In an increasingly digital world, should businesses transition to digital printing? The resounding answer is yes, particularly when it comes to printing on glass. Referred to under an umbrella of terms such as rotary printing, cylindrical printing, digital cylinder printing, or direct-to-object printing, these are all used to describe the method of printing directly onto cylindrical items like glassware using an industrial cylindrical inkjet printer. This type of printer converts digital images with computer software and prints directly onto substrates that are cylindrical, straight wall, or tapered in nature. In the past, sublimation and screen-printing were the most popular decorating options for glass applications, but as digital technology evolved beyond printing on flat items, digital has become the best method for high-quality glass printing.
Digital Printing Predecessors
One can decorate drinkware with pad printing (one or two color images), digital UV inkjet printers, sublimation machines, and screen printers. Although sublimation and screen-printing are commonly used techniques, the limitations of these print methods are design capabilities, sustainability, and speed. Pad printing on drinkware is limited to single or two-colors as the higher count of colors, the higher level of precision is required.
To see how digitally printing on drinkware stacks up compared to sublimation, read: Digital Drinkware Printing vs. Drinkware Dye-Sublimation
Sublimation is the process in which a graphic is printed onto a plastic sleeve. This plastic sleeve is then placed on a glassware item and heated until it has fully adhered to the substrate. Although this enables companies to get full-color graphics, achieving seamless artwork is almost impossible. For every piece sublimated, there will be inconsistencies in where both sides of the artwork meet. Next, sublimation requires an excess of plastic. This is typically thrown away and contributes to the modern plastic waste issue. Finally, this process limits operators from quickly switching from one part to another. Inventory management becomes crucial at this point because if one piece is missing or sublimated incorrectly, it could potentially result in long lead times and cost a company an order.
Although screen printing cannot achieve the same photographic design capabilities as digital printing or sublimation, it is still widely used to print logos and graphics on cylinder glass pieces. Screen printing enables operators to print 360-degree graphics, but again, the results are not seamless. There will always be a registration mark on the finished product. This process also uses a great amount of excess ink (which cannot be reused) and other consumables that can be harmful to the environment. Finally, screen printing can be a fast process for one color graphics, but it does require drying between every color, which can be time consuming for those looking to print multi-color designs or large orders in a short amount of time.
The first digital technology for cylindrical printing was rotary attachments for flatbed printers, rather than a dedicated rotary UV printer. But even then, this method showed similar limitations to the traditional methods. With new innovations in digital technologies, there are now machines built specifically for imaging objects with round cross sections.
Digital printing is the process in which digital ink is applied directly onto the glass substrate without the need of transfer paper, a heat press, or screens. The artwork is created, prepped for print, and loaded onto the computer. Once the operator hits print, a beautiful, full-color graphic is printed directly onto the object. As noted earlier, rotary printing in its infancy was accomplished by adding a rotary fixture to a flatbed inkjet printer. This rotary attachment would incrementally rotate the glassware as the flatbed inkjet printer printed the graphic directly to the item. Although this worked for some time, innovations in rotary printing advanced and provided users with faster, more high-resolution printing technology. Different types of rotary printing machines offer three main printing approaches: multi pass, single pass, and helical printing. Businesses should determine the best one for their operations, depending on what each offers.
With the right printing machine, businesses can quickly benefit from digitally printing on glass.
Benefits of Going Digital with Inkcups
Nowadays, companies are turning to digital printing all the way because of its array of benefits. Inkcups has identified the areas of upmost importance to ensure our customers receive the best experience possible.
Service, support & system reliability
When down time means lost revenue, the ability to receive quick service and support are a top priority, no matter where your company is located. Typically, we can resolve 95% of cases via phone the same day there were issues. The 5% we are unable to resolve on the phone same day can then either be troubleshooted over TeamViewer or TeamViewer Pilot. For those who require in-house service, Inkcups has strategically placed certified technicians around the globe to support technical needs as quickly as possible.
