Automation can improve the quality, consistency, and productivity with high-volume, multicolor pad-printing jobs. This article explores parts-handling devices and other accessories that can improve accuracy and efficiency in your shop.
Over-Under A comparable but much larger device is the over-under conveyor with its single-row, vertical loop of platens, with as many as 48 separate fixtures (Figure 3). This unit also uses barrel cams to advance and hold the platens in exact position. Over-under conveyors are recommended for fully automatic systems that incorporate multiple printing units and other auxiliary equipment. Such pad-printing systems may include in-feed conveyors, pick-and-place robots, curing units, sorting devices, and vision inspection components.
Robotics Enter the ultimate operator: a robot. An automated pad-printing system, though complicated, can be broken down into several individual tasks, most of which can be performed by mechanical or electronic devices (Figure 4). But when an action or decision needs to be made by an operator before the process can continue, that point can become the bottleneck of the production flow—especially if the action is repetitious. After thousands or even millions of cycles, the boredom factor begins to affect even the sharpest or most alert operator. Fatigue sets in and mistakes happen. A robotic device can add flexibility to your system: almost limitless choices of configurations, sizes, and applications are available; all programmable and customizable to fit your particular needs—especially when integrated with other automated components.
Another feature of robotic part-handling systems is speed. The remarkable quickness of movement will dramatically reduce cycle time. Servo-controlled components deliver high accuracy, with a tolerance for error reduced to near zero, which also minimizes scrap parts when interfaced with vision-inspection devices. The robot doesn’t mind repetitive work and doesn’t experience fatigue caused by boredom. As a result, you’ll experience less downtime and have fewer errors. The net gain is maximum repeatability and increased productivity.
Four-color process and more
The four-color-process images that appear on consumer items, giftware, and sporting goods certainly represent the most dramatic and vivid print jobs (Figure 5). They show off the flashy graphics and colorful artwork that adorn every available product surface of mass merchandise. And pad printing has certain advantages in decorating those uniquely shaped products by applying images to three-dimensional surfaces with minimal distortion.
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