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Pad PrintingDecember 21, 2018

A Brief History of Pad Printing

Pad Printing
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Padflex SM – the First Tabletop Pad Printer

This machine is probably the first American-made one color tabletop pad printer. Equipped with state of the art relay technology, a logic component which allows you to control each operation of the machine, the Padflex SM was designed as an open ink-well pad printing machine and was manufactured in 1969.

Padflex R with Rotary Dial – the Baseball Printer

This pad printing machine was equipped with articulating printing pads, capable of printing in two locations on the sides of a baseball. As a matter of fact, the VP of Inkcups Now, Mike Bissel, built this very machine! It was made for a company called Rawling Sporting Goods and it featured an automated unloading of the balls as well as conveyorized heat curing.

The Rotary Dial would turn around like a carousel to print each part one by one. This machine allowed one operator to load the ball and the machine would print in two locations, automatically remove the ball and place it on a conveyor with a drying tunnel. The rotary dial concept with automatic transfer to other stations in the machine provided a level of automation that supported increased production capabilities. Automation is very common in the pad printing industry today, however at the time, as one of the first automatic pad printing machines, this was a highly innovative design.

Padflex R – Pad Printer for Toy Cars

This is a single-color open inkwell pad printing machine with a rotary tooling dial designed for printing on both sides of the early Matchbox toy cars. As the rotary dial made its full revolution, a device would flip the fixture to allow printing on the second side. This is another example of simple automation that was ahead of its time. The model was called the Padflex R and was built for a company in England called Lesnie. Relying on Mike Bissel’s good memory the vintage of this machine would be around 1978…

Padflex SL – the Giant Pad Printer

This is the largest pad printer that Autoroll has ever built and is probably one of the largest pad printers built to date.

Driven by hydraulic pistons, this machine was constructed with a 2-inch thick aluminum frame and a BIG printing pad – weighing in at about 25 lbs. The pad might not seem that big today but it sure was at the time! It would take 2 people to mix the appropriate amount of silicone as well as mount the finished pad onto the machine. This printing pad is an equivalent of today’s pads for printing on the inside of a satellite dish.

The Padflex SL was mainly used for printing on the inside of large bowls, like a ceramic salad bowl. This pad printing machine was custom designed for a company in England and weighted in excess of 10,000 lbs.

Padflex – the Cookie Conveyor

This is one of the first 4 color automated machines for pad printing on cookies. This unique machine used food grade inks and required the daily clean up with… vodka. This made the machine particularly popular with the engineers and mechanics involved in the engineering project. This special machine was designed exclusively to support a joint venture between The Keebler Cookie Corporation and MacDonalds with the intent to market Ronald MacDonald cookies. Although the machine was a resounding success, the cookies never made it to market. Perhaps it had something to do with the cleanup process…??? 25 years later the machine was found unused and in new condition in a warehouse where it had been in storage all these years!

Want to Learn More about pad printing? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Pad Printing Machines
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