For those involved with the commercial glazing industry, the diversity of options glass can offer comes as no surprise—it transcends industries. One of the industries seeing a trend toward glass is the specialty graphics and printing market, as noticed at the Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) Expo currently being held this week in Orlando, Fla. The niche decorative trend of printing directly to glass, rather than an applicable vinyl or polyester graphic, is one many printing companies are prepared to meet head-on.

The SGIA confirms that there are more than 50 digital printing companies and more than 30 screen printing companies that have glass-printing capabilities involved with the association. Some of those companies say it’s still a growing trend for new construction, not retrofit.

While it is certainly a trend on the radar, several exhibitors say printing to vinyl or polyester may offer a much more practical solution for retrofit options.

“A lot of products are made optically clear … printing directly to glass is a market, but most people already have glass installed and aren’t going to pull that down to install,” said Gary Basham, account manager for the southeast region for AGFA Graphics.

It may still be too expensive of an alternative to reach more mainstream markets.

“It’s decorative, but there are other options,” Basham added, referring to graphics.

The trend has caught on overseas, however.

Dave Gleiter, central/southeast regional sales manager for Durst Image Technology U.S., said printing to glass is very popular in Europe and Japan and his company has a special group of printers for glass, but admits the trend is only slowly beginning to make its way to North American markets.

“As usual, a lot of these trends are slow to take on here,” he said.

Many of the digital printing exhibitors at the show confirmed they offer flatbed printers that have the capability to print on the specially treated glazing required for printing to glass. While retrofit graphics may offer a more practical solution in the short term, the rising trend of printing to glass could see some market growth in the coming years for new commercial glazing construction projects.