Tag : industrial-printing

Optimal Conditions for Pad Printing

“Does it make a difference if I do my printing in a controlled environment?” It is the one question I can depend on getting from every new pad printing equipment customer and the answer is yes. Controlling your operating conditions from day to day can make your job significantly easier.

Temperature and Relative Humidity

It is recommended that, as a minimum, at least the actual printing process be performed in an environment having a temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, with relative humidity at 55 percent, plus or minus 5 percent.

For best results you want to keep all of your product, equipment and consumable materials (especially the machine, ink, pads and cliches) in a clean, climate-controlled environment. Like any printing process, pad printing is greatly affected by fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Extreme changes in temperature can cause condensation on substrates, cliches and pads. This condensation acts as a barrier to transfer efficiency in pad printing. High relative humidity has the same effect; low relative humidity increases the occurrence of static electricity.

In a perfect world, every pad printer would have access to such an environment. Better yet, everyone could store all their inks, pads, cliches and substrates in the same environment. Chances are that the average pad printing company doesn’t have this much control. In that case, you can only try to adhere as much as possible to a few general recommendations:

  • Keep your machine away from outside walls where temperature variations are going to be more pronounced throughout the day, or season to season.

  • Keep your machine out of direct sunlight, and out of turbulent airflow from heat and/or air conditioning ducts and fans.

  • Try to keep your humidity from varying by more than +/- 10 degrees F. within a given shift.

  • Try to keep your ink, pads, hardeners and thinners in the same temperature and humidity range as you’ll be printing in, or allow them to adjust to the production environment prior to using them. This is also important for your product to be printed.

Cleanliness

With pad printing, cleanliness is a virtue. The more care you take in mixing your inks, setting up your machines, and organizing your tools, the less time you will waste cleaning off your machine and parts after you “accidently” get ink all over them. I recommend using a plastic bin to keep the necessary wrenches readily available, as well as a roll of clear packaging tape for pad cleaning.

Keeping the room and your parts clean will help a lot, too. If your printing room is dusty and dirty, your parts will invariably show it. Use a vacuum to collect dirt when cleaning off parts instead of relocating the dirt by blowing parts off with compressed air. Avoid packaging unprinted parts in cardboard whenever possible. Cardboard is filthy, and cardboard dust is difficult to remove when static is present.

If you have to accept parts from your customer in cardboard boxes, ask them to put a plastic liner in the boxes if possible. If parts come layered in boxes, try using something other than cardboard to separate the layers.

When you do clean your printing room, do it at the end of the day’s production, not before. Particularly if you’re sweeping with a broom. Sweeping stirs up dust. Again, use a vacuum if possible.

If you area is too large to vacuum, and you have to sweep it, look in a janitorial catalog for an anti-dust agent. Sprayed on the floor with an insect spray canister, these agents dry within a few minutes and act like a magnet for airborne particles. Then, when you do sweep, the agents keep the dust on the floor, allowing you to roll it along with a broom.

Keep your machines as clean as possible. If you spill ink, clean it before it dries. It will take you twice as long to clean it after it dries. If it is a two component ink, you may never get it off the machine without using a hammer and chisel. When cleaning your machine, pay special attention to moving parts, and any surfaces that must be absolutely flat, like the platform your open ink well sits on and the areas that your cliches rest on.

Ventilation

Make sure that the air quality in your production area is acceptable. If you’re not sure, contact your heating and air conditioning company and ask them to make a recommendation as to the volume of air you should be exhausting.

If you’re unsure as to whether personnel are being exposed to levels of organic vapors that are hazardous, or are receiving complaints from employees, you can conduct an air quality test fairly inexpensively by obtaining air quality test badges from a safety or laboratory supply company. By reviewing your M.S.D.S sheets you can find out which solvents are most frequently used, and what their respective exposure limits are.

Once you know these limits, you can order badges capable of testing exposure to one or several solvents from a safety or laboratory supply company. Your personnel wear the badges for a specified amount of time, after which you return them to the suppliers, who in turn analyzes them and issues a written report. By comparing the results of the report to the exposure limits called out on the M.S.D.S, you can determine whether or not you are in compliance. Be advised that in many cases, you can be in compliance without everyone being happy with the overall “quality” of air they are breathing.

