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Options and Accessories for Productive Pad Printing

(March 2007) posted on Wed Mar 07, 2007

Examine some of the solutions on the market today.

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By John Kaverman

Pad printing is an effective method of decorating parts of all kinds, from ad-specialty items such as pens and golf balls to industrial products like faceplates and propane tanks. Numerous add-ons and custom options are available to make this already productive process even more efficient. Some are designed to enhance parts handling, while others address potential bottlenecks in the printing workflow. Let's take a look some of these beneficial technologies.

Multiple colors

Most manufacturers offer standard vertical machines in one through four or six-color configurations. Multicolor open systems can have multiple cliches, or one cliche in a split inkwell. Independently adjustable cliches are more desirable than having all of the colors on a single cliche. The benefit of independent cliches is simply the ability to more easily absorb potential image-to-image and/or image-to-part-location problems.

Multicolor closed systems can also have single or multiple cliches. A few manufacturers offer small (60-mm) multicolor ink cups, commonly referred to as split ink cups, that allow you to print two or three colors. The limitation is that the colors must be side by side, unless your machine can pick up once and then stroke the print two or three times. In that instance, you can shuttle the part to print colors on top of one another. The other limitation is that split ink cups are difficult to manufacture, and thus are expensive.


The four types of shuttles are pneumatic, electronic, stepper-motor driven, and manual. Pneumatic shuttles are less expensive and more popular than the other automated shuttle systems. Pneumatic shuttles can have multiple positions by means of either multiple cylinders or a single, more expensive cylinder equipped with magnetic brakes. Be very careful to avoid any fluctuation to air pressure when working with parts of a critical nature on pneumatic shuttles.

Electronic shuttles have programmable, servo-driven motors. These shuttles are more expensive than their pneumatic counterparts and are somewhat hard to find. Stepper-motor-driven shuttles can be programmed to travel a desired number of steps between prints. Stepper-motor and electronic shuttles will typically last longer than pneumatic shuttles. Manual shuttles are used for low-volume jobs where the registration of colors is not critical.

Rotary tables


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