Digital printing enables sophisticated designs and a high degree of personalization at low cost. However, this process was, until recently, not suitable for three-dimensional decorations on standard glass products – instead, a costly made-to-measure mold had to be created for each item. Now, Marabu and Koenig & Bauer have joined forces to create a pioneering solution to this problem. It offers glass product manufacturers an attractive alternative to traditional embossing techniques.
Innovative inkjet solution for relief printing on glass
The manufacture of glass products with textured decorations conventionally requires a variety of preparatory steps prior to embossing. This process is associated with high energy consumption, and short production runs are prohibitively expensive. Each glass object to be given a textured decorative finish must be made with its own dedicated mold to produce a suitable raised surface for the embossed decoration. Production is time-consuming and requires corresponding planning.
However, embossing is not ideal for highly customised glass items, for which there is currently strong demand, for example, in the perfume and beverage industries, i.e. for wines, spirits and beer. Marabu and Koenig & Bauer have now developed an innovative inkjet solution that allows the direct printing of highly customized glass products of all kinds, from one-off items to large industrial-scale volumes –in conjunction with excellent results.
Contours, for instance, are far sharper than with conventional embossing. The precise single pass application of multiple varnish layers is possible, producing extremely textured finishes. This is performed with printing systems from Koenig & Bauer’s Kammann K15 and K20 family.
The method also permits large areas to be printed, including color gradations, often required for brand logos. In addition, textured varnish finishes can be combined with colored elements to produce striking visual effects. All printing process steps are seamlessly integrated into the K15 and K20 systems. Servomotors are employed to accurately position and move the object to be printed. This allows the raised decoration of glass products of any shape.
The corresponding varnish was developed in close cooperation between Koenig & Bauer and Marabu to ensure it was perfectly tailored to the printing process. During the development stage, the corresponding decorations achieved excellent results for dishwasher resistance, and resistance to chemicals and abrasion, in line with applicable standards. This simple yet effective process is therefore a highly attractive alternative to conventional embossing.
The benefits of Marabu high-precision varnish
Marabu’s new varnish was conceived especially for digital printing of textured decorations, in particular on glass substrates. The precise printing method allows designs of extremely sophisticated and elegant appearance on glass objects, such as perfume bottles, drinking glasses and beverage bottles. The number of layers can be varied in accordance with customer-specific needs.
The use of this purpose-developed digital-printing varnish permits the creation of highly customised, personalized decorations without contour sharpness, extremely fine textures and exact points, colored and transparent designs, printing of convex and concave shapes, and rapid, simple adjustments during the printing process.
Unit costs are not dependent on volume. It is possible to apply any number of designs to the chosen glass product during a single print pass. There is no need for a minimum production quantity or unique molds.
The results comply with the requirements defined for dishwasher resistance: 500 cycles in an industrial dishwasher and 50 cycles in a domestic dishwasher. The varnish is also highly recycling-friendly: the print oxidizes entirely without residue when the glass substrate is melted down for reuse.
The mass customization megatrend
Demand for customized products is on the rise, and can be observed in a variety of fields: packaging, games, fashion, household goods, and many other everyday items. Consumers are also prepared to pay a premium for such products. According to a survey by the Deloitte Consumer Review, 30 to 50 percent of respondents are willing to pay up to 20 per cent more for a personalized product. Manufacturers and retailers are responding accordingly, and are keen to find corresponding solutions.
Against this background, Marabu and Koenig & Bauer have pooled their skills and resources to make it possible to produce highly attractive designs quickly and inexpensively, without compromising on quality. “State-of-the-art technology has great potential with regard to decorating glass,” emphasises Tobias Lang, Product Manager for Digital Inks at Marabu.
Tim Schnelle, Sales Manager at Koenig & Bauer Kammann, adds, “Koenig & Bauer and Marabu have given the packaging industry a further tool with which to address emerging challenges.” The new varnish and the matching printing method represent a unique glass decoration process that complements existing techniques.
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