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Industrial Pad Printing in the 21st Century

(December 2008) posted on Mon Dec 08, 2008

This article examines the latest advances in pad-printing technology and highlights several applications and innovations that will keep pad printing a fixture in the future of industrial printing.

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By Annette Sharon

After an initial kick-off meeting, pad-print engineers went to work measuring the different tags that needed to be printed, and they devised a bulk loading and unloading process that mirrored the ergonomic procedure the company’s machine operators were currently using to manage the parts—with some improvements. A precision conveyor was integrated and fixtured to run two parts at a time past a two-up pad configuration, doubling the output previously yielded by a one-at-a-time printing process. Additionally, an automatic pad cleaner was built into the machine and programmed to run a cleaning routine after a predetermined number of cycles.

The automated inspection component—a computer-based vision system that measured print registration and opacity—was hardwired to the pad printer and programmed to kick out any parts that didn’t meet the required tolerances (Figure 4). All told, the end result was an integrated, automated pad printer that exceeded 4400 parts per hour and resulted in a 99.98% pass rate on parts inspection, improving the company’s output dramatically and ensuring its customers a level of quality control that was previously unattainable.


Case study 4: inline, on time

A motorized-tools manufacturer was planning to integrate pad printing into its production process. The issue was that the company was already pad printing, but wanted to reduce its cost and speed up the process.

An engineering review of their standalone printing-cell workflow revealed that parts were being molded in one area of the facility, warehoused in another building, then sent to the pad-printing cell (made up of four machines) for decorating. The cell operated three shifts a day, six days a week. After pad printing, the parts were sent to another area in the warehouse where they were stored until redistributed to the assembly area.

Analysis revealed that excessive handling was resulting in a loss of productivity. Obviously, integrating pad printing into the manufacturing line would save multiple steps. The challenge, however, was that there was a wide variety of products, styles, and assembly lines, which would have meant adding pad-printing machines if there were one for every line.


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