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What is Pad Printing?

Of all the product decorating services that we offer, we get the most questions about pad printing. So what is pad printing? Continue reading to learn all about it!

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Pad Printing

Pad printing is a printing method that allows the transfer of a 2-dimensional image onto a 3-dimensional object. While just as effective for flat surfaces, this process is most often used for printing on parts that are round, have complex curvature, that are round, have a concave or convex surface, or have recessed or raised areas. 

Pad printing became popular following World War II when watchmakers began printing on the curved surfaces of watch faces. This ability to print on unprintable substrates has turned the pad printing process into a well-established technology and is used today across multiple industries such as medical, cosmetics, electronics, and more.

About Pad Printing

We offer both single color pad printing or 1-color pad printing, and multicolor pad printing (i.e., multicolor spot images and 4-color process images).

How Does Pad Printing Work?

Pad printing uses a silicone pad to transfer an image onto an item. The machine holds the product steady and presses it into an ink plate before it's stamped by the pad. Pad printing can successfully decorate three-dimensional parts because while transferring the image to the part, the silicone pad wraps around or adapts to the shape of the part without distorting the image, given some image size restrictions. Extremely fine detail and tight multicolor registration are readily achievable with pad printing. 

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The Advantages of Pad Printing

One of the main advantages of pad printing is that it can print on some of the most unprintable products imaginable. The silicone pad adapts to the shape of the part so it can easily print on surfaces that are uneven, convex, concaved and cylindrical. This method is also good for delicate products that would likely break using other methods of printing such as screen printing. It also provides intricate detailing on smaller surfaces such as barcodes, logos, and labels. Depending on the ink type, pad printing can also be used on products that need high resistance against abrasion or chemicals. Pad printing is also great for multi-color printing without the need for immediate drying.

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How Do I Choose the Right Pad?

While the science of the process is in the pad, the art of the process lies in matching the right pad size, shape, and durometer with the right surface to provide best results. It can take years of experience to develop the skill to choose the correct pad for each project.

Which Ink Do I Use?

Pad printing inks are formulated to match the type of material to be printed. Ink lines are available for nearly every plastic material including (but not limited to) ABS, Acrylic, HIPS, polycarbonate or nylon, and for various coatings or paint used on metal products. With pre and post-treatment procedures, more difficult materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, Delrin or Urea can also be pad printed.  For most applications, inks are either solvent-based, which are cured with time or by adding heat to improve adhesion or durability for some substrates, or UV based using ultra-violet light for an instant cure.

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Pad Printed Parts in Every Industry

Pad printing is used to decorate plastic, glass, and metal products — practically any rigid part that requires a logo or marking — from many industries including automotive, medical, electronic devices, cosmetic / health & beauty, plastic molders and manufacturers.

Unique’s Pad Printing Capabilities

At Unique, we offer the following pad printing capabilities:

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Project Gallery

Unique Assembly is able to print or decorate nearly any rigid surface – flat or cylindrical, concave or convex, raised or recessed, and painted or coated surfaces.

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Have Questions?

We have the capabilities to work with companies across the US and are excited to work with you on your upcoming project!

Contact Us (Phone & Fax)
630-241-4300
Find Us

Unique Assembly & Decorating, Inc.
2550 Wisconsin Ave,
Downers Grove, IL 60515