Smart Screen printing reaches new heights with growing demand from smartphone and tablet producers

senkrecht1 State of the art industrial screen printing is booming due the new wave of communication and consumer electronics driven by brands such as Apple, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Sony and other leading manufacturers of smartphone and tablet touch screen technology.

It is a fact that 700,000,000 touch screens for smart phones alone were produced in 2012. That is an awful lot of state of the art screen printing. In fact if you laid out each smartphone screen and placed them on top of one another, they would reach twice the height that Felix Baumgartner performed in his record breaking leap from outer space to earth (over 80 Kilometres).

The fact is that without screen printing, smartphones and tablets simply would not work.

For functionality and particularly in applications like touch screens, screen printing is firmly embedded as the technology of choice. this sector is in a state of fast competitive evolution.

As for digital inkjet, will it be able to compete? As Friedrich Goldner says, 'We should never say it will not happen. Such is the pace of innovation in the digital world, you would be foolish to suggest that digital inkjet will never play a role in manufacturing of tablets and smartphones. However you do struggle to see a time where this may occur, such is the speed, quality, and sophistication of functional screen printing. In the future, at Marabu, we see both screen and digital cohabiting together where digital fulfils a purpose that screen cannot and screen continues to do the jobs that digital cannot.'

And as I discovered, there is an awful lot of screen printing that goes into a smartphone or a tablet.

For functional printing of smartphones and tablets, screen printing is by far the technology of choice for the leaders including Apple, Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC; in fact all of the leading manufacturers of this rapidly evolving technology.

This fiercely competitive sector requires constant performance enhancements in order to command sales. There is a need for innovation to continually meet a demand for performance that satisfies the hunger for state of the art technology that fits in our pocket, under our arms, or in our brief cases.

Friedrich Goldner explains why screen printing is so important, 'Screen printing is the best method of printing straight lines and edges, critical when evaluating image quality but particularly so while striving to minimise resistance (Ohms) in conductive layers. While striving to eliminate the effect of sawtooth, screen does not suffer from the challenges of "connecting the dots" that inkjet has. This market not only strives for fine edge definition but carries registration to a new level printing to within less than a millimetre to the edge. These quality standards are incredibly high and the print is required to achieve an accuracy of within a Nano-distance on millions of parts at fast output. With the print virtually to the edge and with the precise edge definition, the manufacturer is able to place a lot of value on the graphic design and branding. A further factor is the density of print. In order to hide the electronics in the background, the density of the black or white ink on the front of an apple iPhone for example, has to be of an extremely high standard.

The standard of touchscreen technology today is using 2 pieces of glass (GG) where they decorate the front panel with black et al., the second piece has all of the electronics, and they then laminate the panels together. OGS (one glass solutions), the up and coming technology for high end units is where they put the electronics directly on top of the ink. This is where the print has to be able to withstand 300 degree (c) heat and exposure to various chemicals, and only screen can fulfill this role due to its high level of resin content with resin determining your resistance level. Digital cannot do this, as by definition a digital ink requires a viscosity which does not allow for adequate resin content.' Concludes Goldner.

Whilst the GG (2 pieces of glass) system has predominantly been used up to now, there is a vision for the OGS (one glass solution), which means less weight, thinner smartphones, quicker to market output, and functional screen print will play a huge role in its creation.

But screen printing is not limited to functional decoration, functional coatings are also essential in smartphone production. In order to cut the glass screens and to ensure the edges of the screens are safe and not sharp to touch, screen printing plays another role. The glass touch screens themselves are screen printed with a protective masking that enables the cutting of the glass to be more precise as it prevents dust getting onto and scratching the surface. Again screen printing playing an integral, functional role in production.

These are just two examples of how and why screen printing is growing in the industrial sector, add to this the 7 layers of wafer thin screen printed silicon that enables the touch screen to function and you have a clear picture of why screen printing is growing, inspired by the most innovative technology brands in the world.

So as long as high end electronics exist, screen printing will continue to thrive, in the industrial sector at least, and it is exciting to hear that screen printing is leading the way.