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Tooling and Techniques for Pad-Printing Irregular Products

(July 2006) posted on Thu Jul 06, 2006

Find out how to manipulate artwork and select the right equipment and consumables to pull off the project successfully.

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By Linda Huff

This is where it gets a little tricky. One of the criteria for selecting the right equipment for printing on unusual objects is not the image size, but the cliche size. For a flat watch dial, equipment size can be selected based on the size of the flat, unmodified artwork before a cliche is even etched. However, with artwork that needs to be distorted, the print-image size can be significantly larger than original size, thereby requiring a bigger cliche. This, in turn, ultimately requires a larger machine. Now you're confronted with another issue: Is your equipment capable of handling a change in image size like this?

An open-inkwell pad-printing machine may provide the ability to cover the broader image area, but a closed-cup press may not. If you use a closed-cup machine, your images will be limited to the diameter of the cup. So if the modified image does not fit within the restrictions of the cup, you won't have the option of using that printer for the job. And if you don't have a machine with a larger cup size, you won't have the option of printing the job at all.

When choosing a pad-printing machine for this type of application, keep in mind that the larger artwork will also require a larger pad. This may also limit which equipment type is used. Some machines may not be able to exert enough pressure to compress the pad. Others may lack the ability to accommodate a pad that is significantly larger than the cup size. The machine manufacturer should be able to clarify this for you.

In extreme cases, modifications may need to be made to the pad-printing press to accommodate the part. Jobs involving extra-large parts present a unique problem: The part must be located correctly and centered under the printhead. This is usually impossible with a standard pad press. However, many equipment manufacturers offer modifications or will build a custom machine for your part. This can take a significant amount of time, testing, and investment, so keep this information in mind when you're first approached to handle such a job. If you purchase a pad printer for a specific application, make sure it has the capabilities to complete this job and others in the future. Doing so will help you avoid pulling out even more hair later on.


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