Digital Ceramic printing
If you have never heard about printing for ceramics or worked in a field related to this topic, you might wonder what ceramic printing is. When we talk about ceramic printing, we mean the process of decorating ceramic (or glass) surfaces by digitally printing on special paper and transferring the print onto the final product.
In order to make the colour last on the surface of your product (Tiles, porcelain, enamel, glass, see examples in our gallery) you need to protect it from surrounding influences. This is achieved by embedding the colour into the surface layers. Firing the colours at high temperatures causes them to melt into the material. This way they are protected from scratching, resist temperature variations and weather influences. Decorated and fired tableware is dishwasher proof and food safe if you use our colours.
For decoration of ceramic materials you have the option to either print directly on your product with inks (we also offer industrial printers for this purpose), or you can use the water transfer technology.
For the water transfer the motives are printed on special decal paper with digital laser printers that are specifically adjusted to handle our ceramic toners.
You can make your design with any software or even scan motives to have a digital version. When your design is created you will need to print it on a special water slide decal paper and then proceed with coating.
After printing it is necessary to coat the decal with a special coating material. On the one hand this is needed as a carrier material, but it also makes sure the appearence of the colour after the firing is as desired. The coating can be applied as a lamination paper, sprayed on the print or with screenprinting technology.
Depending on the used toner set there are different options for the coating material:
Fluxed Toner sets:
- Lacquer only: Leaves no visible edges after firing, but less shine
- Fluxed coating: Shiny finish, but possibly visible edges (sticker-effect)
Unfluxed Toner sets:
- Require fluxed coating: Always shiny finish, but possibly visible edges (sticker-effect)
To avoid the sticker-effect you can cover the complete decoration area with the fluxed material, this way the edges of the flux will not be visible after firing or you can align the decal with already existing edges of your ceramic
After printing your design and coating it with a suitable cover coat material, you will need to apply your decal on your final product. For that you first cut your decal to the final dimensions and put it into water until it separates from the paper. After few seconds you will feel that the motive will easily slide of the paper. You can now slide it on the surface of your product and adjust the positioning.
In order to avoid firing defects, make sure that you remove all water and air from below the decal!
Using a squeegee with the right pressure while pushing the water from the centre to the outside of the motive will help removing the water. Be careful not to apply too much force as the decal otherwise can rip off!
It takes some practice to find the best procedure for your material, but after a few tries you will be able to do it without effort.
To protect the colours from environmental influences they need to be embedded into the surface layers of the product. This is achieved by firing the ceramic at high temperatures. We recommend to dry the product for about one hour at 40°C to evaporate residue water and further eliminate firing defects.
After firing and letting the ceramic cool down, your production cycle is done and the colours are dishwasher safe, scratch resistant and will resist all weather influences.