As of 2019, the UK was the world’s fifth-largest producer of printed products, with around 8,000 companies operating within the printing industry. We’ve seen a number of significant developments in recent years within the printing sector. In particular, R&D in the printing industry has helped enhance the quality of products in the market, reduce costs, improve operational or product efficiencies, and strive to become more environmentally friendly. 3D printing has also swiftly become an integral part of manufacturing and production processes, facilitating the creation of accurate prototypes and designs at high speed and low cost. The technology has transformed everything from trade accessories to food packaging and processing.
Kene Partners is pleased to be a member of FESPA UK (Federation of European Screen Printers Association) which is one of the biggest printing associations in the UK. FESPA has 37 national associations worldwide and Kene Partners work closely with them to prepare R&D Tax claims for their members.
Some examples of potential sector trends of R&D within the print industry include:
Development of new inks that can be printed with new printers / on emergent substrates
There are often challenges to replicate the colour consistency of new inks when printing using new printers or onto different substrates.
Development of inks that are cheaper / environmentally friendlier / more efficient
To remain competitive within the printing industry, companies will look to enhance their product offering by developing a new range of inks that are superior to existing market solutions.
Development of new substrates to be printed on
Companies may try to introduce a new material that may be cheaper or more environmentally friendly, that need to be modified to enable ease of printing onto using the existing technologies and ink – these substrates are unlikely to be specified in the printer manufacturer’s guidelines.
Enhancing the printer set-up to provide additional capability or decrease set-time
This could involve introducing non-manufacturer parts into the printer, with trials required to confirm whether these parts can be integrated successfully.
Enhancing colour consistency of latex printers
A company looked to produce large-format prints for application onto windows to create a multi-coloured effect. The prints were produced using a latex printer, however the print colour produced was inconsistent. In the printer’s guidelines it stated that there should not have been a problem with colour consistency between print runs, and the company looked to understand what was causing the inconsistency.
Information about how to improve the colour consistency was not documented in the printer’s guidelines and was unavailable in the public domain. Thus, an advance in capability to enable printing with high colour consistency using latex printers was sought.
It was uncertain what changes to the printer and its immediate environment would facilitate a satisfactory colour accuracy. The company initially investigated the effect of controlling the air moisture levels on the factory floor. This improved accuracy but distortions were still present. Investigations were undertaken on the effect of changing substrate temperature being fed into the printer. Substrate temperatures were varied and subsequently the company identified a temperature that enabled a high level of consistency. The substrate tension being fed into the printer was also investigated, whereby different levels of tension were assessed for their efficacy.
It was found that modifying the printer by adding a variable tensioning bar was effective; this bar could adapt pressure based on the amount of material in the substrate reservoir. Enabling a variable functionality required further trials to investigate a viable integration of the bar into the printer.
3D printing has also swiftly become an integral part of manufacturing and production processes, facilitating the creation of accurate prototypes and designs at high speed and low cost. The technology has transformed everything from trade accessories to food packaging and processing.
Katerina is passionate about chemistry and its diversity of topics, from materials chemistry to cosmetic chemistry. Her previous experience includes working in a material testing laboratory alongside NASA and British Safety Industry Federation.
At Kene Partners, we have extensive experience in the printing industry, which enables us to accurately identify eligible projects undertaken by clients across the industry. Book your free consultation to discover qualifying activities in your business and see how much your claim could be worth.
R&D Tax Analyst