This blog is the second in our series on functional inks. In our previous blog (read here), we touched upon the various conductive inks used at GM Nameplate (GMN). In this blog, we will explore the different types and applications of non-conductive inks. Non-conductive inks, as the name indicates, do not conduct electricity, but are employed in vital functional products and decorative applications including sensors, membrane switches, graphic overlays, and labels. The non-conductive inks used at GMN include:
Dielectric inks: Dielectric inks are electrically insulating inks that work in tandem with conductive inks by protecting them. In a multi-layer construction of circuitry, dielectric inks prevent the various layers of conductive ink from interacting with each other. By creating insulating barriers, they avert electrical shorting and silver migration. Since most dielectric inks are ultra violet (UV) curable, they can be used on a broad spectrum of rigid and flexible substrates including bare or print-treated polyester, polycarbonate, and glass. They offer strong adhesion properties, superior flexibility, resistance to moisture and abrasion and are minimally affected by folds and bends. Dielectric inks are commonly used in membrane switches, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, antennas, and electrodes.
Graphic inks: As a custom manufacturer, GMN utilizes graphic inks in a wide range of its components and brand identity products such as nameplates, labels, decorative signs, decals, placards, elastomer keypads, and graphic overlays. The various types of graphic inks that GMN offers include solvent-based inks, water-based inks, UV curable inks, epoxy inks, and air-dry inks. The selection of the appropriate ink for any given application is dictated by a multitude of factors like surface energy and surface tension of the substrate, environmental conditions, and cost. GMN regularly employs screen printing, digital printing, lithographic printing, UV inkjet printing, and UV flexographic printing for the printing of graphic inks. With decades of experience, GMN can create an exact color match or provide a color that matches the Pantone matching system.
Specialty inks: While dielectric and graphic inks significantly dominate the realm of non-conductive inks at GMN, the use of specialty inks are gradually crawling up in the product development phase. The unique characteristics of specialty inks is finding new functional and decorative applications. The most common types of specialty inks seen today are:
a) Thermochromic inks: These are temperature-sensitive inks that change color when the ambient temperature increases beyond a pre-designated value. They come in many colors like shades of neon, blue, purple, etc. Common applications include labels, print advertising, fabrics, biomarkers and sensors.
b) Photochromic inks: These inks temporarily change color when exposed to UV light. Similar to thermochromic inks, these photochromic inks also come in several colors. They can be seen in light-sensitive eyewear solutions, body patches to detect exposure to sunlight, and clothing.
c) Hydrochromic inks: These inks change color when they interact with or get immersed in water. Typical applications include packaging solutions, decorative umbrellas, and clothing.
GMN relies on industry-leading ink compounders to formulate custom inks for its varied customers. Our long-standing relationships with the ink compounders enables GMN to mitigate price volatility and improve efficiency by reducing production lead times. It also allows GMN to meet diverse manufacturing needs and remain agile during the product development process. While each application calls for a specific ink and printing process, GMN works with each customer from beginning to end to determine the needs of the project and provide effective solutions.