Manufacturing Highlight: Fine Expression Silk Printing

November 17, 2021 • Posted in In Mold Labeling


At Sanwa, we sometimes get asked about the “least expensive” or “fastest” or “most lightweight” options for decorative printing. And while we have decades of experience that allows us to point our customers in any one of those directions singly, we’d rather fulfill all of our customers’ needs while also ensuring that quality comes first. Where durability meets aesthetics and cost-efficiency - that’s where Fine Expression Silk Printing (FESP) comes into play.

Fine Expression Silk Printing pattern

What is Fine Expression Silk Printing?

Silk printing (also known as screen printing or serigraph printing) is a technique where ink is transferred to a substrate, like a plastic film or part, via a mesh screen that acts as a stencil. As a blade is moved over the top of the screen, it pushes the ink through the fine mesh apertures and adheres it to the part below.

Our in-house fine expressions silk printing (FESP) method in particular enables high-definition patterns on IML printed parts by using advanced plate-making technologies. These allow us to print on uneven shapes (like bends and curves) and also apply a hard coat treatment to the film, thereby improving a part’s overall durability and longevity.

FESP is used for a wide range of industries, though we receive the most requests for this process from the automotive and appliance industries. Why? This type of printing allows for unique and realistic patterns that can bring high-end and long-lasting products to life, such as wood-grain or granite textures. Products can boast these types of patterns that consumers are drawn to, while not sacrificing weight or durability.

wood grain printed part

Benefits of Fine Expression Silk Printing

A major benefit of FESP is the ability to save on the overall weight of a part. Rather than opt for heavy metal or stone, many suppliers are looking to IML printed parts as a lightweight alternative. This is especially true in electric vehicle (EV) applications, where every ounce counts. A lighter-weight car can go longer and faster on a charge than one that is weighed down with heavy materials.

Another benefit is the variety of patterns and colors available with FESP. The wide range of color and tone matching capabilities makes FESP a great choice for aesthetic reasons. In fact, FESP can also be used to create uneven patterns and textures that mimic natural materials like stained wood, granite or metal. We’re told time and time again that it looks like the real thing!

Other benefits of FESP include:

  • Various designs can be expressed at a low initial cost (compared to other processes)

  • Sheet-fed printing is easier to align for accuracy and repeatability

  • There’s a shorter lead time compared with other printing

  • A hard coat treatment can be applied to improve durability


fine expression silk printing expo

What Can Fine Expression Silk Printing Be Used For?


FESP allows our customers to be creative and intentional with their patterning, without racking up exorbitant costs. It can confidently be used for high-end products that need to stand the test of time (like vehicles and high-end appliances) with the addition of a hard coat that can withstand both environmental and chemical elements.

Examples of patterns that can be created with FESP include:

  • Wood-grain

  • Leather

  • Hairline/brush stroke

  • Checkers

  • Granite/stone

  • Metal

  • Graphic watermarks

Ask Us About Fine Expression Silk Printing


Our customers rely on Sanwa for exacting quality performance, and the ability to meet the challenge of complex designs. Our FESP technology allows for printing on bent, rounded and 3D surfaces, while applying meticulous patterns and textures. These capabilities - coupled with industry leading in-mold labeling (IML) - give our customers a competitive edge time and time again.

Contact us to ask about FESP for your specific part or application, and learn how this process can be used to meet your production goals.