Glazier Bulletin: Pretty panes

Dip Tech brings digital drop-on-demand print on glass
By Larry Kenigsberg
March 31, 2008

Residents of Hamburg, Germany, ride in style when they visit one of their local administrative buildings. The building’s elevator was enclosed in printed glass as part of a recent renovation. The end result was a joint effort of the creative vision of Bernd Hoffmann, principal designer, Hoffmann Glas-Technik-Design, Hildesheim, Germany, the glass production expertise of Interpane-Sicherheitsglas of Hildesheim, and a new technology allowing digital drop-on-demand printing on glass pioneered by Dip Tech, an Israeli company.

Digital drop-on-demand ceramic printing on glass provides considerable creative freedom in a far more cost-efficient manner than earlier systems relying primarily on screens, factors that led early adaptors like Hoffmann to embrace the technology. 

“Utilizing Interpane’s advanced facilities, I had already used Dip Tech’s GlassJet for a massive project that involved redesigning the exterior of a building using 295 different panels,” Hoffmann says. “It was so easy to use and had all the features I needed to make such an undertaking a pleasure. After that, I knew this was the wave of the future and could barely wait to use it again.”  

The elevator project involved 40 glass panes from 450 by 2100 millimeters, or 17.72 by 82.68 inches, to 2400 by 2100 mm, or 94.48 by 82.68 inches, decorated with blades of tropical grass, an image strongly contrasting its urban environs. Each glass pane features a unique, individual part of the motif. The main colors are green, yellow and black mixed with white to control translucency. The GlassJet can produce up to five colors in a single run, providing easy, quick production. All shades and tones of the original are digitally mixed directly on the substrate.

Hoffmann modestly describes designing such a complicated process as fairly straightforward. 

“The architect provided proofs on paper and transparent film, as well as NCS-color-specifications and a part of the motif as a tiff file with a 30-dpi resolution,” Hoffman explains. “Thankfully, the GlassJet comes with Pixel-Blaster software, so even low-resolution images are easily processed. Remarkably, all the data fit onto one disk-on-key drive that’s small enough to attach to a key chain. We were able to print a multicolored image without needing any rasterization [conversion of graphics objects composed of vectors or line segments into dots for transmission to dot matrix and laser printers]. This way, the grass design on glass could be realized without [disturbing points and structures].”

The three lower floors of the elevator cabinet are made from laminated glass 16mm or 63 inches, with ceramic digital printing inside. The four upper floors are made from 12 mm, or 1¼2 inch, tempered float glass, with ceramic digital printing inside. The entire process allowed Hoffmann to compose 40 positions, letting him arrange a large-format picture without any deviations.

The main challenge Hoffman dealt with was that the two tiles for the doors were ordered four months later. The digital preparation and reliability of the GlassJet made quick work of that, and the doors integrate seamlessly with the rest of the design. 

“The GlassJet’s variable data feature allows large-format, multitiled print jobs using embedded tile numbers in the print files to allow an even workflow without any chance for mix-ups in installation,” Hoffmann says. “We embedded the numbers in the corners so only those involved in the actual installation would know they were there.   

“The customer really appreciated the significant savings provided by the GlassJet,” Hoffmann says. “Unlike screens with cumbersome films, set up, cleaning and storage with all the associated expenses, the digital technology provided a hefty 20 percent reduction in costs.” 

The author is a principal consultant at K2 Strategic Innovations, a marketing communications company based in Israel, and a freelance writer, 972-3-919-0257, 972-524-761-340,