“Industrial printingâ€� can be defined as printing that is performed as part of a manufacturing process, depositing ink (or some other substance, such as conductive materials for printed electronics) onto a surface or finished product for functional and/or decorative purposes.
â€œThe big overarching trend is the continuing integration of digital technology into the industrial market,â€� said Steve Hatkevich, Director of Research and Development at American Trim and head of SGIAâ€™s Industrial Printing Committee. â€œAnother emerging trend is that people are leveraging the strengths of both digital and analog and combining them in methods that allow them to create new products or create products at a cost point that were once not possible.â€�
This can include printed electronics and a number of different, highly diverse applications.
Other applications that are considered part of industrial printing include printing things like automobile dashboards, the faceplates on appliances, allowing for some degree of customization of these kinds of products. Home dÃ©cor is another growing aspect of industrial printing, with digitally printed ceramic tiles and other building materials turning up in places like Home Depot and Loweâ€™s.
One growing area that can be included in the industrial printing category is 3D printing. More appropriately called â€œadditive manufacturing,â€� 3D printing refers to any of a variety of technologies for â€œprintingâ€� a three-dimensional object byâ€”typically, but not exclusivelyâ€”building up layers of a material like a polymer to create physical objects. The applications for 3D printing are largely niche-based, with medical devices and materialsâ€”such as hearing aids, dental and orthodontic applications, and even human tissues and organs. 3D printing is also used to manufacture parts and components, for prototyping, and other technical applications. 3D printing is also starting to be used for creating elements for POP and other kinds of displays.
Another subset of industrial printing is packaging, especially direct-to-container printing. In addition to traditional screen and pad printing for printing on bottles, cans, and other items, new digital technologies are bringing high-quality color printing to short-run, even personalized/customized container decoration for things like wine and pint glasses, bottles, stainless steel drinkware such as YETI cups, and more.
Other types of packaging such as corrugated are also included under the industrial packaging umbrella.
Textile printing can also be considered part of industrial printing as well, particularly if it is done during the garment (or other item) manufacturing process, such as printed rolls of fabric that will later be sewn into the final product.
It may seem like industrial printing is a million miles removed from commercial print, or even wide-format printers, but it turns out that digital printing is blurring the line between industrial and commercial.
â€œAs digital emerges, an overarching trend is that division lines between the different marketplaces start to erode,â€� said Hatkevich. â€œThere used to be just POP printers, commercial printers, industrial printers, packaging printers, and T-shirt printers.â€� In some ways, these divisions were largely due to the analog printing technologies each particular niche required in order to image on a specific surface. But with digital printing, said Hatkevich, â€œit becomes substrate-agnostic and people can morph into different industries.â€