The history of ceramics goes back to antiquity. The expression ‘ceramics’ relates to the Greek symbol for clay, which is the Greek word keramos – pottery. The Chinese were the first to invent white, translucent hard-paste porcelain under the Tang dynasty (618–907AD) when they learned to fire a mixture of china clay and china stone at very high temperatures.
The Chinese kept their recipe secret and with that their monopoly on production. In the mid-16th century Chinese porcelain began to be exported to Europe, first by the Portuguese, who acted as intermediaries in Asian trade, and then also by the Dutch. Hundreds of thousands of pieces came to be traded in Amsterdam. Porcelain was so expensive that Europeans called it “white gold”.
Today, ceramic decals decoration add value in the decorating, labelling and branding of porcelain. Advances in the industry include:
• Number of colours has decreased
• Multi colours has been replaced by four to seven-colour process
• Faster deliveries
• Fewer job repetitions
• Better line resolutions and high definition half tones
• More designs, images and functional innovation
• New concepts for tableware
• Firing temperatures up to 1400C
• Print process standardisation
Three Portuguese Ceramic Decal manufactures have been pioneers of CTS (Computer-To-Screen) Technology using semiautomatic digital light CTS flat exposing. More recently, after several industrial testing steps in Portugal and Switzerland, independent company Decordecal substituted that horizontal technology for new CTS Technologic Vertical Exposing, turning it into a fully automatic process handling several screens on the feeding unit, light exposing, developing, drying and unloading unit, STM from Swiss SignTronic AG. Vista Alegre Atlantis Group, the oldest porcelain factory in Portugal, followed the same industrial testing and invested in similar STM CTS fully automatic technology.
PRE PRESS ANALOGUE VS DIGITAL CTS
Prepress analogue ‘computer to film’ (CTF) is time consuming and involves the monitoring of film production steps, chemicals, environmental issues, dust, scratches, thick glass, temperature, film thickness, light intensity absorption, vacuum control, emulsion exposure inconstancy, film montage, light exposing control and film archive. Digital pre press – computer to screen is a ‘filmless’ one step process.
In screen making, film requires several processing steps; it decreases the quality of the final image and is slower and less costefficient, creating bottlenecks. Filmless screen making is a one step process in automation, producing higher image quality and any image quality degradation is compensated for by increase of screen stability.
Filmless STM CTS technology allows for production with thinner layers of ink, without loss of image quality. Lead time is reduced by around 40%. Using ColorGATE CTS Rip Software system screen printing is simplified with fewer processes and more automation.
Industry 4.0 (I4.0) is determined by the intensity of innovative technology used side by side with its degree of automation. Nowadays we see a growing trend, in Europe and USA for reshoring – a return of delocalised industries – as a new axis of development for the future European production, based on high-end products or high technology and automation. I4.0 will focus on an acceleration of the implementation of new technologies to manufacture products under the conditions that the market requires: efficient, faster, flexible and cost efficient.
We believe that screen printing technology will give a positive pull for the future I4.0 due to its intrinsic advantages when combined with cutting-edge technologies in automation, on pre-press, printing or finishing; at graphic, textile, industrial or functional applications.
A new target based on the digitisation (I4.0) is by changing the actual processes started by the operators, moving to a new dimension where machinery will do this itself and the operators will act when necessary to stop the autonomously running processes. This reduces errors and enables more jobs per hour, for a new rethinking of all industrial processes steps targeting higher productivity, faster deliveries and cost reductions.
David Forrester Zamith is CEO of Portugal based organisation, Ruy de Lacerda