By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Digital printing onto glass produces custom made panels used in many environments. With digital print technology, glass applications are fully customized with shorter runs without compromising color or design. Printed glass applications include art, balconies, ceilings, glass facades, kitchen backsplashes, partitions, renovation projects, shower doors, stained glass windows, tabletops, wall covers, and windows.
Produced in the Netherlands
Established in 1923 in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, Balink Glass & Aluminum was founded by the grandfather of Bertus Balink, owner, Balink Glass & Aluminum. In the 1970s, the company offered engineering, production, and installation of aluminum facades with a regional outreach. Soon after, it added glass trading and installation of insulated glass. In the late 1980s, the company employed 15 and operated out of 20,000 square feet of workspace.
Balink embarked on an investment to make the company independent from the multi-nationals it purchased its products from. He built a 175,000 square foot factory in the late 1990s and filled the space with machinery, some of which he designed himself.
Today, Balink Glass & Aluminum executes all major glass work including cutting and polishing laminated glass and the assembly and production of custom made laminated glass panels.
The company’s aluminum department grew alongside its glass department and concentrates on facades, window and door frames, sliding doors, and automatic entrance doors. “We handle all of the engineering with a group of highly trained creative engineers,” adds Balink.
Currently, Balink Glass & Aluminum staffs 60 employees and exports its services nationally and around the globe. “It’s not that our products are extremely unique or the techniques we use to make them, but our trust worthiness, delivery times, and standard for high-quality executions are,” explains Balink.
Balink Glass & Aluminum’s clients work in a variety of fields from small and large building contractors to private house owners, museums, schools, and hospitals. The company also has several clients in the partitioning walls industry. The company produces their glass and offers a range of quality hinges and door locks.
Past projects include completed interior glass partitioning walls, glass panels, and window frames for the court of Amsterdam, the museum of the Afsluitdijk, and the crematorium of Heerenveen.
In May 2017, Balink Glass & Aluminum purchased a GPi Series printer from Dip-Tech, a Ferro Company. One of Balink’s longtime wishes was to direct digital print onto glass after looking into the technology for the last four years. “We look at ceramic printing from a glass perspective, not a print perspective,” he says.
The GPi Series printer handles a maximum glass size of 2,400×6,000 millimeters and 19 millimeters thick. It produces up to 1,410 dpi and features automated ink recirculation to ensure optimal ink condition. The printer also includes variable drop size for high image quality with high productivity for applications.
The company only uses Dip-Tech Digital Ceramic Inks developed by Dip-Tech chemistry experts. The ink is resistant to acid, scratches, UV light, and weather. According to Balink, the Dip-Tech Digital Ceramic Inks are developed to cooperate as best as possible with the printheads.
“We were and still are impressed by the quality of printing of the Dip-Tech machines as well as the thorough guidance of the employees who work for Dip-Tech on all fields regarding printing on glass since we embarked on the buying process of the machine,” says Balink.
Digital printing onto glass is a unique process with sensitive chemical balances. Balink explains that before glass printing, the inks are fused into ground colored glass during the tempering process and blended with a solvent. This formula allows glass to be laminated, bent, and double glazed.
“This is an over simplified way of explaining, which doesn’t do justice to the highly chemical and technical balanced process of production but it makes it immediately clear the importance of printhead manufacturing and our daily tasks to keep the ink running smoothly,” he offers.
According to Balink, “printing on glass is a different ballpark than any other printing technique because of the color pallet difference as well as the transparency of glass and the graphic challenges that come along with those two parameters.”
The company’s graphic designer prepares the file for print and sends it to the operator and printer. After a series of tests, the company prints and dries the glass panels, which are then sent to a tempering furnace.
With the GPi Series ceramic printer, Balink Glass & Aluminum produces printed glass facades, wind screens for gardens, outdoor signage, kitchen backsplashes, partitioning walls, table tops, ship windows, and shower room doors and panels.
Balink says the benefit of digital printing onto glass is that the company can offer glass applications without compromising color or design while delivering an asset.
“To help our learning process we gave our employees the opportunity to be the trendsetters in this new line of work. All of our employees were given the chance to bring in their ideas to be printed onto glass,” offers Balink. The employees’ projects ranged from a glass panel with an image of a deceased pet to shower doors. “We learned a lot from these jobs,” he adds.
Despite its success, the company still experiences challenges. Balink believes persistence and interdisciplinary partnership bridges the problems. To solve challenges, the company’s daily operator, graphic designer, and IT specialist confer daily to discuss the small and major faults and possibilities for glass projects.
“The process is very young for us and all participants are eager learners with thorough quality standards. This attitude and the bedrock base that quality is paramount brings us a steep learning process and the most wonderful results you can imagine,” says Balink.
Currently, Balink Glass & Aluminum’s glass printing services are one percent of its work. Balink says the company aims to grow in 2018 to roughly ten percent or more. He adds, “we are looking to cross over artistic engineers because we’re quite sure that we only see the tip of the iceberg of possible markets at the moment.”
Digital Glass Printing
Manufacturers like Balink Glass & Aluminum take advantage of the latest digital print technology to offer customers personalized printed glass for doors and windows to art and signage.
Part two of this series profiles a manufacturer that creates solutions for artistic glass facades.
Nov2017, Industrial Print Magazine