Lighting and Ergonomics

Lighting is important for efficiency. No one likes to work in the dark, or under a glaring spotlight. Lighting should be uniform and non-directional if possible. Cool, white fluorescent lighting placed about sixty inches above the work surface provides nice, even lighting. If possible, the work surfaces should be a neutral color (gray), and low in gloss to allow operators and inspectors optimal viewing conditions.

On January 1, 2001, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented a new Ergonomics Program Standard (amendment to Part 19 of title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Program Standards Section 1910.900) relating specifically to the elimination of repetitive motion injuries.

While the importance of making work areas safe and worker-friendly is obvious to anyone that has spent time standing on bare concrete or sitting on a wooden stool five days a week, twisting to move materials all over the place, it has now become law.

Taking a little extra time to think through process flow, then positioning machines, materials and manpower accordingly is less expensive than having to move everything around after production has commenced, or having to pay for a work related injury.

Tables should be at a height that is comfortable to work at, and chairs should be adjustable. Materials should be readily accessible so that operators don’t have to bend or twist to pick it up, print it, and place it on a rack, conveyor, or into packaging. Operators that must stand are much happier doing so if they’re standing on a mat instead of a concrete floor. Also, urge your employees to wear shoes that have sufficient cushioning and support.

If time permits, you can set up a mock work area prior to receipt of a new piece of equipment and try it out for yourself. Using the “foot-print” of your new machine, tape an area of the floor off and then arrange materials until you come up with the best possible material flow. Doing this can save you having to rewire electricity or relocate air and gas lines or light fixtures at the last minute.

For assistance in determining whether you comply with the O.S.H.A. Ergonomics Program Standard, I recommend logging on the Internet and simply searching under O.S.H.A. Ergonomics. Doing so should enable you to gain an understanding of what the new standard requires, and where to turn for help from safety and ergonomics consulting firms.

In addition to the O.S.H.A. standards for ergonomics there may also be some architectural-related regulations around the corner having to do with eliminating electrical interference in computer network and electrical wiring. Ask your architect about compliance with a pending addition to architectural codes called Division 17. To find out more, log on to www.division17.com.

While it is possible to pad print in an uncontrolled environment, in the long run, doing so will prove to be more expensive than the alternative. Controlling temperature, humidity, airborne contamination, air quality and ergonomic issues will dramatically increase the efficiency of your pad printing process while at the same time keeping your employees safer and happier.

John Kaverman is Midwest Regional Manager for Innovative Marking Systems of Lowell, MA. and is the author of the Pad Printing Technical Guidebook. For information, contact Kaverman via email at

john@padprinters.com.

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Pad Printing: The Best Printing Method for Manufacturers and OEMs


test-image-2When it comes to manufacturers, the many parts, pieces, and components that go into a product are incredibly important.

But many times, so is something like printing.

 

Think for a moment about the many brands you interact with every day. Given a couple minutes, you could probably picture at least a dozen logos and company emblems. In every case, there’s a good chance you know those brands because of printing.

Needless to say, printing has come a long way since the olden days of “wood block printing,” the revolution of moveable type, and the gutenburg press. However, modern printing technology continues to make ripples in the industrial world. When it comes to printing for OEMs, manufacturers, and big businesses, one of the best emerging printing methods is pad printers for OEM printing.

 

Pad printing is a “direct offset” printing process (otherwise known as gravure printing). It is incredibly effective at quickly and accurately transferring a 2-D image onto a surface. However, its particular area of expertise is transferring an image onto a 3-D object. This makes pad printers extremely adept at printing on products that aren’t flat, which leaves quite a few products to print on! To accomplish this, the printing process transfers the image from an ink filled printing plate, known as the cliche, to a flexible silicone pad. The silicone pad is then pressed against the surface (or substrate). Due to the way the ink used in pad printing is formulated, the top layer that is exposed to air becomes tacky. This allows it to cling to the silicon pad and be easily tansferred to the printing surface, resulting in a smooth and flexible process that works for just about any surface.

