Archive for : May, 2013

What Pad Printing Machines are right for my application?

Pad printing has many uses in a diverse set of industries. The uses range from printing on toys, appliances, electronics, medical devices and even automobiles. The process of pad printing focuses on the ability to transfer a 2-D image onto a 3-D object. This procedure is completed by using an indirect offset printing process which involves the image being transferred from a cliché on a silicone pad. From this pad it is then transferred onto a substrate.

When referring to pad printing applications they fall into three primary categories:

  • Printing
  • Decoration
  • Coding

Printing is defined as the applied application of ink onto a substrate. This is a four color process and is usually used when printing multicolor symbols and lettering. Decoration it is generally used in collaboration with a design to enhance the looks of a product. These products are asymmetrical designs with single or multicolor pigments. Coding is used for informational printing only. This type of printing will be legible but not necessarily high quality like the other methods mentioned.

So how do you know which pad printing machines to purchase? The first question might be obvious, but ask yourself, does your application actually need the pad printing process? The dimensional tolerance, surface finish and frequency of batches are the primary areas of focus when deciding if you need a pad printing machine.

Basic Pad Printing Technologies in Use Today

We now take a look at the three basic technologies that are used in pad printing today: open inkwell, closed ink cup and rotary gravure.

Open Inkwell Pad Printing

  • Requires the use of a spatula and doctor blade
  • Very versatile
  • Utilizes a cliche holder that uses an open ink reservoir

A feature that is commonplace with all machines is the need to flood the cliché image with ink. After this you need to doctor it clean. This type of machine uses a spatula and doctor blade. The spatula is used to flood the image with ink during the machine processing stage. The doctor blade then clears the excess ink from the surface of the printing plate. At the same time the machine completes this without removing the ink from the etched area.

Closed Ink Cup Technology

  • Universally used
  • Ink is contained in an inverted cup, reducing solvent evaporation
  • Does not require a spatula

Closed ink cup technology was originally introduced in the mid 1980’s. Today it has been universally accepted with customers from around the world. One of the key features that makes it so popular is that the ink is encapsulated in an inverted cup. By doing this it limits solvent evaporation. Closed ink cup technology also does not require a spatula.

Rotary Gravure Technology

  • Frequently used for printing around the circumference of a circular/spherical part
  • Uses open inkwells

Finally we have the RTI system (otherwise known as rotary gravure technology). This technology is frequently used in applications that need printing on 360 degrees around a circumference of a part. Open inkwell technology and RTI technology are similar in design as they both use open inkwells and doctor blade assemblies. A cylindrical steel drum is used for the printing plate, which contains the etch on its surface. The RTI system also features a silicone transfer pad that is circular and is made from an aluminum hub.

What is Pad Printing?

Many times, we get the question: Well, what is pad printing?  If you happen to be wondering the same thing, read on!

Pad printing is a modern printing process that can be used to quickly transfer 2-D images on to all sorts of 3-D objects. However, before getting into a description of what pad printing is, it’s important to first define a few specific elements that pad printing relies on.

First, it’s important to understand gravure printing. Gravure printing, put simply, is printing that etches an image onto the surface of a metal plate. This places the images – in ink form – in the recesses of the metal plate, unlike relief printing (where the image is raised). By filling the recesses with ink, and leaving the raised portions of the plate dry, the image can be transferred from the plate to the substrate quickly and cleanly. Gravure printing can produce very fine and detailed images on short or long runs in multiple colors.

Beyond the gravure printing process, pad printing also relies on printing plates – or clichés. In traditional offset printing, printing relies on transferring an inked image from an offset (the plate) to a rubber blanket which then makes contact with the print surface. When compared to other modern printing methods, offset printing with plates is one of the best solutions when it comes to economically producing commercial quantities of high quality prints, without requiring much maintenance.  Today, clichés are made from metal or polyester.

However, pad printing is unique when compared to other gravure and offset printing methods in that the ink is transferred from the printing plate with a silicone pad, which then transfers the ink to the substrate. This allows pad printing to be used for printing on a number of products that would otherwise be impossible to print on, including medical products, electronics, appliances, toys, sports equipment, and more.

Crude forms of the basic premise behind pad printing have existed for hundreds of years. However, the popularity of the process enjoyed rapid expansion when the availability of modern manufacturing made widespread commercial use feasible. This expansion was felt first by the watch-making industry after the Second World War, which then gave way to pad printing being used for far more products. Since then, pad printing has experienced substantial growth due to the many applications that have found a use for it.