Additional layers of support include week-long dedicated training sessions, access to our Support Hub for technical documentation such as standard operating procedures (SOPs) and our Learning Center. SOPs highlight day-to-day, weekly, monthly, and yearly maintenance procedures to keep digital machines running in tip-top shape. The wealth of documentation that Inkcups has available has all been created with our customers in mind to create a cushion of ease and efficiency.
Breadth of ink applications
There is no universal ink, so having a variety of ink lines is key. Inkcups offers six different digital UV LED ink lines to accommodate a wide variety of substrates. Specially formulated for glass, the DL Series UV ink promotes adhesion to glass, and paired with a primer or pre-treatment ensure excellent adhesion.
Inkcups engineering has identified multiple areas to streamline the printing process. ArtPrep, an artwork preparation software is a huge cost and efficiency gain to those companies handling large quantities of artwork on a given day. With ArtPrep, instantly add desired layers, customizable trappings, manipulate image placement and size, and output multiple hot files that are ripped and ready to print. The process that once took a trained graphic designer 15 minutes will now only take a portion of a minute.
Integrated or offline pre-treatment systems
Digital printing provides several offline and integrated pre-treatment systems for all substrates. These systems are an asset to companies so they can provide durable printed glass items that handle multiple industrial and residential dish washes. Inkcups offers multiple methods of pre-treatment to accommodate a wide variety of pre-treatment needs. From a basic primer wipe, to plasma, to corona, to entire pre-treatment systems. Pre-Treatment Methods for Glass article on our blog offers a wealth of in-depth information.
Many businesses have dealt with print inconsistency from suppliers. But Inkcups machines comes equipped with features to offer consistency as this is imperative for machine reliability. For example, a feature called out of round check acts as a crash protection first and foremost, and doubles as a tool to wean out inconsistent products before printing. The end result is less head crash, less machine interruption, and more printing up time.
Another feature is transparent pin curing which eliminates the need to add a UV-blocking stuffing agent known as a “foxtail” into a clear product vessel such as most glassware. This helps by removing an extra labor step and keeps the glass uncontaminated and sterile from dust or debris, all while protecting the print heads.
Additionally, Inkcups incorporated a production log feature provides production supervisors with real-time data, which can be captured as frequently as the supervisor would like whether daily, weekly or monthly. With one click of the mouse this data can be saved to a network that would contain print speed, ink consumption, operator efficiencies, and so on. Custom data dashboards can then be created by the production supervisor. This meaningful data can then be managed through Microsoft Excel. The end result is better decision making, forecasting, and machine efficiencies.
Ease of use
The Inkcups line of cylindrical printing machines have been designed and developed over the years with the operators in mind to help make them as user-friendly as possible. One of the best examples of this is the ability for most operators to easily and accurately changeover parts in less than 5 minutes, which before would take hours of manual work.
Image quality and color accuracy
Digital printing ensures the highest quality of images and color accuracy than any other comparative method of printing.
Our machines come with a raster imaging processor (RIP) such as the Onyx Standard Poster Shop. This RIP includes all the color profiling tools needed to give operators accurate colors. It’s very scalable and can upgrade to Thrive, which adds multiple print engines for one-off production and high-volume individual RIP files. Some of the Onyx tools also generate gamut reports based on these profiles, which will help find out what the DeltaE is going to be on a particular Pantone® Match, offering greater color predictability in the RIP.
Another tool with Onyx is the Pantone® Swatch Book. This gives operators a range of Pantone® swatches that they can print out on the glass and then match it to their Pantone® booklet. Doing this allows them to pick the swatch they like because they can actually find the matching color in the booklet, saving a lot of time.
Conclusion: The Time is now to Go Digital With Inkcups
Given its advancement, digital printing is becoming more popular than ever. Nearly instant dry times, excellent adhesion properties, full-color images are only the tip of the reasons to opt for a cylindrical printer for all of your drinkware needs.
View our video series: The Benefits of Going Digital with Inkcups
To learn more about our digital cylinder printers please visit our dedicated page.Back to Blog Home