Pad printing has been a popular method for labeling and decorating products since the late 1800s. However, advances in UV digital technology, more specifically UV printers, along with the need for customized items for short-run production has enticed many to make the move from pad printing to digital printing. Although pad printing is still a top solution for irregular parts and certain substrates, inkjet printing has seen success with its ability to print full-color graphics, to produce one-offs and to produce high-quality imaging.
Pad printing is a traditional method of transferring a 2D graphic onto a 3D object. Setting up requires etching an image into a plate or cliché either using a laser plate-maker or an exposure unit. For each new piece of artwork, a new plate or cliché must be etched. Right before printing, the solvent-based ink is mixed with the proper ratio of ink to solvent to hardener and each ink cup is filled. Once the machine starts, the ink cup moves across the etched cliché and fills the etch with the ink. The ceramic ring (which is attached to the ink cup) will doctor or remove the excess ink from the etch so only a small amount of ink is ready to be picked up. The silicone pad will then press down onto the ink, pick it up, and then transfer it onto the substrate. When working with multiple colors, it is important to ensure registration is correct on all colors before printing.
To learn more about the process, read Pad Printing 101 – The Ultimate Guide
Pad Printed Examples:
Common Applications: Gaming equipment, vape cartridges, tin cans, foot insoles, apparel, stationary, toys, stress balls, silicone products… and much more!
Pad print your logo on cannabis packaging such as vape cartridges, stash jars, vials, and more.
Pad print labels directly onto apparel such as t-shirts, sportswear, uniforms, and more.
Check out these pad printing applications:
Digital UV printing is a subset of digital printing, which uses ultra-violet (UV) light to cure ink as it is printed. The printhead gets as close as possible to the part to ensure optimum resolution. Once the machine is ready to print, the digital ink is jetted onto the item. The ink is jetted in small dots to ensure precise, accurate imaging. During this process, the ink is cured using a UV light which enables the ink to be instantly dried before the wet dots have a chance to spread out. Artwork is created using graphic software such as Illustrator or Photoshop. The artwork is then imported into the specialized printing software and prepared for printing. There is a wide range of UV printers, all of which have unique properties.
UV Inkjet Printed Examples:
Common Applications: stainless steel tumblers, power banks, barware, candles, industrial parts, sporting goods, coasters, and even edible items like cookies, candies, and cakes!
As you can see, this two-color artwork requires both plates to be etched. After the plates are etched, they are placed onto the machine. Once the inks have been mixed (this is done twice for each color), the ink is added to each ink cup. Registration is the next most important step. To ensure the print is placed in the exact area, the operator must register the item properly. In this case, the 2200-PS (or pad shuttle) is used to decorate one-color and then shift the pads to print the second color.
Conversely, the Helix (shown printing on a pint glass) takes the prepped artwork from Illustrator or Photoshop and prints it directly onto the item. Although setup is required, the printing process is computer to part meaning, no plates are needed. Once the print button is initiated, the item starts spinning and is sent into the machine. While in the machine, a layer of white, then color, then varnish is laid directly onto the surface. Once complete, the item is dry to the touch.
General all-purpose ink which adheres to a variety of substrates including glass, plastic and metal.
Specialty glassware ink that has presented great results on plastics too.
Used mainly to print on moderately flexible items.
Enables printing on edible items such as cookies, candies, and more.
Utilizes 6-colors to print photorealistic images on drinkware and containers.Learn more about the Helix Hi-Fi
Flatbed printer with a bed size of 540 x 640mm great for promotional items and more.
Learn more about the X2
Utilizes a conveyor and patented loading system for easy loading and unloading.Learn more about the XJET UV LED printer