Partly to thank for the rapid growth of pad printing has been the increased availability of advanced silicone. The unique properties of the silicon pad in pad printing gives the process its highly sought after ability to pick the image up from a flat plate and then transfer it to a number of surfaces – including flat, spherical, textured, concave, and convex surfaces. This makes pad printing invaluable for everyone from appliance manufacturers to electronics manufacturers who need a better solution for membrane switch printing.

 

An Eco-Friendly Industrial Printing Alternative

It’s a simple formula: All Electric = Green. This is true not only in terms of the environment, but also your wallet.

One of the most prevalent power sources used for industrial printing methods (and manufacturing as a whole) is compressed air. However, compressed air is actually incredibly wasteful. In fact, compressed air is one of the largest secret sources of waste.

This is because the generation, use, and storage of compressed air is incredibly inefficient on…well…just about every level. This inefficiency begins with the fact that compressed air requires the user to take a completely functional power source – electricity – and convert it into a different form of power.

If you’ve ever stood near an air compressor at a factor, you might be familiar with how hot it can get. This is only scratches the surface of understanding how much waste compressed air creates. The heat you feel near a compressor definitely doesn’t generate itself. In reality, it is pure waste.

From inside the compressor, it is necessary to “condition” the new power with what is essentially an industrial sized air conditioner. This is necessary because otherwise the hot air would quickly cool down, which would eventually destroy your machinery with moisture. A “chiller” solves that problem by cooling the air. However, this also requires a great deal of power that ends up costing businesses a lot of money. It’s almost like running your air conditioner, all the time.

30% of compressed air generated in the average factory is lost due to small and large leaks that are virtually unavoidable.

Once air actually leaves the compressor, it then fills the factory lines and – eventually—leaks out through joints and connectors. Actually, 30% of compressed air generated in the average factory is lost due to small and large leaks that are virtually unavoidable. After the electricity is used to “create” the compressed air, this significantly adds to the already inefficient nature of the power source.

When it comes to pad printing, there are many solutions available that are powered solely by electricity – which gives manufacturers and businesses an eco-friendly solution that saves more in the long run. For instance, even the smallest pad printers are capable of saving hundreds of dollars on electricity per shift – which translates to incredible savings overall. On top of this, compressor and chiller maintenance is avoided.

Businesses of all kinds around the world rely on efficiency to stay competitive. At the same time many of the same businesses depend on printing at various stages of manufacturing. While many printing methods might seem like they work fine, an all electric pad printer can make a significant difference.

Industrial Printing 101: Printing Membrane Switches with Pad Printing vs. Screen Printing

Look at it historically. Look at it in a business sense. Look at it anyway you want. In every case, printing has changed the world. However, in the industrial world, printing has become particularly important

At Innovative Marking Systems we frequently help our clients come up with the industrial printing solutions they need to make a difference for their product, their efficiency, and their bottom line. Let’s face it, printing is a big deal for everyone. But an effective industrial printing solution can mean the difference between efficiency and waste.

It goes beyond simply putting ink on paper, cardboard, and plastic. In fact, because of the rapidly growing importance of membrane switches in the industrial world, printing has continued to evolve along with technology. But first, what is a membrane switch? A membrane switch is an electrical switch that is typically used for turning a circuit either on or off.

Membrane switches are printed on either ITO or PET, using ink with copper, graphite, or silver. This makes the ink conductive. As a part, membrane switches are valuable interfacing utilities that enable the communication of commands from a user to a specific electronic device. In many cases, membrane switches are similar to plastic keyboards and touch screens. They are frequently used in appliance panels, keypads, lighting controls, keyboards for computers, and much more.

Recently, the membrane-switch market has experienced dramatic growth and reached an almost unprecedented level. However, so has equipment design. Membrane switch printing in the past has almost always been done with industrial screen printing. However, pad printing has emerged as a more effective, precise, and efficient printing method for producing membrane switches. While screen printing can be incredibly effective for membrane switch printing, what is to be done if membrane printing needs to take place on a curved or 3D surface? In the past, membrane switches have relied  fully on screen making to create the proper image for the printing process. However, when it comes to products that aren’t flat, this can pose a frustrating problem for OEM’s around the world.  That’s where pad printing excels.

When it comes to pad printing, there’s no masking, vacuum adjustment, squeegees, presses, floodbars, or potentially costly press adjustments. At the same time, when screen printing is used for membrane switch printing, time must be spent cleaning and reclaiming the screens – which must be thoroughly cleaned and processed (along with all other printing equipment) to prevent contamination.  By eliminating these steps with a pad printing solution, businesses printing on virtually anything save time and money by streamlining the printing process when it comes to creating effective and reliable membrane-printed layers.

