What Is Pad Printing?

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Of all the product decorating services that we offer, we get the most questions about pad printing. So what is pad printing? 

Pad printing is a printing method that allows the transfer of a 2-dimensional image onto a 3-dimensional object. This process is used for printing on products that are difficult to print on such as rigid and concaved surfaces. 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.

How Does it 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. 

The Advantages of Pad Printing

One of the main advantages of paid 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.

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.

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:

"Since beginning a relationship with the staff at Unique Assembly & Decorating, our confidence in their ability to perform tasks to our standards and on time have now surpasses our expectations. "

Teresa - Director of International Sales, Pharmaceutical Model Manufacturer