Thieme: The customer comes first

Simon Hebding

Simon Hebding

As a company, Thieme is an industrial print success story and a true leader in innovation. The company has effectively transformed itself from the world of graphic screen printing into industrial and has now integrated inkjet in their industrial printing systems. In this interview I talk to Simon Hebding about the company and its view on the market and the future for technology in this sector.

What is the history of Thieme? 

Thieme was found in 1960 by Werner Thieme. Werner started in 1976 to manufacture screen printing machines and this has resulted in 40 Years of printing experience. The engineers continuously improved the printing systems and then started to innovate. The success has positioned us to be market leader in our industrial target market segment. In addition Thieme decided in 2011 to develop ink-jet systems for industrial applications. The systems were introduced to the market in 2014. Frank Thieme is the 100% shareholder of the families owned company.  

Where is your business located?

We have customers all over the world. We have digital business in USA and screen printing in Brazil, for us every country is possible!

Is industrial screen printing continuing to be innovative?

Yes, absolutely. To give you an example: 60% of the systems we sold in 2015 have been equipped with auto-registration-systems for the screens as well as auto-alignment systems for the substrates. This reduces set-up-time, minimising the set-up prints, improves the printing precision (sheet to sheet) and reducing the scrap rate significantly allowing us to manufacture products with very high demands regarding printing precision.  
In addition the industrial business year 2015 was excellent. We introduced Roll to Roll Systems as well as Rotary Table solutions for visual and functional screen printing so yes industrial screen printing does continue to be innovative.
Why is screen printing still used so much for industrial production?

Screen printing is the preferred printing technology for high volume visual and functional printing. Various materials can be printed. In addition screen printing is very cost-effective for mass production. However, screen and digital are complementary technologies and we are proud to offer both technologies. Our knowledge of the two technologies allows to combine the advantages. 
What are the challenges when developing new machinery and technology? 

On the one hand our standard machine families for screen and ink-jet can be completed by a huge package of standard options. This is outstanding as many of our customers are satisfied. In addition Thieme has developed an excellent modular machine configurator. This platform allows to choose different options for loading the machine with the substrate, transporting and moving the substrate (flexible or rigid), aligning the substrate before printing, printing itself and drying. The machine configurator allows to configure up to 15 mio different printing systems by combining already developed modules. Our engineers do have the skills to develop further specific modules if needed.

Tell me about your new products (particularly the machine you were showing at drupa?

We presented the 500D and the 3010 Vision machines at the drupa. The 500D industrial ink-jet-system offers innovators the opportunity to implement their product ideas into the market. The 3010 Vision is a high precision screen printing system. Both machines explain the possibilities to use screen and digital as complementary technologies. 

What industries use your products?

Our systems can be used for visual and functional printing. 
What industries do you see as the growth industries?

General industries are an excellent growing potential for Thieme. Customised solutions are needed and demands in industrial printing need to be understand by the suppliers. 
What is your view of inkjet, do you think that it will eventually replace screen printing?

Both screen and digital will remain important as they are complementary technologies. Thieme provides the customers with the best solution for the production process and is able to offer screen and ink-jet.  
So you think that screen and inkjet are complementary?

Yes we think that screen printing and digital printing complement each other.  They are not fighting against each other because they do different things. Some customers need screen printing, some use digital and some use both together and we have solutions for every part. We have the solution depending on the customer’s needs. Around 10 years ago, with Agfa we created the M Press which is a dual technology machine with screen and digital printing for graphic printing and this experience means we can create and manufacture machines that have both technologies and are right for whatever the customer wants.

When we develop machines, we look closely at the customer process and then together with the inkhead and ink we look for solutions for the customer. This is why we use an array of different technologies to create whatever is best. So we are driven by customer needs not by a particular technology.

How do you see industrial print developing in the future?

I think there will be coming technologies we don’t even know today as well as processes. Mass production is decreasing and there is more interest in personalised production, shorter run and a need for more flexibility. This is good for digital printing and for basic screen printing. Like we do with the membrane switches – we print the décor file with digital printing – we print with screen and digital and we often change décor foil with digital and the standard we print the functions with screen printing. So using both technologies together to run different elements of the printing from décor to function. If you have a machine with the membrane switches in multiple language – you can print the language décor with digital and the whole print for function with screen printing. This makes it efficient and cheaper using both.

So how do you think Thieme will develop in the future?

The culture of the business is about innovation and this is no not only for screen printing. Thieme has a focus on customer success. We listen to the customer’s problems then we think of a solution. So this solution could be screen printing or inkjet. All of these things we do for customer’s requirements so we are not only focused on screen or on digital. This helps us be successful as the customer gets the best possible results. So we don’t just sell boxes which makes us different to many of our competitors. Thieme sells industrial machines that are robust and designed for customer use not just a single type of production.