You may think of screen printing as being an artistic process, principally used for art work and printing on textiles. Whilst it is, of course, dominantly used for these things, there is another string to the screen printing bow that you may not be aware of.
Over the last two decades, screen printing has found a new calling in industrial production of technological devices. Yes, you will find screen printed components in everything from your smartphone to your microwave… and much more besides!
It may be hard to imagine, but there is a little screen printing in so many things that we use every day. Almost every gadget you can think of requires a bit of squeegee and stencil magic! In some cases this is a graphic part of the device, but screen printing is used in printed circuit boards, as well as in layers of functional material. Your bank notes and credit cards, for example, have screen printed elements, as do scratch cards!
Screen printing plays a significant role in the wearable tech market, where electronic sensors require its use. The most useful application in this industry is possibly in medical devices, allowing for wearable technology to monitor conditions non-invasively and without the need for cumbersome machinery. Scientists are also currently hard at work researching the ways in which rechargeable batteries with a different chemical base, featuring printed capacitors, can be used to bring printed batteries into the commercial arena.
With the advent of digital inkjet printing, some were concerned that screen printing might be relegated to the domain of artists alone, losing its usefulness in our increasingly industrial world. However, screen printing has certainly stepped up to the challenge the new millennium has set. New, modified inks have been developed which have widened the playing field for practical applications of the process. Pastes and other kinds of new-fangled inks can be comprised of almost anything, and print onto almost any surface, quickly, and in an unsurpassably controlled manner.
For a great example of this, we turn our attention to the kitchen. Specifically, baked products, such as cakes, biscuits and other sweet stuff. Chocolate, marzipan and sugar paste can all be printed, and, when food colouring is used as ink, intricate decorations can be achieved with ease.
We are seeing traditional textile printers working alongside engineers in the creation of prototypes for new products and applications. As a process, screen printing has a range unique attributes, for both experimental and production uses, that its reign as the king of printing methods (what a title!) is sure to last for many years to come.