For the new building of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision at the Mediapark in Hilversum, artist Jaap Drupsteen designed a façade covered in glass panels. Each panel has a raised colour image based on pictures from the television archive. TNO developed the process and the printer, which made this unique façade possible.
Saint Gobain Glass Solutions, the worlds biggest glass manufacturer, got the job of making the glass facade. Since there were no industrial processes capable of fulfilling all the aesthetic and technical requirements, the artist and manufacturer came to TNO. We responded by developing a powder printing process that can apply hardwearing coloured images to glass. Then we developed within a very short time frame a printer that could deposit the coloured powder on the glass. This allowed Saint Gobain to work in two shifts to produce the 2500 or so glass panels within half a year.
To be able to print the images Drupsteen wanted to have printed on the glass, TNO developed special colour translation software that converts the cyan, magenta and yellow of the normal printing process into specific quantities of red, blue and yellow glass powder.
In the powder printing process coloured glass powder in three base colours is deposited in precisely the right quantities at the right spot on a sheet of glass. The sheet of glass is then heated in an oven until the glass powder melts into the underlying glass whereby the three base colours mix into the right colour. This smelting process is also able to create a relief on the glass. The end result is characterised by exceptionally clear, transparent colours that have an excellent outside durability. TNO has applied for a patent for the powder printing process.