When it comes to manufacturing products that rely on membrane switches, the most critical part of the printed membrane is the conductive print. Through effective printing, the ink essentially becomes the heartbeat of the finished product. If it’s not done properly, no matter how good the overlays, the switch simply won’t work as intended and costly re-printing will be necessary.

Due to silicone, ink, and plate technology gradually improving over time, pad printing now presents a serious advantage over older forms of membrane printing. In fact, while membrane switch printing represents one of the most major applications to benefit from pad printing, the process is used for far more. By using robotic machinery and even laser guided systems, everything from coasters and plates to sporting equipment and coffee mugs can be pad printed. The technique is even used to print edible “ink” on certain types of candy. When compared to screen printing, the process provides excellent resolution, making it a better option when working with halftones, defined edges, and other fine details. However pad printing is limited in terms of speed, print area and ink opacity, and it can sometimes create slight variations in tone on large, solid areas of color. Additionally, multiple colors must still be applied separately during pad printing, which means that registration errors may occur. Despite few limitations, pad printing is quickly becoming the printing technique of choice for unusually shaped products, especially those with finely printed details.

 

Pad Printing: The Printing Method of Choice for Membrane Switch Printing and More

It is undeniable that printing has changed the world, perhaps more than many other inventions. Beginning with woodblock printing and extending to the highly advanced 3D printing we see around the world today, printing has continued to grow into a fact of life for individuals and industries alike.

At Innovative Marking Systems we witness this every day, and we truly believe that pad printing can be the innovative printing method that businesses around the world can benefit from. So, in the grand scheme of all things printing where does pad printing enter the equation?

Pad printing is a process that is capable of quickly and effectively transferring a 2-D image onto a 3-D object by using an indirect offset printing process (otherwise known as gravure) that transfers the image from the cliché via a silicone pad, onto the surface being printed. However, pad printing is considered an indirect printing process because, like gravure printing, it uses an etched plate (cliché). However, the plate never comes into direct contact with the substrate. Instead, it’s the flexible silicon pad’s job to pick the ink up from the cliché plate and carry it over to the substrate. By combining the unique properties of silicone with stickier ink, pad printing machines are capable of printing on curved surfaces better than any other printing method.

Because of a pad printer’s ability to quickly and accurately print on 3D and curved surfaces without any extra equipment, it has become the method of choice for printing on products that would be impossible to print on otherwise, including automotive, medical, promotional, and electronics products, as well as appliance panels and membrane switches for electronics virtually everywhere. By using silicon pads with varying thicknesses, pad printers can effectively mold and conform to an almost limitless array of substrates, including flat, cylindrical, compound angles, spherical, textures, concave, and convex surfaces.

In some occasions, pad printing competes with methods like silk screening for industrial use. However when it comes to any surface that isn’t flat – like printing on a curved appliance panel or a spherical object – pad printing takes the cake with inexpensive pad printing plates and silicon pads in an almost limitless number of configurations. Unlike screen printing, pad printing is a modern process that benefits from a number of modern technologies. Not only has printing advanced over time, so has the production of silicone, ink, and the plates used for actual printing. This all comes together as a printing solution that gives businesses a seriously versatile option when it comes to printing on just about anything.

While silk screening can sometimes struggle with providing high resolution printing and less of an ability to work with halftones and very fine details, pad printing excels. Pad printing trades speed and the ability to work with a great deal of opacity for incredible capabilities when it comes to providing incredible detail and resolution on virtually any surface. Silk screening remains the method of choice for DIY printers, but pad printing has achieved a great deal of prominence with industries and businesses that need to print logos and simple graphics on everything from washing machines to soccer balls.

The Best Method for Industrial Printing on Curved Panels and Appliances

Printing used to be a very complicated process. Complicated and limited. It began with woodblock printing, which is about as basic as it gets. Eventually, over one thousand years after woodblock printing originated in ancient China, the printing press changed everything, but it was still very limited by today’s standards.

Fast forward to a period where technology progresses in the blink of an eye, and we have many more options when it comes to printing. However, with products of every shape and size coming with limitless contours and curves, it can be difficult to find the best solution. That’s where TOSH Pad Printers come in.

Pad printing is a unique process that makes it possible to quickly and efficiently transfer an image onto an irregular surface. To do so, it uses an indirect offsite printing process that combines the printing plate (otherwise known as a “cliché”) and a flexible silicone pad to transfer the ink from the etched printing plate to just about any surface. Back then, the process was used to effectively print on the face of watches, but it was still a relatively young process. However, advancement in terms of the silicon pads and advanced equipment used for pad printing meant that it could be used on just about everything. This put pad printing on the fast track to becoming an extremely flexible printing method for businesses around the world. Because of this, printing on curved surfaces like appliance panel can be done very easily with a single machine. But how does it work?

