Machinery: GlassJet prints digital images directly on glass

Machine uses solvent-based ceramic link, no screens
By Matt Slovick
March 31, 2008

The Eiserfeld Municipal Bank in Germany has a glass façade imprinted with a satellite image of the town and its surroundings. GlassJet digital printer from Dip Tech of Israel imprinted the image on the glass. GlassJet is marketed as the first industrial direct-on-glass digital printer that uses a computer inkjet printing method with solvent-based ceramic inks.

The bank approached Bernd “Bernie” Hoffmann of Interpane-Sicherheitsglas GmbH and Co. of Germany with the project in 2006. Rainer Oestereich-Rappaport, owner of the architectural firm Oestereich-Rappaport in Germany, was the architect, and Andreas Oskar Bücklers, designer, Nulabor, Germany, designed of the project. Interpane bought the machine in September 2006 and had it delivered after glasstec in October, according to Frank Matz, Interpane’s operating manager. Installation and training took place in November.

The main benefit of the machine was it that allowed a large-format image to span across 295 tiles without film-production costs and without the need for multiple printing, Hoffmann said in a Dip Tech release.

“When there was no digital printing some years ago, we had printed such a project in silk-screen printing,” Matz said. “Therefore, we had used a single expensive screen for each single tile and color and the printing machine had to be set up for each screen. You surely can imagine how enormous the costs had been. But now we can save a lot of these costs by using the GlassJet. Moreover, we are able to realize pictures in a higher resolution than before.”

GlassJet needs a single operator and eliminates the use of screens, which have to be cleaned, stored and maintained. The machine can put textures, images, photos and text on architectural glass, both interior and exterior, automotive glass, appliances and furniture.

The machine is capable of multiple printing of different designs simultaneously, variable data printing in one run, complicated tiling jobs and multiple colors at the same time, according to a company DVD.  

In the Eiserfeld project, individual tile numbers were embedded into all graphic images. This ensured identification for shipping and installation.

Tommi Salenius, vice president of marketing and business development for Dip Tech, said the company has sold 24 machines, including five in the past two months. Dip Tech introduced GlassJet in 2004 at glasstec in Dusseldorf, Germany. The typical customer is an architectural glass processor who already has been using screen printing, he said.

Interpane also used GlassJet to put the image of a motorcycle on a glass wall and door inside a cycle shop in Tel Aviv named Metro and for the casing of an elevator shaft of a building in Hamburg called Hochbahnhaus.

“We printed grass blades in four colors, which looked really natural,” Matz said about the elevator. “The contrast between the clear glass surface and the ceramic digital printed area makes it very interesting.”

The process
The GlassJet process begins with the creation of an image using any graphic design program. The design is converted into glass printable format. The image processor prepares individual spot colors, handles scaling, paneling layout and creates a job history. A job folder stores all the information to allow easy re-creation. 

The design is then transferred via the network to GlassJet software. Printing parameters can be edited on the shop floor. The software defines the throughput, image quality, dimensions, ink density, precisely sets image margins and edits the reflection. Printing can be done from edge to edge.

The software allows the customization of each individual piece of glass. The variable data is unique as well, including serial numbers, logos or dates. Serial numbers or logos can easily be added or changed, allowing the same production run for many customers.

Two panels can be printed simultaneously. The panels can be from the same job or unrelated jobs. A special adapting plate is used for smaller images.

The ceramic inks can be used on tempered or laminated glass. The maximum sizes are 2,800 millimeters by 3,700 millimeters and 19 millimeters thick, according to a company release. 

Dip Tech developed the GlassJet printer and Tamglass, Finland, brought it to market. Its ceramic inks are in collaboration with Johnson Matthey Colour Technologies, the Netherlands.