Tips for Successful Pad Printing
Learn how to use pad printing equipment successfully.
These pad printing basics will get you off the ground in no time. Pad printing is like a versatile version of screen printing that is used to transfer 2D images onto 3D objects. Pad printing equipment transfers images from a printing plate, also known as a cliché. The cliché is flooded with ink and wiped clean so that there is only ink in the etched area. Pad printers use of a mixture of solvents and inks that become tacky when exposed to the air, increasing the ink’s ability to adhere to a silicone transfer pad. The pad is positioned over the cliché and pressed onto it in order to pick up the ink.
After the pad is lifted away from the cliché, it is pressed against a substrate, the surface that is to be printed. The pad deposits virtually all of the ink in the desired location and then lifts away from the substrate, ready for the next print cycle. Pad printers can accommodate both large and small runs.
A silicone pad is capable of picking up an image from a flat plane and transferring it to a variety of surfaces, including cylindrical, spherical, concave, and convex surfaces. The goal of all pad printing equipment is to lay down a controlled thickness of ink and replicate original designs on a consistent basis. However, pad printing has a reputation of being tough to master. That’s why it’s important to understand and control the variables that affect the pad printing process.
Select the Right Type of Pad
One of the most difficult pad printing problems is determining what pad to use. Key characteristics of pads that can affect the quality of images include the pad’s shape, size, hardness, material, and surface finish. Shape is the most important variable to consider when selecting a pad. A pad’s shape should achieve a “rolling” action when the ink is picked up from the cliché and deposited on the substrate.
Most pads are round, rectangular, or bar shaped. Avoid flat-bottomed pads because they tend to trap air and hinder ink pickup when they come into contact with the cliché. Once you have unpacked a new pad and other parts of your pad printer, it’s crucial to keep the surfaces of these parts clean because contaminants also affect ink adhesion.
The solvent mix used in the ink is important because it affects the speed at which evaporation occurs. 10% of thinner is a good place to start. If you feel as though the ink needs to adhere better onto the substrate, then slowly add more thinner to the ink, but don’t exceed 20%. Other factors that affect the evaporation of solvents include temperature, humidity, and air movement. Altering these conditions tends to affect the effectiveness of ink transfer. The solvents should evaporate fast enough to increase the tackiness of the ink’s surface, all the while keeping ink fluid below the surface so that it lifts from the etched printing plate and transfers from the pad.
It is ideal to operate pad printing equipment in an air-conditioned environment with a temperature of 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of around 55%. In order to create as stable an environment as possible for pad printing, avoid operating a pad printer near windows and doors that lead outside or forced-air heaters. If you operate your pad printer in an area that is colder than the recommended temperature range, then use a hair dryer to warm your print station.
Invest in High-Quality Equipment
You get what you pay for when it comes to pad printing equipment, so invest in the best pad printer that you can afford. It’s also ideal to invest in training rather than waste man and machine hours trying to learn pad printing yourself. Buying pad printing equipment from a company that offers good customer service is also crucial because it means that they will be there to help you if you’re confused or something goes wrong.
Looking for Pad Printing Equipment?
Printa Systems offers a full range of high-quality pad printing equipment. We also provide you with the tools and resources you need to start a successful pad printing or screen printing business at home. To learn more about our offerings, request a free product video and consultation with an industry expert here
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