What is Digital Ceramic Printing?

By Kristopher Baier

Digital Printing for Ceramic Decorating


Digital printing technology is an on-going revolution that has spawned new business opportunities and brought some close to extinction.  I rarely have photos developed at a print shop anymore.  One of the most recent business opportunities spawned by digital printing technology is the ability to use digital printing to decorate ceramic products.  Ceramic materials are some of the most durable on Earth.  But the highly abrasive nature of ceramic pigments has been a problem for digital printing processes until very recently.  The ability to use high resolution digital printing devices to reproduce ceramic art is a windfall for the ceramic artist and a new business opportunity for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. 


A Little History


There is well established demand for everything personal.  People love things that are unique to them and reflect their own sensibilities. But the ability to have ceramic products uniquely personalized has been difficult because of the physical properties of ceramic pigments which hard, jagged, abrasive little rocks.  Enter a digital printing technology called dye sublimation, or just dye-sub.  Sublimation is a term use to describe materials that change from solid to vapor without going through a liquid phase – like dry ice.  In the case of dye-sub printing it is the colorant (ink, there is no ceramic pigment in dye sub ink) that goes from solid to vapor and then back to solid as it hits the target.  Dye sub has been used to print on a wide variety of substrates, everything from tee shirts to mouse pads to cell phone covers. But what does this have to do with ceramic decorating? More...