Digital Printing On Glass

When we think of printing digital images on surfaces and materials, we will often overlook the process of printing imagery onto glass.

To print onto it, technology had to be adapted, in order to work on this particular material because as a material, it does not absorb inks like paper and fabric do.

The challenging nature of printing on this material meant that until 2007, only two methods had been used. These methods were Silk Screen Printing and Digital UV printing.

Screen Printing

The method of Silk Screen Printing, in which ink is applied directly onto the surface through a woven mesh stencil, was patented by an English man, by the name of Samuel Simon. However, the technique can be traced back to ancient China, during the Song Dynasty.

A technique whereby an image is transferred from paper onto the material was patented in the 1930’s by Johnson Mattey. Like Samuel Simon’s method or Screen Printing, Mattey’s method involved firing, to infuse the ink permanently with it.

UV Pinning

Around 60 years ago a method of printing on glass called UV Pinning was introduced. This was the first technique of printing on glass that used digital imaging, with any digital image, able to be printed on to glass. Ultraviolet waves are used to dry the inks.

The Digital Glass Printer

A digital glass printer has print heads that jet ceramic ink onto it. The glass remains stationary whilst the flat bed digital printer moves across it, painting the image. Ink drops dry almost immediately after the ink touches the surface of the material.

Ink is only sprayed onto the surface of the glass once, as this is all that is required, even when printing multi-layered and multi coloured images. This method of printing is called Drop Fixation and makes it possible to create double vision images.

The double vision technique means that, depending on which side it is being viewed from, as different view of the image can be seen, similar to a hologram effect.

Sam Rose