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The digitally-printed looking glass

21 Nov 2009

This past Wednesday I spent a couple of hours in the Build Boston exhibit hall, looking for exciting new materials. Build Boston is a convention and tradeshow for the design and construction industry. Last year, I went to the Greenbuild expo while it was in Boston, and there was a lot to see, and a lot to be inspired by, and a lot of neat samples with which to fill up my Greenbuild-branded reusable tote. I hoped to repeat that experience at Build Boston, but was mostly disappointed. Build Boston is more for those who are concerned with foundations and door jambs and other such stuff. Architects, namely; not exhibit designers.

BUT! I did find one product that I really like the look of: “Alice” direct-to-glass digital printing. Alice is the name of the printer, and it uses a “solvent-based, ceramic ink” to print onto tempered or laminated glass. It can print edge-to-edge on sheet glass up to 84″ x 144″. My understanding of the process is that the Alice printer uses frit (finely ground ceramic particles) mixed with pigments and a solvent. It shoots drops of the liquid frit onto the sheet of glass and then immediately heats it. The final printed glass is almost perfectly smooth—as the graphic has literally been baked into it—which makes it scratch-proof and pick-proof. There doesn’t seem to be much limit to the ink opacity levels, or to color-matching, although it should be noted that it doesn’t use CMYK; it’s base enamel colors are black, white, blue, red, yellow, turquoise, green, orange, and “etch.” Overall, though, I was impressed with the vibrancy and crispness of the Alice-printed glass that I saw at the trade show.

I’ve ordered a sample from the manufacturer, to take another, longer look at this stuff. If you’ve had any firsthand experience using direct-to-glass digital printing, please get in touch and let me know what you thought of it.

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