The Big Industrial Print Debate

It is a controversial discussion. Will digital arrest process dominance from analogue processes such as screen printing within the industrial sector, like it has done within the graphic sector? Screen printing continues to be the dominant process in industrial functional print. As the manufacturing sector continues to grow in areas such as consumer electronics, the demand for screen printing increases as it is the only process that has sufficient quality and speed to match demand. 'Smart' Screen printing is clearly going through a renaissance.

However whether screen printing will retain its prime position within the industrial print sector is a debatable issue for some, especially those from the inkjet sector.

Whether screen printing will suffer the exact same fate that has befallen it within the graphic sector. In that it loses its process dominance, is contentious and a problematic discussion to have.

Why? Because within the dynamics, demands, scale and technical issues are completely different.

Not only that, some believe that digital will develop its own role that suits its unique characteristics.

The mass customisation trend will continue to influence the development of digital print technology within manufacturing – for flexible production, shorter run and customised finishes.

And this will, according to Mark Hanley of IT Strategies, lead to parallel markets opening up. Companies will be formed that perform a specific role within the industrial print sector, to perform specific tasks that suit digital's unique capabilities.

Screen printing within the industrial sector should be very confident. Digital cannot yet outperform screen printing on quality and speed. For graphic [printing, digital inkjet can perform the role that screen printing used to do, as quality of reproduction is not as much of an issue.

Within the industrial sector, we do think that digital can outperform screen on more flexible, shorter runs that suit the need for mass customisation. But that should not be viewed as a threat from the screen printing sector as  it is a new market requirement.

But what is clear is that screen printing  will continue to need to enhance its visibility,  by reminding people of the value of this amazing process at shows such as InPrint!

It could be that co-existence is the most likely occurrence with technologies focused on doing very different jobs.

But what do you think? Join the debate.