When you hear the word “printing,” what comes to mind? You likely imagine some type of graphical printing where ink is placed on a substrate for artistic purposes or to convey static information. There are countless applications for this method of printing, from business cards to apparel to packaging to signage.
However, there is another type of printing that is rapidly growing yet still underutilized by manufacturers – functional printing, sometimes referred to as industrial printing. With advancements in technology, functional printing has the potential to improve quality, shorten production time, and reduce labor costs.
What is functional printing?
Functional printing is a specialized category of printing where an image or material is applied to a product for functional purposes, not just aesthetic. This can be the primary function of the product or a secondary function that helps the product do its job.
So what can you accomplish with functional printing? Depending on your product and its intended use, you can use a functional printing process to create components that are durable, touchable, customized, interactive, and even electronic.
Types of functional printing.
Under the umbrella of functional printing, there are multiple methods for achieving the desired appearance and function.
- Primary printing – Similar to what you think of “regular” printing, primary printing uses processes like screen printing, inkjet, flexography, and more. The difference is the ability to use functional inks and technologies to enhance durability (such as for overlays), add security, or add chemical reactivity (for printed indicators).
- Additive imaging – Includes processes that add non-ink deposits of material to a product. This can include lamination, thermal image transfer, and many other methods.
- Subtractive imaging – The opposite of additive imaging, so removing material from a product to create the intended design, shape, or function.
- Coating – Areas of a product are covered in specific material for a variety of purposes. Some examples include UV coatings, protective coatings and textured coatings.
What you can print on?
Functional printing can be used on a wide range of substrates, including.
- Medical materials
However, because of the complexities of printing on these materials, it’s important to work with an experienced functional printer to ensure optimal quality, durability, and appearances.
Whether looking to improve your product or achieve a competitive advantage, functional printing offers many exciting opportunities – and may even change your perception about what printing is capable of.
Get started with functional printing
At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our durable printing and coating capabilities.