By Olivia Cahoon
Digital printing technology allows manufacturers to directly print onto surfaces like glass for custom, fast, and resilient graphics. Decorative glass is used in a variety of applications, including bus shelters, car dealerships, commercial buildings, fine art galleries, hospitals, interior décor, historical monuments, and ramps and railings.
Unlike traditional decorative methods, digitally printed glass is fully customizable with shorter runs that don’t comprise color or design.
Above: Glass manufacturer Laurier of Quebec City, QC, created customized glass panels for Baie Saint Paul Hospital. The 1,237×2,600 mm panels were printed on Dip-Tech GlassJet Pro using a ceramic ink.
Established in 1950, Laurier is a third-generation family business and glass manufacturer located in Quebec City, QC, Canada. It started as a mirror manufacturer with three employees in a 5,000 square foot space.
Today, the company operates in a 145,000 square foot facility with 150 employees. Over the last 65 years, Laurier developed its expertise in different glass products and now manufactures sealed units, heat-treated glass—tempered and heat strengthened, spandrel panels, laminated glass, and decorative glazing, including ceramic frit silkscreen, digital print, and back painted glass. Most of its products target the commercial and institutional construction market, high-rise buildings, and manufacturing industry.
Laurier’s customers hail mainly from Northeast Canada, however the company also has an international outreach. Through trading partners, it manufactures glass installed in the U.S. and additional countries.
All of Laurier’s glass products are capable of including some form of digital printing, which it added to its portfolio in 2011. The amount of digital printing Laurier uses on its glass products constantly changes. However, a good portion often include some form of customization.
“It is the best technology to print on glass,” admits Lucie Vezina, technical sales representative, Laurier.
For its digital glass printing process, the manufacturer selected the GlassJet Pro printer from Dip-Tech, a Ferro Company. “It is the only technology that enables printing ceramic ink to glass,” says Vezina. “Ceramic ink is more resistant than anything else that may be used to print on glass.”
The printer digitally reproduces intricate designs on multiple, large format glass panes for a variety of applications from windows to exterior building facades. Colors are printed all at once with proprietary ink that is stabilized under high temperature. After printing, the ink is tempered with the glass to ensure the design’s durability against scratches and weather.
With its Dip-Tech GlassJet Pro, Laurier benefits from an unlimited number of glass applications. The manufacturer has produced decorative and functional glass for Laval University, Marc Simoneau Sports Center, Nissan facilities, Quebec International Airport, Saint-Laurent Sports Complex, Telus Stadium, Valcartier Vacation Park, and Videotron Center. “We can print any design, image, or artwork,” adds Vezina.
It often uses the Dip-Tech GlassJet Pro for art installation, backsplashes, bus shelters, counter tops, furniture, marker board, partitions, ramps, sealed units, and signage. With this technology, the glass manufacturer offers custom designs and standard patterns in glass thicknesses up to 12 millimeters (mm). The pattern collections are inspired by shapes, stone, and wood.
“Our projects are mainly commercial and institutional exterior glazing, we need to provide a quality weatherproof product,” comments Vezina. “The Dip-Tech technology provides an exceptional resistance to scratching and UV—it will not fade.”
When digitally printing onto glass, Laurier takes great caution to ensure each product is produced efficiently. Because the equipment is sensitive, Vezina says there are many technical aspects for the operators to master, including dust and moisture control. “We must guide a variety of stakeholders—architect, designers, artists, and glazers—in the artistic design of the project,” she explains.
Other than tempering each piece of glass—which is required in most glazing applications—Laurier’s digitally printed glass requires no finishing. However, the printed glass can be fabricated into sealed units or laminated. Polishing, drilling, notches, and additional edge work is also possible prior to the tempering process.
Glass Décor for Hospitals
Recently, first-time customer Vitrerie Laberge approached Laurier for decorative glass to install in the Baie Saint Paul Hospital in QC. The client wanted customized glass panels printed with local artwork by photographer Ivan Binet.
Vitrerie Laberge is an architectural/glazer design firm based in Quebec City, QC. The firm handles construction and renovation services for contractors, architects, and individuals. Laurier also worked with photographer Ivan Binet, who took a panoramic picture of the local landscape and built in a vectoral effect. Using the photographer’s picture, the manufacturer split the image between different glass panels with Adobe Photoshop. Additional software included Adobe Illustrator and SA International PixelBlaster print-to-finish production software.
While the glass manufacturer is accustomed to working directly with artists, Vezina says it can be challenging as there is an emotional connection to the artwork. “In order to be entirely sure that the end product met his expectations, we asked Binet to be present during printing and we produced test samples to adjust colors to his expectations.”
After the design process, the job was printed on the Dip-Tech GlassJet Pro. In total, Laurier printed 31 glass panels measuring 1,237×2,600 mm each. The glass panels were displayed on three interior walls in the Baie Saint Paul Hospital. Vitrerie Laberge installed the glass and was satisfied with the completed project.
“It is a beautiful piece of artwork that we are proud to be part of,” shares Vezina.
Practical & Professional
Digitally printed glass is a practical and professional option for high impact in construction and manufacturing. With the proper technology, manufacturers directly print onto glass for double-sided, photo-realistic images. IPM
Apr2019, Industrial Print Magazine