What’s left in the market for the U.S. decorating industry? It is definitely not decorating with slow, laborious processes. For the industry to remain viable, we must move forward with the implementation of automated decorating technology.
For decorators, implementing automated technologies will require constant reevaluation of current practices and a willingness to explore new ideas. By creating a demand for new solutions, decorators can help ensure that our industry will continue to move forward.
Integrating techniques, equipment, materials and processes that are used in other industries will also help our industry forge ahead with automated decorating. Many non-traditional vendors might have products that can work for us. For many years, ink manufacturers have formulated heat transfer inks for non-fire applications that require the permanent marking of plastic, wood, metal and glass. Why can’t we incorporate some of these different raw materials into our processes?
Heat release does not address all the problems we face in our industry, but its implementation puts us on course to competitiveness. Many improvements can be associated with heat release transfers. For example, a reduction in labor costs and repeatable, precise positioning of images makes for better and less expensive finished goods. Additionally, the elimination of water from the decorating process adds speed by allowing immediate firing of ware and eliminating the need to maintain a staging area where decaled ware must sit to dry. A cooperative effort on the part of the designer, decal printer and decorator is imperative for success in developing products that can take full advantage of the automated application of decals.
Technology and innovation are the only tools we have to keep decorating viable in this country. Most of the manufacturing that has vanished will not return. Yet there is a still a need for the manufacture of a product that can be brought to market with tremendous speed, efficiency, economy and added value. As the life cycle of most goods continues to be shortened, our response time to market changes takes on a greater role and gives us new opportunities in today’s market. We must identify those specific areas where we can generate the most impact and engage them quickly.
This is the time of year when our industry will gather at the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators annual show, DECO 2003. I hope we all take advantage of the opportunity presented at this year’s show to enhance our knowledge of the new developments and products available for decorating.