The decoration of ceramic and glass articles is primarily accomplished with analogue printing methodologies today. Images are printed onto transfer decals with inks containing inorganic pigments and glass frits. The decals are mass produced with silk screen and other printing methods. In a secondary operation, these decals are used to transfer the printed image onto the glass or ceramic article. However, demands are increasing for more customization in these types of printing applications. Current analogue technologies like silk screen printing have expensive set-up costs, making short runs impractical. Digital printing technologies offer a solution for inexpensive short runs for such applications. However, the types of inorganic pigments and glass frits used in glass and ceramic decoration are not compatible with many non-impact printing methodologies. Thermal transfer printing has been found to be an effective approach to digitally print transfer decals for glass and ceramic decoration. The pigments and frits used in such applications are dispersible in thermal transfer inks. In tern, these inks are coated onto thermal transfer ribbons. The ribbons can then be used to digitally print images onto the conventional transfer decals commonly used in this industry.
Daniel J. Harrison, Pam Geddes, "Digital Ceramics and Glass Decoration with Thermal Transfer Printing" in Proc. IS&T Int'l Conf. on Digital Printing Technologies (NIP18), 2002, pp 205 - 207, https://doi.org/10.2352/ISSN.2169-4451.2002.18.1.art00049_1