I would like to pen some of my recent thoughts about screen printing industry in India in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis format
Automation and UV technology
One of our valued customers who housed 15 manual tables now has as many as seven semi- automatic screen printing machines. There are many screen printers whose business has doubled or tripled over the years ever since they switched over to automation along with UV.
So, semi-automatic and fully-automatic screen printing machines are now making inroads into the Indian screen printing industry in a big way.
In the last decade, from a predominantly manual printing process there has been a shift to semi-automatic and now fully-automatic printing machines. Going by Grafica's sales, there has been a steep increase in the number of screen printing machines (and UV curing machines) sold in the last couple of years than it was five to 10 years ago. Also, a noteworthy transformation is that there has been a quantum leap in the number of visitors to our pavilions at various printing industry exhibitions than it was five to 10 years ago.
That’s because screen printing not only involves low investment but there are also an array of applications of this versatile process and greater awareness about the immense benefits of the need for automation.
Quality in screen printing seems to have come a long way. Today, with automatic precision machines, it is possible to get a result that years ago would have been a dream. Let the world believe that the screen printing process today is faster, better and cleaner.
Combination of processes
There has been a growing trend of offset printers / packaging companies setting up in-house screen printing unit instead of outsourcing. There are many digital printers who have set up screen printing units to meet the market demand for ‘total print solution’. Screen printing is the perfect complement to offset and it works in tandem to help generate more business.
I would say knowledge is the key to success in any business. What’s the use if screen printers have fully automatic screen printing line without having proper knowledge?
In the screen printing industry there is not only lack of ‘knowledge’ but also lack of ‘knowers of knowledge’. Inspite of this drawback, over the years, screen printers have made improvements due to their sheer hard work and inclination to learn by reading technical articles, attending exhibitions, seminars etc.
I think technical education think tanks in India should really make an immediate analysis of the printing education offered in various institutes which is excluding “advanced screen printing”, they touch upon only some basics and outdated elements of screen printing.
The Indian screen printing is adopting automation in a big way and the need for trained screen printing professionals is shooting up. In the recent past, there has been a growing trend of offset printers embracing screen printing, whereas the printing institutes emphasise more on offset and other printing technology.
On my part, I am determined to take screen printing education to a greater height through the DMI institute. I have received tremendous response from the industry. It started as workshops with eight to 10 participants today.
I had produced and screened a video film ‘Screen on Screen’ in 15 cities few years ago. Following this success, we followed it up with yet another round of all India campaigns (ten) whereby we took our entire Nano Premier League package to show the screen printing process live to printers.
I fully agree with Mr Narendra P of Pragati Press, Hyderabad, who recently said that the old mindset ‘screen printing business can easily be started with an investment as low as Rs 500-1000 to print visiting cards, letterheads, etc, has to change now. That’s because technological development in screen printing has moved much ahead of this thinking. I strongly also agree with his view point that in screen printing every step is a ‘science’.
Thus without learning the science’ nothing can be printed qualitatively. By learning new techniques we can assimilate it in our daily practice.
Screen-printing is a fantastic technology that is used by many industries with so many old, new and not yet discovered applications – both flat (plastics, cloth, metal, thin to thick papers, sunpack/sunboard, rubber, leather, wood, glass, footwears, PCBs, ceramics, etc) and non-flat substrates, by using appropriate machinery and inks. Further, this process is also widely used in packaging, labels, Smart-cards – the list of screen printing application is endless.
What was started as Spot UV – matt and gloss – today with the availability of various UV special effects, screen printers have now great chance to excite consumers. The range and variety of effect is extensive and it provides the marketer, print buyer and designer with a number of exciting possibilities.
