Technology Foot-Draggers

Knowledge is the first step along with a willingness to participate.

Some people jump on the bandwagon when it comes to a new technology, feeling the need to buy every bell and whistle long before their colleagues have a chance to catch up. For example, Apple sold a million iPads just 28 days after the new product was released. Whether this response reflects good marketing by Apple or the need to be accepted as cool, the thought remains that consumers seem to trust the value of the product right away.

Though I usually wait to see which technology will win out before investing in them, I do admit to storing a box of stuff that I’ve collected over the years—the leftovers from technologies that didn’t take. Mostly I just dissect them to see how they’re made, but some I’ve even lost touch with their original function. Yet I hold on to them, hoping that they may come back some time, like vinyl records and headbands. Not all invention is linear, nor is fashion.

When writing “The Latest Advances in UV Inks” article in this issue of Screen Printing, it struck me that though the first patent for a UV-curable printing ink was granted in 1946, the printing industry didn’t take note until 1966 when the first solvent-restrictive legislation took effect (the Los Angeles Pollution Act). After that, the foot dragging stopped.

By the 1980s, UV inks were accepted by a large number of screen printers. And according to Bruce Ridge of Nazdar, “UV inks for wide-format inkjet printing were introduced in the 1990s and have quickly advanced in parallel with the development of the printers and their UV curing capabilities.” The fast curing, lack of VOCs, and flexibility really boosted the use of UV inks in the printing community, though it took a while. Once again, when the value proposition takes over and people see worth in the new ink, as well as understand the requirements for curing, foot dragging stops.

You may have noticed the Microsoft Tag on the cover of this issue and Ben Rosenfield’s article, “Mobile Is the Message.” To take advantage of this interactive 2D barcode, you will need to download the free Tag Reader app on a Web-enabled camera phone and, when you see the cover tag, snap a photo of it to interact with the magazine. It’s a way of seamlessly linking with online information and entertainment. You will be seeing more of this type of technology as retailers learn how to engage customers in new ways. Chances are you will be printing these tags as well.

Last week we attended the Printed Electronics Summit in San Jose and the week after the Printed Electronics & Membrane Switch Symposium in Phoenix. Both events pointed to forward-looking technologies. Industrial topics included working with conductive inks on flexible substrates to produce a wide variety of printed products, printed push buttons, printed electroluminescent products, printed RFID, OLEDs, and printed batteries. At the Summit, Fujifilm Dimatix displayed its Shaped Piezo Silicon MEMS technology printhead with 16 jets in the cartridge designed for high-resolution, non-contact jetting of functional fluids covering a broad range of applications (fabrication of organic thin-film transistors, printed circuits). The printer and cartridge are helping materials deposition move out of the lab and into mainstream by using new methods and technologies not possible just a few years ago.

This is just no time to be a technology foot-dragger; it’s time to be a quick learner. Knowledge is the first step along with a willingness to participate. My daughter, the psychologist, often quips, “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but they’ve got to want to change.”

View more from this Screen Printing issue