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Pad printing

About Pad

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About Pad Printing

Pad printing is a process that allows transferring a 2-dimensional image onto a 3-dimensional object. The basic mechanism of pad printing is as follows: a printing pad transfers ink from the etched area of a printing plate (cliché) onto a substrate.

          Click image to expand:
Pad printed face watchPad printing originated in Switzerland in the watch making industry where a gelatin pad was used to transfer ink to the watch. The very first flatware printing machine was invented in the 1940's but it wasn't until the hollowware machine invention in the 1960's that this industry took off. And if you compare the equipment and supplies that were used back then and now, it is obvious that we have come along way - from hand engraved copper plates and gelatin pads to laser plates and silicone printing pads.

Throughout time, the basics of the pad printing cycle have stayed the same. The cycle begins when an ink cup moves over the printing plates, leaves ink in the plate's etched area and moves away. The thinner contained in the ink immediately starts to evaporate from the plate, turning the surface of the ink into a sticky film. As a result, when a printing pad is pressed onto the plate, the ink leaves the plate and stick to the pad. As the pad moves away the plate towards the object to be imprinted, the thinner keeps evaporating from the picked up ink - so when the pad is pressed onto the object, the ink leaves the pad and sticks to this object. While the pad is traveling, the ink cup moves over the etched artwork again, filling it up with new ink.

In Europe, the silicone printing pad was invented and manufactured by TampoPrint; in the US, the silicone formulation was re-created by Autoroll Machine Corporation after a long trial and error period. This is what Bill Karlyn, the founder of Autoroll, says about pad printing:

Click image to expand:                    
Pad printed porcelain plate
"When one saw a pad printer operating for the first time, it appeared to be magical because one wouldn't dream that you could print golf balls or walnuts accurately with undistorted images.

Pad printing in those days were used for printing on dolls faces, dolls eyes, and all kinds of sporting goods including baseballs, softballs and golf balls. When people realized the capabilities of pad printing, it was introduced to many different applications and printing companies found that it was a very efficient decorating technology saving them labor expenses."

New materials, printing machines and pre-press technology (machines and materials involved in plate making) have turned pad printing into a highly efficient and productive process for decorating of a wide variety of objects and substrates. For instance, the unique properties of the modern silicone pad enable it to pick the image up from a flat plate and transfer it to a variety of surface (i.e. flat, cylindrical, spherical, compound angles, textures, concave surfaces, convex surfaces). The modern computer-to-plate technology that took hold in pad printing just a few years ago was a huge step towards flexibility and efficiency from the tedious multi-step chemical etching. Today pad printing is used widely throughout many different industries including promotional products, medical, electronics, automotive, tagless garment and sports equipment and toys.

Pad Printing Machines

If you are new to pad printing there is a lot to learn! Get started by checking out our section on pad printing machines. Here you will find out what to consider before you decide to purchase one.

Pad Printing Inks

Look into our section on pad printing inks to find out what ink to use for your application. It will also help you determine the usability of an ink depending on its components and the substrate you will be printing on.

Pad Printing History

Learn more about pad printing history represented in the pictures of the old pad printing machines.
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