Stainless steel wire cloth is mainly used in screen printing processes, including inking onto glass and ceramic. An alternative use for this durable mesh cloth is creating printed circuit boards (PCBs); the tiny printed test points and component markings on the PCB's surface cannot be achieved manually. Other electronics, like liquid crystal displays (LCDs), also use stainless steel wire cloth to construct the electrically charged internal liquid layer.
Many glass and ceramic items, from bottles to tiles, have ink printed patterns along their exterior. To achieve this effect, production lines force ink through a stainless steel wire cloth onto the glass or ceramic. After drying, the ink will be in a specific pattern as designated by the designer. One main advantage to this cloth is its durability from its stainless steel construction; it can be reused for other printing projects.
PCBs are found within many different devices, from coffee makers to computers. The stainless steel wire cloth is used in a similar fashion to inking on glass or ceramic; the resulting printed numbers and letters on the PCB can indicate technician test points to verify functionality or designate component orientation positions by printing tiny squares along the surface. As technology improves, PCBs become smaller and smaller. The wire mesh use is imperative since the printed portions cannot be achieved through manual imprints by workers.
LCDs also use stainless steel wire cloth for placing the liquid crystals between the component's outside layers. Workers force the liquid crystal mixture through the mesh and trap the material between the LCD's polarized glass panels; this positioning allows the liquid to be electrically charged during device use to create numbers or letters across the surface. LCDs can be found in a variety of different devices, like stove top ovens and car dashboards.
The wire cloth can vary in mesh size, depending on the liquid or ink that needs to move through it. Manufacturers will purchase larger mesh sizes for thicker fluids, while thinner liquids will require a tighter mesh size. The stainless steel wire cloth is effective at producing a fine and clear image which makes it desirable for tight tolerances, like printing onto an extremely small PCB surface.
Manufacturers must use caution while choosing a cloth mesh size. Incorrectly sized mesh can result in large globules of ink across a surface; ceramics, glass, and even PCBs can be essentially wasted with excessive amounts of ink applied to their surfaces. In contrast, meshes that are too tight in spacing can actually stop fluids from moving through to the substrate.