Glossary of surface technology

Printing processes

Printing processes are all techniques that are used to transfer and reproduce motifs on the surface of the object to be printed. The history of printing technology is thousands of years old and is still being further developed by contemporary processes for the respective media.

From the perspective of surface treatment, the various printing processes can be divided into "flat" and "form/flexible" with regard to the substrate.

Plane surfaces are printed according to the characteristics of the motif, medium and print run in the analogue printing process: Letterpress, offset printing or lithography or digital printing: Inkjet printing, laser printing.

In contrast, the printing technique screen printing, pad printing or water transfer printing (WTD) can be considered for flexible, shaped substrates. The latter is an option for the still difficult challenge of printing complex spherically curved surfaces.

All these processes are based on the transfer of a print motif onto the surface of the object / substrate to be printed. Good, consistent print quality requires good adhesion to the surface.

Surface independent are the material changing printing processes such as thermal printing, sublimation printing and embossing processes. Here, the change takes place within or below a surface. However, such printing processes can only be used on particularly suitable materials.

For the majority of printing processes that are based on the transfer of printing inks to a surface, permanent ink adhesion is a prerequisite. Basically, the same requirements apply as for painting in terms of surface energy and wetting.  Plasma pre-treatment of the surface can make a significant contribution to the print result and its durability.

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