First, from the “home” position, a sealed ink cup is lowered over the etched plate – covering the image and filling it with ink.

Second, the sealed ink cup is removed from the etched plate. Due to the way the ink is formulated, it becomes tacky immediately after being exposed to air.

Third, the transfer pad then lowers onto the printing plate for an instant, and as the pad is compressed air pressure is used to transfer the ink from the etched artwork onto the silicone pad, leaving a small amount of ink on the printing plate.

Finally, the silicone pad moves forward and the ink cup fills the etched plate again to prepare for the next printing cycle. Meanwhile, the silicone pad compresses onto the print surface, which transfers the ink layer onto the product. When the silicone pad lifts away from the substrate, it completes the print cycle. Most projects involve many print cycles.

But why is this an alternative to industrial screen printing?

The main advantages of pad printing when compared to other methods, is a pad printing machine’s unique ability to print on irregular shapes and virtually any material – including glass, coated substrates, plastic, metal, ceramics, silicones, foods, and pharmaceuticals.

On the other hand, printing methods like screen printing are limited to printing on flat surfaces or round surfaces only.

Meanwhile, pad printing offers manufacturers all of the capabilities of a screen printer, but with a level of flexibility and versatility that can’t be found with any other method. On top of this, pad printing machines provide greater print quality while also allowing the printer to perform at a higher speed, reverse direction, and make fine adjustments on-the-go. With methods like modern screen printing, which are also frequently used for this purpose, the same would simply not be possible. This is fortunate for companies producing virtually every kind of product, especially from a branding perspective.

Pad printing for appliance panels has emerged as the method of choice for printing on products of every shape and size and has quickly replaced screen printing when it comes to printing for products, parts, and components. Apart from simple appliance decorating, it has also been used for the printing of knobs, dials, and many other appliance parts. Other products typically printed by pad printers include medical devices, hockey pucks, toys, automotive parts (such as turn signal indicators and panel controls), computer keyboards, televisions, and the serial numbers used for many different applications.

If you’re looking for a printing process that’s flexible and powerful – pad printing is likely to fit the bill.

How You Rely on Modern Printing Technology

When it comes to the things we might take for granted in our day to day lives, printing remains a fantastic example of a technology that has indefinitely altered the world, while remaining relatively underappreciated. At Innovative Marking Systems, we might be an exception to the rule — because we think about new ways to print everyday. After all, when it comes down to it, printing is a big deal. Whether you’re printing on curved surfaces, printing on appliance panels, or virtually anything else — a pad printer can almost always do what you need it to (especially when it’s from TOSH).

With all of the printing technologies available today, the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to what we print, how we print, and what we’re capable of printing on. Fortunately, TOSH pad printers are capable of handling just about all of it.

In fact, many businesses are directly affected by the ability of the printing industry to find new and innovative ways to print on various products. Consider for instance the electronics you use. Many of them rely on “membrane switches”. A membrane switch is, essentially, a circuit. However, instead of being a mechanical switch, a membrane switch is created by printing on PET or ITO with copper, silver, or graphite ink for conductivity. To better imagine how a membrane switch might fit into a real world application, you can simply think of it in the same way you would a touch screen or a plastic keyboard. In every case, they help the user (you) give commands to a piece of electronic equipment like your washing machine or dish washer.

Then again, if it wasn’t for the rapid growth and innovation of various printing technologies, membrane switches would be no more than an idea, and the electronics we use would remain as they were when electrical switches were larger, less flexible, and far less advanced. Modern printing methods like screen printing and – more recently – pad printing, have made printing membrane switches faster and more efficient for industries around the world.

Put simply, pad printing is a direct offsite printing process that can transfer a 2-D image onto a 3-D object. In order to do this, the printer transfers the image from a plate, to a flexible silicon pad, and then to the actual product. Pad printing has emerged as an incredibly effective printing method for printing on virtually any surface (or substrate). While screen printing has been widely used for the same purpose for many years, technologies like pad printing represent a newer and potentially more effective and flexible printing method that delivers greater efficiency and clearer results. This underscores the fact that modern printing is as much a concern for industries as it is for consumers. In fact, the importance of printing in the industrial world directly affects consumers everywhere, which actually brings us back to industrial pad printing.

With more and more materials being used and the various shapes, contours, and profiles present in products ranging from sporting goods to electronics – businesses need a printing method that can quickly and effectively handle it all. For that reason, methods like pad printing exist to flexibly cover the spectrum of industrial printing applications.