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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.

The Pad Printing Process

  1. A sealed ink cup sits over the etched image area of the printing plate and covers the image with ink. The sealed ink cup then moves away from the etched image, taking excess ink with it. This exposes the etched image and allows the ink to interact with the air, causing the ink to become tacky and increasing its adherence to surfaces.
  2. The silicone pad presses against the printing plate over the etched image and then lifts away. With the image in ink now transferred onto the pad, the ink is exposed to the air once again, enhancing its adherence and viscosity.
  3. The pad presses down with moderate force onto the substrate and deposits the ink. Almost all pads are designed to roll away from the substrate, preventing air from being trapped and ruining the ink transfer. A correctly designed pad will never form a 0° contact angle with a surface.

If you want to learn more, we have information on the History of Pad printing, the Advantages of Pad Printing and Practical Applications of Pad printing.  Also, check out How to Make a Plate and our custom plate-making services.

All American’s Pad Printer line is second to none.  Effortlessly print 2-D images on 3-D objects.  This versatile technology is always adapting to new market demands. With two-hundred models to choose from we have a machine to exactly match your needs.