Use of non-paper substrates
Continuous advancements and developments in polymer technology, expertise and cost-effective manufacturing, plastic substrates are replacing traditional materials in many fields (environmental conditions apply!). These include : PVC, Polypropylene, HIPS, Lenticular Films, Polycarbonate etc. Polypropylene Sheets are extensively used for blister packaging, cardboard boxes etc. Polypropylene finds application in Disposable Containers, Embossing, Gift Box Making out of clear sheets, Freight Packaging, etc. PVC Sheets and Polypropylene Sheets are the best suited for screen printing. Polypropylene is also preferred by screen printers because of its low density and very economical cost. Similarly, PVC is also widely used by screen printers.
Great shift – Indian screen printers
I still recall what Michel Caza, an international screen printing expert said at the FESPA Munich 2010 Workshop titled “The Future of Screen Printing Goes Through Innovation — A comparison between Western and Asian Countries.” He was of the view that “Graphics and signage are only 20% of screen applications where as 35% lies in textile printing and about 45% in industrial applications.” This clearly sums up the potentials and future of screen printing process.
Screen printers should now take the call: During the presentation at FESPA Munich show, which was focused on the “how European countries are moving towards screen and how in Indian screen printing is moving with the latest trend,” Michel had also mentioned that because of industrial production getting shifted to Asian countries, screen printing is also getting more and more attention in this (Asian) region and that is the advantage for screen printers who are into industrial screen printing such as PCB, membrane switches, etc.
Moreover, even Mike Young’s presentation on “Emerging Technologies” proves that screen printing has a promising future. He sees a great future provided the screen printers in India remove all bottlenecks the major being “clean-room environment in the screen making and printing setup.” That’s because he saw hard working and sincere efforts by Indian screen printers to achieve quality through high level of automation. Mike was also quite optimistic about Indian screen printers. He says that Indian screen printers can face the challenges ahead with determination, enthusiasm, passion and courage.
Participation in Awards competitions – great opportunity to printers
I have been witnessing a growing number of entries and award winners in two major international competitions – SGIA/ Fespa sponsored besides national competitions such as Screen Print India Award and SPAI-Fespa India and PrintWeek India competitions. That’s not only good but a healthy sign, because ultimately it increases appetite for quality improvement on various counts – complexity, image definition, precision and sharpness; colour appearance, application of use, creativity, etc.
Still majority of the printers still hesitate to participate in these competitions due to many reasons.
Manual screen printing
If our screen printers are catering to industrial printing they should immediately dump manual screen printing tables as there are strict quality and delivery requirements in industrial segment. I have numerous screen printers who have switched over to automation due to all the side effects of manual screen printing – it is tedious, laborious, time consuming, wastage-ridden. I was told by many international experts that India lags behind several decades in screen printing but it is not too late.
Use of poor quality raw materials
Use of Out-dated methods
Wooden frames, nylon white fabric instead of polyester yellow fabric, lack of standard practice in screen making although it is well known fact that screen is the heart of printing.
Using solvent although UV available for many applications.
Perhaps due to these reasons there is a growing trend in India that more and more OEMs are now setting up their own screen printing units. For example: Tiles and Ceramic industry, electronic industry, leather industry, garment industry, packaging and offset industry and many more. In these areas they used to earlier outsource their requirement.
Screen printing process evolved over the years. Today, it offers ample innovation & creativity, thus playing a major role in printing industry because of the availability of advanced screen printing machines, UV technology coupled with availability of innovative special effects inks.
Screen printing is now quicker, cheaper, produces better quality images and offers a number of special applications. But advanced screen printing with high level of automation is not everybody’s cup of tea. Having advanced machines in place is not sufficient to run a profitable screen printing business. There is no profit from the press of a button like an ATM card. There is no short cut. Because not only does the set-up process take considerably longer than other techniques, but being able to truly master printing high quality images using the screen printing process also takes much longer, because there are a number of variables involved.
Today, there exist different systems designed to help the screen printers to achieve better result. But it revolves around the simple concept or standardisation of the entire screen printing process.
Prof Dr Rajendra Kumar Anayath, in 2011, told me, "Bhargav, screen printing today is not what it was six-seven years ago. With the kind of experiments that you are making at your DMI, it appears to me that it has emerged as a printing process to be reckoned with.”