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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.


By Annette Sharon

click an image below to view slideshow

New-generation pad-printing machines, which can store the print parameters of a virtually unlimited number of print jobs, were installed at the molders to replace the old, open-inkwell machines used in the print cell. A robot was integrated inline that took the freshly molded part from the molding machine and fed it to the pad printer—and to other processes, such as the presses—before depositing it in a carton that was moved once to assembly. The manufacturer was able to redirect three shifts of four pad-print operators a day to other operations, creating a huge cost savings and a widespread ripple effect of efficiency throughout the plant.

 

The growing field of pad-printing solutions

These few, in-depth case studies should give you an idea of the wide range of technological solutions that can be created with pad printing at their core. To give an idea of the technology’s breadth, here are a few additional snapshots:

Fourteen-color, 360° catheter printing A catheter manufacturer needed to precisely mark gradations all the way around its plastic tubing. Not only that, but some of its customers wanted more than just black lines and numbers—they wanted colored bands that could be easily seen from across the room. The pad-printing solution involved a vacuum table, a specially designed silicone pad base, a pad-bar mechanism that maintained down-thrust as it moved forward, and a 14-pad accordion-style mechanism that picked up ink from 14 different etched cliches and compressed to print on a tube less than a foot long.

Precision laser centered parts for medical product printing A medical-device manufacturer wanted to bulk load parts, but needed to print each item in a precise location. Using laser sensors hooked up to a computer, and a rotating robotic arm, the exact print location was identified in milliseconds, where manual operators took many times that to center the part for printing.


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