Pad Printing: The Best Printing Method for Manufacturers and OEMs
But many times, so is something like printing.
Think for a moment about the many brands you interact with every day. Given a couple minutes, you could probably picture at least a dozen logos and company emblems. In every case, there’s a good chance you know those brands because of printing.
Needless to say, printing has come a long way since the olden days of “wood block printing,” the revolution of moveable type, and the gutenburg press. However, modern printing technology continues to make ripples in the industrial world. When it comes to printing for OEMs, manufacturers, and big businesses, one of the best emerging printing methods is pad printers for OEM printing.
Pad printing is a “direct offset” printing process (otherwise known as gravure printing). It is incredibly effective at quickly and accurately transferring a 2-D image onto a surface. However, its particular area of expertise is transferring an image onto a 3-D object. This makes pad printers extremely adept at printing on products that aren’t flat, which leaves quite a few products to print on! To accomplish this, the printing process transfers the image from an ink filled printing plate, known as the cliche, to a flexible silicone pad. The silicone pad is then pressed against the surface (or substrate). Due to the way the ink used in pad printing is formulated, the top layer that is exposed to air becomes tacky. This allows it to cling to the silicon pad and be easily tansferred to the printing surface, resulting in a smooth and flexible process that works for just about any surface.
Before pad printing came around, industrial screen printing also gained widespread use. However, one of the major barriers that manufacturers were encountering with screenprinting was the fact that is was incredibly difficult to print on irregular surfaces with a large screenprinting machine. On the other end of the industrial spectrum, the same limitations were also discovered when it came to printing on electronics. You see, many of the electronics you use every day take advantage of what are known as membrane switches. A membrane switch is an electrical switch that turns a circuit not mechanically, but with a conductive circuit that’s been printed onto a PET or ITO circuit board.
Because of the highly flexible nature of pad printing, printing a membrane switch on a curved appliance panel is no problem due to the highly flexible nature of the silicone pad. This poses a problem for the other traditional printing methods used by manufacturers around the world. On the other hand, manufacturers with a pad printing machine can quickly and easily print on just about any surface — even if the product is entirely round. This makes pad printing ideal for everything from golf balls to touch-screen washing machines.