Innovative Screen & Digital Print Process Adds Value to Electronics Production

Autotex Steel #1

Cost Effective Method Produces High Definition Images

Rolling Meadows, IL (November 23, 2010) —  An innovative new process that combines screen and digital printing is allowing electronics manufacturers to economically produce stylized, high definition images with metallic finishes on flexible film substrates.

The process, pioneered by Bex Design Services Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, and MacDermid Autotype, combines printing flexible mirror inks with Autotex Steel, MacDermid Autotype’s high performance hard coated film that features a stainless steel grained surface, to add a new and aesthetically pleasing style to components such as membrane switches, keyboards and fascia panels.

According to Neil Bolding, Technical and Quality Manager for MacDermid Autotype, increasing focus has been placed on the visual qualities of these electronic components as the demand for highly-stylized parts continues to grow.  “In today’s challenging business climate, electronics and appliance companies are working hard to distinguish themselves from the competition,” said Bolding.  “High quality components, such as membrane switches, keyboards and fascia panels typically offer a wide range of sophisticated functions as standard, with multiple circuit layers, tactile keys and integrated displays. By providing a unique and visually appealing element to these applications, the Bex Design Services process really adds value to the finished product.”

Autotex Steel #2

“Working together with the technical experts at Bex Design Services, we’ve developed a process that, we believe, is the only one to successfully combine the screen and digital printing technologies with flexible mirrored inks and hard-coated films,” said Bolding.  “In doing so, the two companies have discovered an extremely cost effective method of producing high definition images with metallic finishes on flexible film substrates.”

Bex Design Services has achieved both small and larger volume runs of components using the new process, produced at far lower costs than traditional metal overlays.  Moreover, the use of Autotex Steel enables Bex to create a low gloss, stainless steel grain textured surface that is impact  and fingerprint resistant and can be reverse printed to protect text and graphics from wear.

Ian Board, Managing Director at Bex Design Services stated: “This production method capitalizes on the high definition capabilities of digital print, to produce multi-colored fine line text and graphics that are reverse printed onto MacDermid Autotype’s Autotex Steel film. The digital print is then overprinted using conventional screen techniques with the latest flexible mirror inks to complete the stainless steel effect.  A final black print is then added to give additional depth to the color and enhance the overall effect. The films can then be embossed, cut and finished depending on the needs of each application. “

A key component of this production technique is the use of Autotex Steel, a polyester based film substrate that offers a combination of mechanical, chemical and optical properties. “The use of Autotex Steel has made it possible for our two companies to achieve a product that delivers real benefits, both technically and commercially,” said Ian Board.  “It provides an innovative high quality solution, with excellent definition and color rendition, which can be easily and economically produced.”

According to MacDermid Autotype, the new film is easy to handle and print, combining high levels of color reproduction and definition with a tough outer surface that offers excellent resistant to abrasions and wide range of chemicals and solvents.

The film is manufactured using a conventional flexible polyester substrate.  It is coated with an ink adhesion layer on the second surface in combination with a specially developed hard coat outer layer.  The film is chemically bonded and UV cured. The hardcoat layer has a stainless steel grain effect finish which, when the film is printed on the reverse with standard metallic or silver inks, creates the appearance of a brushed stainless steel panel.

Attributes of the film make it is easy to reverse print and, unlike other materials, does not have an inherent color cast, so printed colors are easy to match.   Additionally, the Autotex film will not bow or buckle during UV ink curing and can be easily embossed for use with domed tactile membrane switches or in applications where keys or panel areas need to have raised edges.  Embossed areas have an excellent flex modulus, with a typical flex life for domed keys being in excess of five million actuations.

According to Bolding, the film based solution represents a number of advantages over conventional stainless steel materials.  For example, unlike stainless steel, Autotex Steel does not show fingerprints, and can be printed with clear display windows or contain secret-until-lit graphics, with the film offering excellent color rendition and light transmission in clear areas. Graphics are reverse printed, protecting them from wear and abrasion because of the body of the film substrate and the brushed stainless steel style textured hard coat layer. This layer has also been formulated to resist a wide variety of common industrial solvents and cleaning fluids, including alcohols, ketones, weak acids and hydrocarbons.

“Best of all, this film technology offers product designers and screen printers an efficient and versatile method of developing striking and high quality graphics products with the appearance of stainless steel,” said Bolding.  “The technology makes it all possible because it is easy to handle and process.  And it helps control panels provide a long and trouble-free operating life in even the most challenging applications.”

About MacDermid Autotype

MacDermid Autotype is the leading global innovator, designer, developer and manufacturer of specialized chemicals for the screen printing industry and coating technology for hard-coated films used in a wide range of applications. The company’s expertise in precision coating technology enables MacDermid Autotype to transform and enhance the performance of films for many high tech and demanding applications, efficiently providing the means of reproducing exacting images in the production of key electronic or medical components while adding protective features such as resistance to aggressive chemicals.

MacDermid Autotype is part of Denver, Colorado-based MacDermid Inc., a global specialty chemicals company serving the diversified needs of the electronics, industrial, offshore and printing industries. For more information, visit www.macdermidautotype.com, email pressrelations@macdermidautotype.com, call 800.323.0632, or write to Neil Bolding, MacDermid Autotype Inc., 1675 Winnetka Circle, Rolling Meadows, IL  60008.

About BexDesign

Bex Design was established in 1998 and is ISO 9001:2008 certified. The core manufacturing processes within Bex Design includes screen and digital Printing, digital cutting and a complete range of services to Electronic Membrane Switch Manufacture. Bex Design is structured to conform to the WEEE directive, and are fully conversant with a manufacturer’s responsibility under the RoHS legislations. Bex Design recycles in all areas of the business and use UV and lead free inks within the print department. Twenty-four hour turnaround of key services is what sets Bex Design apart.

http://www.bexdesign.co.uk

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