By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 2
There are many parts to glass manufacturing, from cutting and tempering to fabrication and decoration. Some companies offer the entire process end to end, whereas others may only specialize in a specific portion. Digital glass printing presents a number of opportunities for businesses from any of these backgrounds. The ability to print directly to glass can add decorative services to an existing operation or expand decorative services even further.
When InKan Ltd. added digital printing to its business model about seven years ago, it hoped to build on it its current silkscreen and sandblasting décor work. Overtime, it’s met this goal by adding new products to its portfolio and remaining a one-stop glass and metal fabricator for its customers.
UltraImage Digital Print
Based in Brampton, ON, Canada, InKan began in 1976 with five staff members. Today it employs 85 out of two facilities totaling 48,000 square feet, which serves customers in the Caribbean and North America. The architectural glass and metal fabricator’s main capabilities are cutting, tempering, fabricating, laminating, heat soak testing, drafting, designing, and engineering custom or standard metals and glass. Products produced include glass staircases, revolver door barrels, glass floors and bridges, public art projects, and metal stairs.
Its glass production factory once housed only silkscreen ceramic frit and sandblasting machines used for glass that required artwork. However, around 2011 it learned about digital printing after outsourcing a project installed in Toronto on a 60×45-foot wall. “There were not very many printers at the time and we believed it could add value to the company,” explains Kevin Duke, contracts manager, InKan.
After researching available technologies, InKan chose a Tecglass printer. One of the attractive features was new technology—at the time—that helped with efficient maintenance and cleaning of the printer. The Tecglass affords printing directly to glass that is anywhere from four to 19 millimeters thick. Common projects include glass entryways that require logos or branding.
Branding the process UltraImage, InKan uses ceramic inks in the Tecglass printer that are fired directly to the glass in the tempering process. The printer outputs at up to 1,440 dpi and reproduces full-color photos that are UV-, water-, solvent-, and scratch-resistant.
“Digital printing is a patient form of work, it takes time to perfect the files from customers and achieve the quality workmanship we expect to provide our clients. However, digital printing allowa more ideas for architects and designs to make spaces look great,” shares Duke.
An ideal example of this is recent work InKan completed for Stanford University in CA. The project entailed printing five 50×150-inch pieces, each taking about two hours to print. Images were laminated on the second surface using low-iron glass. Of note, Duke says the project—which the end result was a partition—was very high end and used Platinum Metallic ink.
Bringing Digital In
Digital print is the primary method of decoration at InKan today. Duke admits it still employs the silkscreen printer, but not very often. The acquisition of the Tecglass device allowed InKan to expand its service offering and bring an up-and-coming technology under its roof. This smart move saved InKan in outsourcing costs, especially as more customers realize the benefits of digital printing directly to glass.
The next part in this series focuses on another glass fabricator finding success with digital printing technology.
Sep2019, Industrial Print Magazine