Direct to shape printing allows for the most versatility in a variety of printing applications. Great for businesses and industrial applications, direct to shape printing allows single or multi-color image transfer to nearly anything, from toys and sporting goods to cylindrical drinkware, edibles, and more. Learn about direct to shape printing and how you can use its innovative capabilities for your applications.
For those difficult to print surfaces such as cans, home care products, cups, personal care items, automotive parts, medical products, and electronics, direct to shape printing can allow you to have your full-color images come to life on almost any surface you could want to print on. Choosing the proper type of direct to shape printing will largely depend on the shape, size, number of colors, and type of substrate you have chosen as well as the method you wish the image to be transferred.
Pad printing allows you to transfer a two-dimensional image onto a three-dimensional part through the use of a silicone pad, ink cup, and etched plate. Pad printing is ideal for difficult substrates such as products found in the medical field and promotional printing. Pad printing is, however, typically restricted to one or two color prints.
Screen printing is a technique that utilizes a mesh – screen – to transfer the ink to a specified substrate. The screen printing process involves creating a screen that will allow ink through the mesh holes and using a blocking stencil in areas where you do not want the ink to transfer. Screen printing often requires a lot of set-up time and is difficult to change the artwork. Screen printing is typically restricted to one or two color prints.
Inkjet direct to shape printing is ideal for package printing and utilizes digital printheads to print full color customized designs in one printing pass by putting ink directly onto the desired print medium.
Dating back to the 1970s, inkjet printers were created to reproduce a digital image on a printing piece. Printing occurs by propelling droplets of ink onto paper, plastic, glass, metal and other substrates. The ink delivery system is called the printhead. It is important to note that not all printheads are not created equal. Each head is uniquely designed, therefore a variety of digital printers are available that can be used to print on nearly any substrate with the use of the right machine and print head. When determining the best type of printer for your project, it is vital to take into consideration the type of material you are printing, the volume of parts to be printed in conjunction with the speed of the inkjet printer, and your desired end use.
In-line printers are typically only used for single color, low-quality prints at incredibly fast production speeds. The print head remains stationary while the part moves past it to print. Ideal for barcoding and dating product packaging. Single-pass printers are similar, but they sometimes offer higher quality prints or more color options at a slightly slower speed.
When determining which type of in-line printer is best for your product, it is important to consider the size of the final piece, the volume of parts needed to print, as well as its end use.
As the name would imply, small format printing is designed for use for pieces that will produce a smaller sized – typically less than 20 inches – final piece.
Large format printing is popular for signage, banners, and tradeshow displays and is used for final pieces that have a larger printed area – typically 24 inches and up.
In-line industrial print solutions are often used as part of the manufacturing process for direct part marking, serial numbering, and brand labeling. Recently industrial manufacturing has made a swing to higher quality part decorating and has incorporated the use of automation.
An inkjet printer contains a multitude of components that work together to house the selected print medium and deliver the chosen ink to it. Everything from the printhead to part fixturing is determined by the substrate you are printing and the durability requirements of the final piece. The components of an inkjet printer can be broken down as follows.
The printhead is the mechanism in which the ink will be transferred or delivered onto the selected substrate. Depending on the material you are printing on you will need to have a printhead that can accommodate the shape and size of your piece. Printheads are available in a variety of formation and color combinations. The ink is effectively dropped onto the part from the printhead in incredibly small amounts that can only be measured in picoliters (pL).
The ink storage system contains either a cartridge or bottle system that will hold the ink and release it when it is necessary for the printing of the part. The number of ink storage containers will link directly to the number of colors that can be printed at the same time with most systems including five; cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white.
The part fixture of an inkjet printer will house the part that you are printing on in a secure fashion and deliver it to the print head to deliver ink accurately. There are three primary types of part fixturing a machine will have:
To ensure proper adhesion qualities are met, direct to shape digital printers can utilize a wide variety of ink, each with their own unique properties. The most common ink used for direct to shape inkjet printing include:
Inkjet printing is so widely used in nearly every industry as an integral part of a business. Inkjet printing can be used for anything from packaging designs to personalized items, the applications are endless. Perhaps the most popular applications for inkjet printing resides in the promotional market. Now, more than ever before, companies are attempting to reinforce their brand and spread their advertising message through giveaways and sales pieces. Industries that see the highest use of inkjet printing applications include:
Printing on totes, pens, flash drives, and other consumables is a common way to promote a company or event.
From signs to serial markings to branding, the industrial sector has seen an increase in inkjet printed materials that demand higher quality graphics.
Customize printed tumblers and other drinkware are used for gift giving or company promotion making inkjet printing a common application in the drinkware industry.
Logos, team names, and custom designs are common inkjet applications for many sporting goods manufacturers.
Inkjet printing is used for image designs for toys as well as the packaging that the items come in.
With the ability to print materials up to 360 degrees, inkjet printing on water bottles and other cylindrical items has become a commonly used application.
With inkjet printing, you can customize everything from cakes to candy, allowing personalization for any event.
Electronics are becoming increasingly important in a consumer’s everyday life and even with odd-sized or shaped electronics, direct to shape inkjet printing allows companies to print logos and customized designs on almost any piece.
The cosmetic industry employs inkjet printing in many of their product containers as well as the packaging that accompanies it.
The benefits of inkjet printing are endless as the applications allow for printing on almost any size and shape item that you can utilize. With the new inkjet capabilities, there are fewer hurdles that were once common in printing direct to shape. The ability to print-on-demand, change graphics and utilize diversified substrates are some of the most unique benefits of inkjet printing no matter which application you are using it for. Inkjet printing provides you with:
Inkjet printing requires less set-up time and allows for a faster run and drying time. Inkjet printing also allows you to print multiple items at once, whereas other printing methods are often restricted to one part at a time.
Once an item has been printed, easily come back to the same job any time. No need to store plates or screens, simply save your artwork and print again at your convenience.
Inkjet printing allows you to change graphics on the fly, quickly and easily. Most digital printing software utilizes a template system to allow the import of new graphics instantly, provided it fit within the job parameters.
Inkjet printing applications can be used for both short and long production runs giving businesses the flexibility to meet customer demand. Be it a sample job for a potential client or a large manufacturing facility printing thousands of parts a day, inkjet printing is capable of both.
With the ability to use specialized inks to match the substrates you are printing, you will be able to use inkjet printing for any type of business application your company may need.
Conveyor and assembly line capability allows the inkjet printing process to become automated which can increase productivity and lower labor costs.
At Inkcups, we are committed to providing our customers with the direct to shape printing solutions that best meet their needs. We offer innovative printing equipment and supplies to customers in the industrial, promotional, and apparel markets worldwide. Inkcups can help you discover how direct to shape printing can benefit your business. Contact us today for more information at (978) 646-8980.