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How-ToOctober 4, 2019

How to Print on Glass

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Bring glass to life by adding your own artwork. Decorating your glass items adds aesthetic value to your products while simultaneously differentiating your brand from competitors. The added sophistication of adorned products helps to increase overall profits for your business.

The reasons for printing on glass can range from promotional to beautification to functionality. The example above of a printed pint glass captures how eye catching a combination of engaging artwork and quality print can be. There is no immediate, “best way to print on glass” as all three techniques offer different benefits.

How to print on glass: Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Printer for Glass Objects: 

 

What type of vessel do you wish to print?

Determining the best printing method starts with concluding what type of vessel needs to be printed on. Popular glass objects include candles, shot glasses, mugs, pint glasses, mason jars, wine glasses, spirit bottles, growlers, and more. 

What are your design objectives?

Simply determining the type of vessel is not enough information to choose the right printing method. Additionally, you need to define your design objectives. For instance, do you want to print a 1-color or 2-color logo or design? Or, are you looking to print a full color, highly detailed design? Do you want the artwork to be only on one side of the glass, or do you want full-wrap graphics? Do you expect your image to be photorealistic? 

What are your production requirements?

How many objects do you wish to print at once? Are you aiming for high or low volume production runs? Will there be different artwork used, or will you be repeating the same design many times? Do you want the option for one-off printing for personalized products? Does your business model offer print-on-demand capabilities? 

What methods can be used to print on glass?

Choosing a printing method for decorating glass requires knowledge of the different processes, equipment, and other supplies you’ll be working with. It’s important to understand the capabilities and limitations of each method, especially if you’re looking to buy a new machine for your company. In order to determine the best printing method for your application, you need to take into consideration the type of vessel you’ll be printing on, your design objectives and any production requirements.

1. Screen Printing:

This is a great method for printing 1-or 2-color designs. Multi-colored designs are possible, but involve more labor, which can get pricey. Due to the amount of set up time required, one-off printing is physically and financially impractical. In addition to the increased setup time, screen printing produces a seam when printing 360-degrees. Any glass item, whether flat, slightly curved, or cylindrical, can be screen printed. This method results in a unique visual result with bold, extremely vivid colors.

2. Pad Printing:

Pad printing is ideal for printing high volume, low mix production runs. Typically, pad printing uses only 1 or 2 colors, but pad printing machines such as Inkcups’ 2506 heavy duty 6-color pad printing machine can print up to 6 colors. If you are looking to print simple logos or designs on shot glasses or mugs, pad printing is optimal. Pad printing produces clear, high resolution images that can easily be repeated for large production runs. This method works great for printing on 3D surfaces or unusually shaped objects with irregular surfaces.

3. Digital Printing:

Digital printing is the method of choice for printing on handless products such as pint glasses, round mason jars, wine glasses, candle holders and more. One of the greatest advantages of digital printing on glassware is the ability to reproduce full-color, seamless full-wrap graphics and photos. There are a variety of digital cylinder printers that can handle anything from long-run to medium-run to short-run production. The decision of which machine to choose will greatly depend on your production needs, design requirements and budget. The computer that comes with your digital printer stores variable data which allows for customization from one piece to the next without slowing down the printing process. The finished result is typically not as durable as traditional methods; however, adhesion and abrasion resistance can be significantly improved with the use of primers and pretreatments.

Transparent Pin Curing

Transparent Pin Curing, otherwise known as TPC is a specialized system that bypasses the need to add a UV-blocking agent to a vessel when printing with UV inkjet on clear products such as glassware, plastic bottles, spirit, and wine bottles.

Automation

Save time and manpower by printing with a digital machine that utilizes automation. A robot can streamline the printing process by loading and unloading cylindrical items. Another option for automation is conveyor beds which automatically load and unload.

Primer and Pretreatment Options

Primers and pretreatments are used to prepare glass products for printing. Whether you are looking to pad print, screen print, or digitally print onto glass, the substrate must be primed for optimal adhesion and an overall high-quality print. While digital printing on glass requires a pretreatment with a primer to get the best adhesion results, pad and screen printing only requires a primer. For added adhesion, a pad printed glass item can be heat cured after printing to ensure the item passes the strictest adhesion testing. Check out our blog post Pretreatment Methods for Glass to learn about the most popular pretreatment methods for digitally printing on glass. Some methods include using a primer wipe, flame, Pyrosil®, and MagiCoat pretreatments. A wipe-on primer is typically used before pad or screen printing on glass. The main function of a primer is to promote adhesion through strengthening the physical bond between the ink and the glass object.

Additional Resources:

UV Ink Primers for UV Inkjet Printers 

 

What are the best inks for printing on glass? 

The terms ‘universal ink’ and ‘unicorn’ go hand in hand, they do not exist. Inks are specially formulated based on type of printer and material of substrate.

Digital Inks:

Inkcups’ DL Series UV Ink for Glass is a great solution for printing on glass and other substrates. The ink can be paired with primers, including MagiCoat glass primer, for longer lasting adhesion and increased durability and resistance to wash cycles. The DL Series can be utilized to decorate both flat and cylindrical glass objects, either in a UV flatbed printer or in a rotary inkjet printer.

Our S1 UV Inkjet Ink adheres to a number of rigid substrates including glass, plastics, stainless steel, and more. Create full-color graphics on a wide variety of flat and cylindrical objects.

