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Printing Printer Not Picking up Ink?

SGIA 15' Las Vegas pad printing demo (pad picking up ink from cliche then transferring it to garment)

Are your prints not transferring? Don’t solely blame the ink as the problem could be due to a combination of issues. Pad printing requires patience, especially when you’re setting up the machine for the first time. At All American, we find it helpful to make a chart or checklist to pinpoint problems. Check out the diagram below to find solutions you can try to get your pad printer operating:
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Diagram: Pad not picking up ink


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Chose the Best Pad Printing Pad

generic assortment of pad printing pads

Choosing the Pad

When selecting a pad for pad printing, you need to consider shape, size, and hardness. If you have trouble finding the right pad, All American has a variety of pads in stock and carries molds for more than 1,000 different pads. Please be aware it takes 5 – 7 days to produce custom pads. For questions and orders please call (215)-634-2235 Mon.-Fri. from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (EST). If you’d like to know more about our pads visit Request a Custom Pad.

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The History of Pad Printing

Pad printing, Also known as tampography, is the process of printing a 2D image into a 3D object. Its roots can be traced back more than 200 years. Originally, pad printing was done by hand. The first offset type of hand printing used a bag of soft gelatin material to transfer the image. The first transfer printing plates were crafted from copper and were meticulously engraved by hand. This early type of hand printing was used to transfer images onto “blue” china plates and dinnerware; you know, the ones your grandmother collects.

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All American’s Guide to Pad Printing Plates

scion plate

Have you ever wondered how to make a pad printing pad? This step-by-step guide has all the information you need to get started with direct to plate pad printing yourself! You can also allow All American to custom make your plates for you.

1. Print your artwork on inkjet or laser film as a mirror image. The artwork should be printed out in black with the highest quality to enhance the density of the print. The image on the film should be solid black. If you hold it up to a bright light and view it with a magnifier, very little light should come through the black portions. This is important; if the image is not dense enough the plate produced will be too shallow for printing. If you cannot get good image density, call us at (215 634-2235) for information on the correct printer and film RIP to use. Continue reading All American’s Guide to Pad Printing Plates

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Jig Making: How to Make a Printing Jig

If you’re looking to make a printing jig got pad printing, these step-by-step instructions will show you how!

Jig Making Supplies

  • Fixture Putty
  • Hardener Gel
  • Pad Printer Table
  • Printable Item

Making a Printing Jig

  1. Take a golf ball size of fixture putty.
  2. Place the putty on your palm.
  3. Using the Hardener Gel Tube, pour 3 to 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) out onto putty. (Note: The Amount of hardener you use will determine how fast your putty will harden. Use putty and hardener gel accordingly.
  4. Mix the gel into the putty for around 45 seconds until the gel is completely dissolved with the putty.
  5. Place the putty on the print table and mold it to fit flush on the pad printer table. Put your printable item on the putty and make a deep mold. Set for 2 minutes.
  6. Finally, let the printable item and the putty sit for about 6 minutes until the Fixture Putty has completely hardened.
  7. -Remove the printable item and you are finished.
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Ink Mixing Guide for Pad Printing

Before mixing Ink, it is important to know about the types of ink involved with pad printing: TPU ink and TPR ink. TPU ink is a two part ink, meaning you have to add thinner and hardener to the ink. TPR is one part and many times needs only thinner. Before we start mixing, pour ink thinner to the empty squirt bottle that came with the supply package and label the bottle.

Mixing Ink

  1. Place a paper cup on the electronic scale and “tear” to get zero on the reading.
  2. You can mix any amount of ink you need (25 or 35 gram) but let’s try 25 grams for our trial mixing.
  3. Pour 25 grams of TPR ink in the cup.
    The reading should be “25.00 g”.
  4. Add 3 grams (15% of 20 grams) of thinner in the cup. 15% of thinner is a good starting point. If you feel that ink is still too thick after adding 15%, you can slowly add more but not to exceed 25%.
    The reading should be “28.00 g”.
  5. If you are using in the manual machine or if the substrate you are printing on is hard to stick to-Add 2.8rams (10% of 28grams) of hardener in the cup. 10% of thinner is a good starting point. If you feel that ink needs to bite more on to the substrate then slowly add more but not to exceed 20%
  6. Mix the ink well. The ink should now be ready to be poured on to the tray (for Manual Pad Printers) or poured into the sealed cup (for automatic Pad Printers).
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Successful Pad Printing Tips

Loading ink into pad printing ink cup

Tampo & Pad Print History

This is a great resource for anyone getting started with pad printing or wanting to learn more about its history. Read more here about how pad printing works and how pad printing technology has changed over time.

Pad Printing Equipment Tips

Understanding the Pad

Pads come in many different shapes and sizes, and one of the most difficult questions to answer about the pad printing process is, “How do I determine what pad to use?”. Click here to learn more information about pads and custom pad making from All American.

Tackiness by Degrees

In pad printing, controlling and maintaining the condition of the ink is key to a successful job. Often, other uncontrolled process variables may create what is solely perceived as an ink-related problem. All too often, I have seen technicians struggle for hours to solve what they believed to be an ink problem while ignoring other potential problem-causing variables, such as machine settings and environmental conditions. Frequently, this is due to a lack of understanding of the pad-printing process and the role of the ink in the process.

Pad Break-In Procedure

Silicone pads develop a slick finish on their surface, this can usually be prevented by simply wiping the surface with alcohol to remove the excess silicone. Occasionally, a more aggressive solvent is required for removal.

Other Pad Printing Tips

Jig Making Guide

These step-by-step guide will help you learn about making a plate for your pad printing machine.

Guide to Pad Printing Plates

Our step-by-step guide will help you learn about making a plate for you pad printing machine.

Ink Mixing Guide

This step-by-step guide will tell you all you need to know about mixing ink for your pad printer.


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The Basics of Pad Printing

SGIA show pad printing demo

Unlike most printing methods, pad printing tackles the 3-dimensional world. Using a silicone pad, a 2D image can be transferred onto a wide variety of objects, making pad printing extremely versatile and useful for printing on irregular surfaces: flat, cylindrical, spherical, compound angled, textured, concave and convex. Due to its versatility, pad printing is frequently used to print on technical, electronic, medical, automotive, and promotional items.

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