Inkjet attacks screen glass print market

New inkjet glass printers are encroaching on one of the last remaining screen printing territories, binding ink directly to the glass at what proponents says is a lower cost.

Wide format printer manufacturer Durst says the Rho Vetrocer glass printer, unveiled at Glasstec 2014 in October, will make printed decorative glass more affordable for printers looking for extra revenue streams.

The printer applies ceramic inks directly to the glass without the need for pricey metal screen for each colour, with each colour requiring drying or baking before the next is applied.

The screen printing process runs the risk of the second or third colours printing out of register due to a change in the material after tempering.

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The Rho Vetrocer binds the ink to the glass permanently with a baking process inside an external oven, at a temperature between 680°C to 700°C – meaning the ink becomes part of the glass.

The machine can produce small and one-off jobs, or medium and large volumes for commercial and domestic design in partition walls, worktops or back walls in kitchens, shower screens, and shop fittings, without the need to replace templates as in screen printing.

The process does require a washing and drying unit to clean out dust, grease, finger prints, zinc and packaging from the glass; the company also supplies transport belts, baking oven and a loading and swivelling table to create a full line.

The flatbed supports widths of 2500mm, with work underway on a wider version for up to 3300mm. The series has a symmetrical (mirrored) printing head arrangement, to prevent colour shifts and banding, and the Vetrocer 250 model prints in 80dpi.

The entry level model, the Rho Vetrocer Basic, prints at about 25sqm an hour, while the Presto model, with twice as many modules, prints at around 55sqm an hour; and the top-end Vetrocer HS – with four times the modules – reaches 105sqm an hour.

Durst says the technology is will open creative opportunities for architects and designers as well as commercial printers – who have the printing know-how, Photoshop and colour management skills to capitalise on a market that is growing in Europe, and likely to hit Australia in the near future.

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