Before we begin this special issue, I’d like to call your attention to some articles you may have missed this year that underscore why specialty printing and the magazine devoted to it are anything but antiquated.

In February, we highlighted the fascinating merger of decorated apparel and printed electronics with Eileen Fritsch’s “The Future of Wearable Technology.” Though the technology is still in its infancy, smart textiles are already having a profound impact in everything from fashion to military applications.

In April, Barbara Montgomery examined ways that printers are automating what has become the most troublesome bottleneck for retail graphics and outdoor advertising specialists in “After the Print: Breaking the Logjam in Finishing.”

In June, Fritsch once again demonstrated her gift for exploring emerging technologies with “What’s Next for Single-Pass Inkjets?” She discussed many of the single-pass systems that debuted that month at drupa in Düsseldorf, Germany, and that were the most talked-about technology demonstrations at what proved to be an exceptionally good exhibition. Also in June, we pondered what the coming wave of higher-volume inkjet solutions may mean for the apparel decoration business in “DTG Printing: Life in the Fast Lane.”

We returned to what the future holds for textile printers in August with “The Fourth Disruption: Why Venture Capitalists Are Eyeing Garment Decoration.” Mark Coudray provided a fascinating and provocative analysis of why the investors behind such brands as Google and Amazon have turned their attention to our industry. In that same issue, Julia Goldstein gave us excellent insight into another futuristic trend with “The Migration of Printed Electronics to 3D,” explaining why additive manufacturing will soon allow us to print not just prototypes but also fully functional parts with embedded electronics in a single step.

And now, we’ll turn our attention to another very timely topic – automation – that affects all printers regardless of what products they print or how. This special edition is the first time we’ve dedicated an entire issue to this critical theme. We hope you enjoy it.

View more from this Screen Printing issue