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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


You can move on to cliche production once you've corrected your artwork. The options for cliche types and materials vary with each supplier. If you run 1,000,000 cycles or more, consider a steel cliche. As a general rule, the higher the production run, the higher the price for the cliche. Do not underestimate the value of steel cliches. They can pay for themselves several times over at the end of production.

Take a look at polymer cliches for unusual print jobs that require multiple artwork revisions. You can etch these cliches at your own facility, and polymers are available for water-wash and alcohol-wash etching. These materials are designed for both high- and low-production runs. Decide what is best for your application, and tell your supplier what you expect from the cliche in production. The supplier should be able to offer a solution that will cover your printing needs.

If you do not have the equipment to do so, have your supplier test for you and etch the final cliche. There is usually a charge associating with testing cliches, but your supplier's experience and equipment may actually be able to save you money when you compare the costs with those you would incur by setting up to conduct your own tests. If you etch the plates at your facility, make sure you expose the cliche again after etching to completely harden the polymer material. This step prolongs the life cycle of the cliche and saves time and money during production.

Pad Selection

Involving your supplier in pad selection for your odd job can also help you avoid problems during production. There are literally hundreds of standard pads to choose from, and your supplier will know what would work best for your application. When printing an unusual part, the pad should cover and extend past the modified artwork. A good rule of thumb is to always use a pad that is too large rather than too small. However, make sure you have proper pad support to prevent the pad from overextending and distorting your image.

The basis for any pad selection is to attain a rolling effect of the pad onto the part. It is crucial that the pad used is able to produce this rolling action throughout completion the entire production run to avoid problems in the printed image.


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