Pad and Screen-Printing Inks: 

Inkcups’ CG Series Ink was specially formulated for pad printing glass and ceramic substrates. The printed result appears highly opaque with a satin gloss finish. The CG series offers strong adhesion, improved abrasion resistance, and is dishwasher safe once heat cured.

 

Adhesion testing: 

Adhesion requirements for printing on glass are set forth by the ASTM International Standards Organization. Some of these tests include the tape test, scratch test, crosshatch A test, and crosshatch B adhesion test. If you would like to learn more about these tests and watch our sample technician at Inkcups performing each one, refer to the article Adhesion Testing on Glass for additional descriptions and videos.

Printer Options for Printing on Glass:

Have you had ample time to mull over the questions presented in the beginning of this post? Let us explore the printer options Inkcups has created for printing on glass based on production runs from high to small.
Printing on glass with one of Inkcups digital printers offers numerous benefits and design techniques that cannot be achieved with screen or pad printing. Glassware printed on digitally requires no drying time, allowing for instant packing and shipping.

Digital Printers

Double Helix® Cylindrical Inkjet Printer

The Double Helix® offers twice the printing output of that of the Helix® due to two print fixtures printing full-color CYMKWW and varnish. This UV cylindrical printer is ideal for glassware of both straight and tapered form. The Double Helix® is known for its innovation design techniques that can elevate your printing quality with mirror print, tip-to-tip printing, tone-on-tone, contour print, and more. Printing on glass with the Double Helix® will result in beautiful and unique glassware.

Helix® Digital Cylinder Printer

This is where it all began. While the Helix® offers half the production output of that of the Double Helix®, it still offers all the same print quality, print innovation design techniques, print-on-demand capabilities, and size allowances. The most recent release, the Extended Range Kit, is a tooling extension mechanism that extends the diameter range if printing parts from 1.5” to 5.0”. This allows the Helix® to print on a greater range of glassware, from shot glasses to beer bottles to growlers.

Helix® Hi-Fi Photo-Realistic Rotary UV Printer

The Helix® Hi-Fi prints with CMYKW and varnish plus two additional colors, light cyan and light magenta to print accurate skin tones, smoother gradients, photorealistic high-resolution images. The Hi-Fi prints images up to 8.6” long, 360°, with a diameter range of 2-5”. This is a great printing machine for print-on-demand capabilities, easily catering to print quantities as low as a single unit.

XJET UV LED Flatbed Printer

This article primarily focuses on cylindrical drinkware, but glass can come in a wide variety of different forms. Consider a XJET UV LED printing machine for printing on glass coasters for instance. The XJET has a print area of 500 x 620mm of a single or multiple items held by custom tooling. The entire print area of an XJET can be completed in a mere 90 seconds. Although the XJET comes equipped with a conveyorized loading and unloading system, we suggest hand load and unloading items of fragile nature, such as glass drink coasters.

PAD PRINTERS

It should be noted that output production speeds for pad printers will be similar across the offerings. Pad printers differ in print size, ink cup size, heigh constraints, and physical size.

2200-PS

The 2200-PS pad printer is a 2-color pad printing machine perfect for printing a one- or two-color logo up to 3.1” in diameter on a drinkware glass. Choosing a pad printer for glassware allows flexibility in printing down the road as pad printers can easily transition from printing on glass to promotional products to apparel. Check out a video of the 2200-PS in action printing on glass here Pad Printing on a Pint Glass with the 2200-PS.

B150

Inkcups’ B150 large image one-color pad printer is the perfect benchtop printer for glass items such as growlers. The B150 pad printer features a 150mm VersaCup® which can print images up to 5.5” in diameter. Due to the nature of pad printers in general, the pad will conform to the rounded nature of the glassware presented to it.

ICN-150-6

Previously mentioned, the ICN-150-6 pad printer is a large image machine that prints up to six colors up to 140mm, which is larger than the industry standard of 115mm. The ICN-150-6 can decorate glassware with images up to six colors to create logos that really pop.

Sustainability

Printing on glass is a sustainable option in the sense that businesses are opting to create a piece of glassware for repeat use rather than a disposable, or limited lifetime alternative. Reaching for a glass over a plastic cup is an environmentally friendly alternative with one less disposable item in circulation.
Utilizing the print-on-demand capabilities and production software available to our digital machine also helps cut down on over production and waste. Digital direct-to-object printing also cuts down on consumables such as tags or labels, reducing waste.

To read further on how Inkcups does our part, check out our Pledge to Sustainability.

How does Inkcups help?

The experts at Inkcups realize the challenges that come with printing on glass and are here to help. With our MagiCoat pre-treatment solution, digitally printed glassware items can handle up to 200 residential washes (depending on temperature and detergent). We have specifically designed digital UV curable inks, pad printing inks, primers, and pretreatment systems for printing on glassware. The inkjet GL Primer for metal and glass was designed by Inkcups to promote adhesion to glass substrates and increase abrasion resistance. Our CG ink series was specially designed for pad printing on glass. All of our pad printing machines can be used for glassware applications. In addition, our UV printers such as the Helix® and X360 have been designed solely to print both straight-walled and tapered cylinders. As always, we offer free adhesion testing per ASTM standards. For more information, the Inkcups Team is always available to help.

Additional Resources:

UV Digital Printing on Glass

Application Spotlight: Printing on Candle Holders

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