Offset Printing

Shining a new light on screen printing: can creative coatings give traditional tech a brighter future?

Wednesday 06. October 2021 - With many print businesses taking a fresh look at market opportunities, reevaluating their strategies and redesigning their long-term roadmaps, could creative new coatings be the key to giving traditional technologies like screen printing a new lease of life - and giving printers a new set of tools to carve themselves out amongst competitors?

The past year has unquestionably been a universally challenging one throughout the print and packaging landscape, and appears to have summoned an era in which, ironically, change is the only certainty.
As spending patterns have made an irreversible shift, countless businesses have been forced to change direction, think outside the box and respond to a brand new industry landscape as it continues to unfold.
With the industry making a tentative recovery and competition increasing once again, the need for brand differentiation is paramount, driving demand for more creative and exciting packaging solutions. Fortunately, we are seeing the packaging world respond with innovation and ingenuity, finding new ways to reinvent traditional print forms with both functionality and creativity at the core.
ACTEGA has recognized the importance of high-quality finishes in screen printing and has significantly expanded its product range. A variety of coatings specifically developed for this process allow customers to combine the advantages of screen printing technology with unique and creative new solutions, ranging from the highest gloss to premium matte, soft/wet touch, sand effects and matte/gloss reliefs, among others.
By combining staple, proven technologies such as screen printing – which many brands rely upon for its substrate versatility, vivid colour reproduction and opaque whites, amongst other reasons – with high-quality finishing and impactful new effects, brands are able to venture beyond just aesthetics. The versatile finishes transform and elevate the consumer experience from simply visual to tactile, arguably one of the most effective ways to make packaging and print products stand out.
However, as a business who puts sustainability so firmly at its heart that it has achieved a 100% conversion to green electricity, a 50% reduction in water consumption and pledged a commitment to being completely carbon neutral by 2025, ACTEGA was naturally set on pushing the envelope further and innovating not only for more impressive finishing solutions, but for greener ones too. Where screen printing has traditionally just been associated with UV or solvent-based systems, ACTEGA’s portfolio now also includes water-based coatings, meaning the impressive range of effects can be teamed with critical eco-friendly capabilities.
Whilst this technology is relatively new to the screen printing industry, ACTEGA is already working with likeminded customers, such as German screen printing specialist, LackWerkstatt, to deliver these solutions to a number of pioneering brands. LackWerkstatt is the newest venture from Managing Director, Torsten Uhlig, who boasts over 30 years’ experience in the graphic arts industry and, much like ACTEGA, is committed to making screen printing more sustainable. “Naturally, every solution has its place within the market. However, the call to minimise plastic use and shift towards more eco-friendly solutions is huge, and rightly so, which is why we continually strive to find solutions that both open new doors creatively and lead us in the right direction environmentally,” explains Uhlig. “Working with ACTEGA, we have been able to find a diverse range of clever, impressive alternatives to standard coatings that can create visually similar effects, for example by adding pigments to water-based varnish. This means that we can foster real design creativity and allow brands the high-end, refined, luxury finish that they need to differentiate their products, but with critical environmental benefits too.”
Whilst LackWerkstatt is relatively new, the business is already making impressive strides in providing creative, impactful and sustainable print and packaging solutions to customers across Europe. With close proximity to ACTEGA, the two businesses have also been able to build a close, flourishing working relationship, enabling them to maximise ACTEGA’s expert manufacturing advice, share information and work together to continue improving customer experiences. “Many screen printers are not yet used to working with water-based coatings, whereas water-based production already accounts for around thirty percent of what we do here at LackWerkstatt, putting us in a strong position to drive the technology forward,” continues Uhlig. “In another year’s time, I’m hoping that water-based production will reach fifty percent of the business, or perhaps more. We are continually discovering new uses and capabilities of the technology, and there’s no doubt that we have a very exciting journey ahead.”
Like many longstanding staples of the print and packaging worlds, UV and solvent-based coatings still undoubtedly have their place in the current market and continue to form part of a robust portfolio for businesses. However as both environmental accountability and regulatory restrictions in print and packaging continue to rise, it seems only logical that the uptake of sustainable water-based coatings will continue to do the same, forming a key building block in the creation of a sustainable print landscape. Indeed, with three quarters of consumers now willing to pay more for sustainable packaging1, innovating for greener practices and solutions in print and packaging might eventually prove not only one of the greatest challenges of our time, but perhaps one of the greatest opportunities too – particularly when these environmental benefits also come hand in hand with a host of creative advantages and opportunities. With this clear vision in mind, ACTEGA is already looking for further routes towards making it a reality, with screen printing tests now underway with a bio-based coating from its ACTGreen Sustainable Coatings product line.
With the global market for packaging printing projected to grow from $352.1 billion to $433.4 billion from 2020 to 20252, and the demand for sustainable printing identified as a driving factor for growth3, there appears to be both an undeniable opportunity for the real, effectual progress in sustainable practice and also enormous potential for creativity and business growth – with screen printing sitting at the intersection of these. With pioneering organisations such as ACTEGA not only seeking to develop new materials and solutions to excite customers but also exploring ways in which these can transform traditional practices for the benefit of the environment and wider industry, the future of screen printing might perhaps appear to be brighter than expected – and certainly greener.
If you want to learn more about ACTEGA’s innovative product range, see printed samples and receive application advice, don’t miss our first ACTEGA FocusDay on 07 October 2021.
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