Covestro - Films - Printing Techniques

An overview of the most important methods

Printing Techniques

Our films can be decorated by means of screen, offset or digital printing. The method used depends, for instance, on the print run, the component geometry and the film type.

Screen printing – Most common method for our films

Screen printing is the method used most frequently for our films. The ink is forced by a doctor blade through a screen directly onto the print medium. The screen acts as a stencil. To make the stencil, a light-sensitive layer is poured onto the screen fabric, exposed with the print image and developed. The exposed sections of the film cure and the unexposed sections are washed away. This creates ink-permeable and ink-impermeable areas on the screen.
Screen printing results in printed images with high opacity and color density. This is important for applications based on transmitted light in which the printed films are backlit, including automotive components with daytime and nighttime displays, such as dials, for instance, or mobile phone keypads in the IT industry.

Offset printing – Efficient high-volume printing

In offset printing, printed and non-printed areas of the printing form are virtually on the same plane. The printing form is chemically treated to make the printed areas repel water and absorb ink. The reverse is true for the non-printed areas. The ink is first applied to a blanket and then transferred from there to the print medium. A variation of offset printing known as four-color halftone printing is often used for films. In this case, a separate printing form is made for each basic color.
On account of the high print speeds, the offset method is most suitable for the efficient production of high print volumes. Its high resolution is used in the production of ID cards made from films to apply very intricate line designs, known as guilloche patterns, which prevent reprinting and forgery of the cards.

Digital printing – Suitable for individualized small runs

Digital printing makes it possible to produce color prints without first having to make a printing form or plate. The digitized print data is sent directly to a digital press. This method allows rapid printing on demand, right down to a run of one.

Electrophotographic method

Digitized data are mainly printed using the electrophotographic method, which works in a similar way to color laser copying. First, a homogeneous charge distribution is generated on the photoconductive surface of a drum. A laser light source then writes the image to be printed onto the drum, where the light discharges the corresponding areas on the drum. Next, the drum is inked up. The charged areas absorb toner, which is then transferred to the print medium. In four-color printing, this process is repeated four times until the printed image is complete.

Inkjet method

Another digital method for printing digitized data that has developed considerably in recent years is inkjet printing. With films like Makrofol® or Platilon®, inks must be selected that thoroughly wet the film surface and adhere strongly to it.

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