Canon Solutions America Inc., Large Format Printing Systems

Océ Arizona Series Printers Ideal for Producing Membrane Switch Overlays

Océ has announced that Océ Arizona Series UV flatbed printers can be part of a digital or hybid production system to create Membrane Switch Overlays (MSOs). Océ will be showing MSOs produced on an Océ Arizona Series printer in its booth #435 at the Specialty Graphic and Imaging Association (SGIA) annual exhibition in Las Vegas, October 18-20, 2012.

A membrane switch is a low profile flexible electrical device for turning a circuit on and off. Typically made up of several layers, the top layer – or overlay – is the graphic interface between the user and the machine. Used in a variety of products – from fuel pumps to microwave ovens – MSOs are everywhere. Current market projections indicate that the global printed electronics market, of which membrane switch printing is a component, is expected to grow to approximately $24 billion by 2015. There are approximately 150 companies in the U.S. that cite membrane switches as their primary product. In 2011, the outsourced portion of MSO printing was estimated at $700 million for the North American market.

When developing MSOs, electronics manufacturers are now looking for printing equipment that can provide more colors and gradients with the option to use images, logos and pictures. In addition to the new complexities in design is an industry demand for short runs, rapid prototyping, and just-in-time turnarounds making fully digital printing a must.

Océ Arizona UV flatbed printers are ideally suited for the digital production of MSOs. Every Océ Arizona Series printer model gives designers control and freedom while reducing start-up costs and shortening delivery times.

Digital printing enables design freedom

In the digital world, millions of colors are available to print. Digital print service providers – and electronics manufacturers that produce MSOs in-house – can offer their customers a competitive advantage by enabling them to use any combination of colors beyond the limits of the five or six found in screenprinting, including gradients and images, to create complex and appealing designs. With an Océ Arizona printer, users can print directly onto film exactly what their customers want.

Reduce turnaround time and start-up costs

Run lengths of jobs are getting shorter and customers are demanding faster delivery times. Printing directly to film with an Océ Arizona printer means there are no screens and inks to prepare, as well as no press set-up time, eliminating these steps and associated costs. This helps maximize profit and opens up new opportunities to accept short-run jobs that cannot be produced economically using traditional screenprinting.

A recent test conducted by Océ in Europe using identical samples was run using a screenprint-only process vs. an Océ Arizona printing in a hybrid production process. The results showed that the Océ Arizona hybrid process reduced the production time by up to 30 percent and reduced material costs by up to 16 percent.

Fully digital or hybrid process

With an Océ Arizona printer, print service providers and in-house production facilities have the flexibility to produce MSOs using either fully digital or hybrid processes, to best suit the needs of their customers.

Fully digital: In this process, all MSO layers are printed using an Océ Arizona printer. The flatbed table architecture assures accurate repeatability for precise placement on compact overlays. With a fully digital production method users can instantly produce genuine prototypes that can help them win business.

Hybrid process: For demanding MSO applications, a hybrid production process – a combination of digital and traditional screenprinting – is advised. In this process, an Océ Arizona printer is used to produce the colored layers and the MSO films are finished on the screen press by applying the flood layer(s).

Excellent print quality

Every Océ Arizona printer includes the groundbreaking Océ VariaDot® technology. By dispensing ink droplets that vary in size, this technology produces sharper lines and text and smoother colors, gradients and images than those printed on six-color, fixed dot printers or on traditional screen presses.

The true flatbed architecture of Océ Arizona printers gives it the ability to hold media stationery, enabling it to print multiple layers with highly accurate registration. This cannot be achieved using printers that move the overlay film while printing. The extremely high quality and exacting registration enables the production of overlays – as well as prototypes – quickly and easily, giving MSO printers a competitive edge by enabling faster turnaround at a lower cost.

Reduce chemical waste

Unlike traditional screenprinting, digital printing significantly reduces the need for chemicals used to develop films, to produce screens and to screenprint the overlays. In addition, these printers reduce energy usage, chemical emissions and ink waste.

Production run of 300 MSO pieces using screenprinting vs. the hybrid process:

  • Turnaround: Screen = 36.8 hours vs. Hybrid = 18.3 hours
  • Costs (excluding overlay film cost): Screen = €1,900 vs. Hybrid = €1,250