Technical Evolution of Ceramic Tile Printing

Sanz, V.; Reig, Y.; Feliu, C.; Bautista, Y.; Ribes, C.; Edwards, M.
Journal of Imaging Science and Technology

Ceramic tile decorating techniques have evolved significantly in recent years. Digital inkjet printing technology has enabled digital systems to be used for the direct decoration of ceramic tiles, revolutionizing ceramic tile decoration and providing many advantages over traditional decoration techniques. It was the formulation of inks with soluble and vitrifiable stains that allowed inkjet printing technology to be introduced into ceramic tile decoration. The incorporation of milled inorganic pigments into the inks broadened the available color palette. However, the colloidal instability of these inks and the constraints of the printing heads themselves made it necessary to reduce pigment particle size, thus limiting color saturation and the color gamut. In order to increase color saturation and obtain a set of pigmented inks with colors more closely resembling CMYK colors, pigments with larger particle sizes need to be used. Indeed, other digital decorating techniques, such as xerography, allow larger particle sizes to be used, while also providing the advantages associated with digital decoration. However, the implementation of this technique for ceramic tile decoration requires the development of appropriate ceramic toners and adaptation of printing machines. This article reviews the technical evolution of ceramic tile printing and describes the development of a prototype, based on xerographic printing, that is able to print ceramic tiles directly and provides greater color intensity and a wider color gamut.