Before pad printing came around, industrial screen printing also gained widespread use. However, one of the major barriers that manufacturers were encountering with screenprinting was the fact that is was incredibly difficult to print on irregular surfaces with a large screenprinting machine. On the other end of the industrial spectrum, the same limitations were also discovered when it came to printing on electronics. You see, many of the electronics you use every day take advantage of what are known as membrane switches. A membrane switch is an electrical switch that turns a circuit not mechanically, but with a conductive circuit that’s been printed onto a PET or ITO circuit board.

Because of the highly flexible nature of pad printing, printing a membrane switch on a curved appliance panel is no problem due to the highly flexible nature of the silicone pad. This poses a problem for the other traditional printing methods used by manufacturers around the world. On the other hand, manufacturers with a pad printing machine can quickly and easily print on just about any surface — even if the product is entirely round. This makes pad printing ideal for everything from golf balls to touch-screen washing machines.

The Best Method for Industrial Printing on Curved Panels and Appliances

Printing used to be a very complicated process. Complicated and limited. It began with woodblock printing, which is about as basic as it gets. Eventually, over one thousand years after woodblock printing originated in ancient China, the printing press changed everything, but it was still very limited by today’s standards.

Fast forward to a period where technology progresses in the blink of an eye, and we have many more options when it comes to printing. However, with products of every shape and size coming with limitless contours and curves, it can be difficult to find the best solution. That’s where TOSH Pad Printers come in.

Pad printing is a unique process that makes it possible to quickly and efficiently transfer an image onto an irregular surface. To do so, it uses an indirect offsite printing process that combines the printing plate (otherwise known as a “cliché”) and a flexible silicone pad to transfer the ink from the etched printing plate to just about any surface. Back then, the process was used to effectively print on the face of watches, but it was still a relatively young process. However, advancement in terms of the silicon pads and advanced equipment used for pad printing meant that it could be used on just about everything. This put pad printing on the fast track to becoming an extremely flexible printing method for businesses around the world. Because of this, printing on curved surfaces like appliance panel can be done very easily with a single machine. But how does it work?

First, from the “home” position, a sealed ink cup is lowered over the etched plate – covering the image and filling it with ink.

Second, the sealed ink cup is removed from the etched plate. Due to the way the ink is formulated, it becomes tacky immediately after being exposed to air.

Third, the transfer pad then lowers onto the printing plate for an instant, and as the pad is compressed air pressure is used to transfer the ink from the etched artwork onto the silicone pad, leaving a small amount of ink on the printing plate.

Finally, the silicone pad moves forward and the ink cup fills the etched plate again to prepare for the next printing cycle. Meanwhile, the silicone pad compresses onto the print surface, which transfers the ink layer onto the product. When the silicone pad lifts away from the substrate, it completes the print cycle. Most projects involve many print cycles.

But why is this an alternative to industrial screen printing?

The main advantages of pad printing when compared to other methods, is a pad printing machine’s unique ability to print on irregular shapes and virtually any material – including glass, coated substrates, plastic, metal, ceramics, silicones, foods, and pharmaceuticals.

On the other hand, printing methods like screen printing are limited to printing on flat surfaces or round surfaces only.

Meanwhile, pad printing offers manufacturers all of the capabilities of a screen printer, but with a level of flexibility and versatility that can’t be found with any other method. On top of this, pad printing machines provide greater print quality while also allowing the printer to perform at a higher speed, reverse direction, and make fine adjustments on-the-go. With methods like modern screen printing, which are also frequently used for this purpose, the same would simply not be possible. This is fortunate for companies producing virtually every kind of product, especially from a branding perspective.

Pad printing for appliance panels has emerged as the method of choice for printing on products of every shape and size and has quickly replaced screen printing when it comes to printing for products, parts, and components. Apart from simple appliance decorating, it has also been used for the printing of knobs, dials, and many other appliance parts. Other products typically printed by pad printers include medical devices, hockey pucks, toys, automotive parts (such as turn signal indicators and panel controls), computer keyboards, televisions, and the serial numbers used for many different applications.

If you’re looking for a printing process that’s flexible and powerful – pad printing is likely to fit the bill.