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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

Some parts require special considerations for pad selection. For example, a pad bar may be necessary for objects that require a print on more than one level. The pad bar holds two or more pads of different sizes to print the images simultaneously. What about objects that are cylindrical or breakable? Your supplier can provide you with a hollow pad to wrap around the object. Most suppliers can also pair the proper pad hardness with the job at hand. Remember that textured surfaces generally require a harder and steeper pad—not softer. This is a common misconception among printers.

In some cases, your needs may not be met by a pad pulled from the stock shelf, and your part may require a customized pad manufactured specifically for your print project. In this case, you may have to cover the costs of the master and the mold with some suppliers. But thereafter, you would only have to purchase the replacement pads. This is a worthwhile investment in the long run for a difficult part that'll you'll revisit.

Tooling and fixtures

The pad you've selected needs sufficient support to provide a high-quality print. A properly designed part-holding fixture is part of the solution (Figure 2). The fixture provides both pad support and part stability. It should be designed for easy loading and unloading. If the part is not easily removable from the fixture, you will slow production and possibly damage the part during removal. However, if the part is too loose, the fixture will allow for part movement. Either way, problems with image registration and part location will occur.


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