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I have been doing hardware design for years but never really cared which process was used for the silkscreen. Now I have a manufacturer asking for a blanket approval to use acrylic silkscreen on all the PCBs they make for me.

On its face I don't see a problem but like everything in hardware, there can by many hidden trade-offs and differences...

What are the advantages of acrylic silkscreen?

What are the advantages of epoxy silkscreen?

When would you pick one over the other?

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Acrylic silkscreen is generally printed onto the PCB using effectively an inkjet printer. Epoxy silkscreen is generally applied using a wet film. Acrylic is generally UV-curable, whereas epoxy is generally baked.

In my experience, acrylic silkscreen tends to be a cheaper, less time-intensive process, but the quality is not as good. If you look closely at the printed silkscreen you will generally see the different "pixels" and jagged edges, and will make small text much more difficult to read. Epoxy silkscreen tends to be much smoother, but is a more expensive process.

Here is an image showing the difference between the printed silkscreen and the wet silkscreen:

enter image description here

Image from Dave Jones' EEVblog video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEB0pl8a5C0

And here is a comparison chart from http://blog.optimumdesign.com/toward-a-more-rational-silkscreen :

enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ holy cow.. that is a thorough answer. thanks for putting the time in. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rontopia
    Nov 5, 2016 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Glad you found it helpful! \$\endgroup\$
    – DerStrom8
    Nov 5, 2016 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ question: none conductive epoxy = LPI in your table? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rontopia
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rontopia I took this table from the source linked above, it is not mine. I believe the epoxy = LPI but you'll have to contact the creator of the table to be sure. I haven't looked at this in almost a year \$\endgroup\$
    – DerStrom8
    Aug 24, 2017 at 1:29

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