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 Glossary of Common Digital Printing Terms  


 Term: Explanation/Definition
SOLVENT INKS: Used to be the traditional type of ink for small format digital printing applications. The ink is comprised of pigment (color), plus an etching agent which helps ‘etch’ out the media when it has been applied, and an evaporating agent that assists in drying the ink out. These inks are less eco-friendly than the newer UV/UV-LED or ECO Solvent alternatives because they produce some amount of VOCs and inhalation hazards. However, solvent inks are well-suited for vehicle wraps, banners and applications requiring a flexible substrate or application to an irregular surface.
SOLVENT BASED PRINTING: The traditional type of printer for small format digital printing applications. Well-suited for wraps and applications requiring a flexible substrate or applying to an irregular surface. The ink is ejected out of the print head, hits the media, the etching chemical then etches (or creates a void) into the media where the ink will reside, and then the heaters on the printer help evacuate the drying agent in the ink.  During the drying process, the liquid parts of the ink will evaporate, leaving the pigment in place. This long drying process can reduce productivity.

 

UV/UV-LED INKS: Replacing solvent inks for many applications today because they have instant drying capabilities (entirely cured) and have become more flexible in recent years. “UV” is a reference to the curing process. UV/UV-LED inks do not require a solvent that must evaporate during curing- which equals limited/no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and limited inhalation hazards.  

 

UV/UV-LED PRINTING: Replacing solvent printing for many applications today. Greater print production rates can be achieved with UV ink because you don’t have to wait on drying solvent. UV/UV-LED printers are known to generate minimum heat be long-lasting, safe, energy and time efficient.

 

ECO SOLVENT INKS:  Digital printing inks with outdoor weatherable properties. ECO Solvent inks have potential to last up to two years outdoors when flooded with clear coat and up to at least six months unprotected, depending on the climate.
SMALL FORMAT DIGITAL PRINTERS: Going beyond the use of flat, thin substrates like paper, today's small format digital printing has the ability to print on substrates up to about two feet wide and nearly four inches thick, well-suited for engraving and signage projects. Print vibrant full-color images onto gifts, awards, pens, pencils, etc.
WETTING:  Wetting is the measured ability of an ink or liquid to permeate or absorb onto the surface of a material. A material must be receptive to an ink's natural wetting characteristics for effective bonding.
PRE-PRINTING SURFACE MODIFICATION: Can include a variety of chemical techniques that are used on the substrate before digital printing to improve ink bonding. Rowmark's DigiMark OSi does not require corona treating or any pre-printing surface modification.

CORONA TREATING: A pre-printing surface modification technique involving the discharge of corona plasma through the application of high voltages to impart changes in material's properties and surface energy. This is often conducted on plastic sheet materials, as most have a low surface tension. Rowmark's DigiMark OSi does not require corona treating or any pre-printing surface modification.

DIRECT-TO-SUBSTRATE INK JET: Printing high quality, full color images directly onto a variety of flat and 3-dimensional substrates without the use of a transfer paper or heat press. Direct ink-jet printing is done today in both large format (large scale projects, bigger applications) and small format (more custom gifts, etc.) 

SUBLIMATION: In scientific terms, sublimation refers to the transformation of a solid directly to a gas without going through the liquid state. Or as we know: sublimation (aka dye sublimation) is the process by which a full-color digital image or photo is printed on special heat transfer paper and then placed in a heat press with a substrate. Over a period of seconds, the ink dyes in the paper vaporize when in the press, immediately permeating and chemically bonding with the surface fibers of the substrate. This is an alternate fabrication method to digital printing.

MAGIC TOUCH: This is an image transfer paper system similar to sublimation that allows a full color image from a color copier or printer to be transferred virtually onto any application product via various specialized heat presses (one for flat substrates, one for hats, one for mugs, etc.) This is an alternate fabrication method to digital printing.

 

THERMAL PRINT: A thermal transfer print is adhered to a substrate via a printer that melts a coating of ribbon to the transfer so that it stays glued to the material on which the print is applied. Printers use a fixed width thermal print head, pressing onto a paper or plastic label, over a driven rubber roller called a platen. In direct thermal printing, no ribbon is present in the process. This is an alternate fabrication method to digital printing.

 

SCREEN PRINT: Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials, which can be pressed through the mesh with a fill blade or squeegee to create a sharp-edged image on a  substrate. Screen printing is also known as silkscreen, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. This is an alternate fabrication method to digital printing.
HOT STAMP: This is a dry printing method in which a heated die (with engraved plates) and foil are used to apply graphics to a surface. The die is mounted and heated, the foil is positioned above the material to be imprinted and a combination of heat, dwell time and pressure control the quality of the stamp. This is an alternate fabrication method to digital printing.  

 

WHITE INK PRINTING TECHNOLOGY: A fairly new development in the market that allows the printing of full-color images on clear substrates with the use of white ink pigments. White inks are much heavier and thicker than (think milky white-out) colored inks, which make it much more difficult to spray ink out of the tiny print heads.