Ceramic Tiles

Screen printing is the most versatile decoration method for printing challenging glazing materials onto the unique, uneven surfaces of ceramic tiles-an indispensable technique that can cover the demanding needs of modern ceramic designers.

Overview

Introduction
Ceramic tile designs are strongly influenced by fashion. The most creative designs require printing methods using a variation of decoration materials and inks such as ceramic powders, metal components, fine gold particles and classic glazing materials. Complex surface imitations, such as natural stone, leather, carpet and wood also require a printing method which penetrates into the uneven printing surface. Because of its versatility to provide solutions for both ink and substrate challenges, the screen printing method has been recently rediscovered by designers and decoration specialists. Screen printing is also a cost effective decoration method that provides competitive pricing, and is an attractive solution for short print runs.

Downloads Leaflet: SEFAR PA 1000 (PDF 669 kb) Technical list: SEFAR PA 1000 (PDF 1608 kb) Leaflet: SEFAR PET 1500 (PDF 775 kb) Technical list: SEFAR PET 1500 (PDF 749 kb) Tension values (PDF 179 kb) Mesh Selection Guide (PDF 675 kb)

Screen Printing Process
Ceramic tiles are decorated using both flat screen and rotary screen techniques. Except for decoration of

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special pieces within the sector of “Third Firing,” the various colors are printed wet-in-wet with a single firing process at the end of the decoration line. However, there are no limits within the creativity of the designers-modern printing lines can be equipped with several different printing heads, and it is common to find screen printing stations in combination with laser engraved cylinders on the same printing line. The screens for direct printing ceramic tiles are selected based on: type of design, surface of the tile, mineralogical composition of the printing components, and exclusiveness of the finished tile. The design determines the composition of the following screen printing components: Inks The printing materials are mostly waterbased inorganic pigments, ceramic glazes, frits, stains, precious metals, and soluble salts/third firing products Substrates Wall tiles, floor tiles, porcelain stoneware Mesh Mainly high modulus polyester mesh from 8 to 40 theads/cm (20 to 103 threads/inch), some polyamide (nylon) mesh for very abrasive applications, and wire and nickel mesh for dry powder printing (specialties)

Mesh selection

Artwork Special effect printing on ceramic tiles does not require high resolution artwork, and therefore conventional films are adequate. Artwork for marble imitations, however, does require attention; the halftone range and the line-art in combination with the mesh count need to be carefully selected in order to avoid moiré effects. Automatic centering of the artwork on the screen has also become increasingly important because it can significantly reduce printing machine set-up time. For this reason, computer-to-screen equipment is becoming popular for direct printed ceramic tiles.

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Frames Both rotary frames and rigid aluminum frames are used to screen print ceramic tiles. Rotary screens are typically 65 cm wide, and have a screen circumference of 125 cm (a 41 cm diameter). Rigid aluminum frames can range from 40 x 35 cm up to 120 x 150 cm. Screen preparation Ceramic tile screens are stretched using mechanical stretching equipment. Some particular applications call for warp and weft tension control, and require sophisticated pneumatic clamp systems with integrated tensioning capabilities (like SEFAR 3A clamps). After the screen is degreased, it is coated with an emulsion that is specially formulated for printing ceramic tiles (most emulsion manufacturers offer a ceramic line that provides water resistance and high mechanical resistance). Depending on the application, direct emulsions show advantages over capillary films for printing ceramic tiles. Higher stencil quality and better reproduction can also be obtained by using automatic coating machines. After exposure, stencil hardening is highly recommended to help increase the longevity of the stencil during the printing process (stencil durability is ultimately determined by ink/paste composition). SEFAR 3A Clamps

Mesh selection Today, the use of polyamide mesh (SEFAR PA 1000) has been substituted by polyester (SEFAR PET 1500). However, for particular abrasive printing jobs, SEFAR PA 1000 mesh specifications are used to guarantee longer stencil life. The mesh selection depends on: > Decorating material > Glaze or halftone printing > Areas or fine lines > Roughness of tile surface > Composition of ink/paste > 1st or 3rd firing SEFAR PA 1000 SEFAR PET 1500

Sefar AG Hinterbissaustrasse 12 9410 Heiden – Switzerland Phone +41 71 898 57 00 Fax +41 71 898 57 21

info@sefar.com

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