What is industrial printing?

Industrial print, broadly speaking, is printing as part of a manufacturing process — print that is applied to a product to add decoration or functionality. It is not meant to communicate, as traditional printing is. Another term for industrial print is functional print.

Examples of functional print include:

  • Wallpaper, furniture, textiles and other décor-related objects,
  • Printing of ceramic tiles, glass, metal or wood
  • Printing with user interaction such as membrane switches in the buttons of microwaves and other appliances
  • Printed electronics
  • Printed security features

Much of this work today is being done by analog screen printing technology. But screen printing cannot adapt to the changing manufacturing landscape of just-in-time production, customization, and unlimited chemistry and substrates.

Inkjet is a new digital technology that overcomes these limitations, as well as reducing costs and expanding markets.

Digital industrial print is a fast-growing area. SmithersPira, a UK based research firm, pegs the size of the industrial print market at $43.7 billion in 2013; following a CAGR growth rate of 113.4% from 2008-13. The digital textile printing market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 20.1% between 2014 and 2019, for example.

Dashboard printed using industrial printing technology.

Furniture printed using industrial printing.

Digital industrial printing delivers a positive impact via lower costs with just-in-time manufacturing, customizability of products, breadth of chemicals and substrates, and improved manufacturing speeds.

Inkjet is a non-contact printing technology, which means it can deal with almost any chemistry, on almost
any substrate on any scale. This opens up opportunities on limitless fronts. Any decorative or communicative function can be achieved on any surface with any chemical.

Inkjet is also in its infancy and yet it is already achieving speeds that match the production speeds. This is especially true in textile production, or tile production, for example, where the products can be printed as quickly as they are manufactured right on the production line. The benefits of integrated digital factory can mean up to 30% cost reductions in manufacturing

The potential of printed electronics will mean a radical reduction in the cost of component manufacturing as roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques replace today’s batch manufacturing.


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