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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.

How Does Pad Printing Work?

Pad printing technology has made many advancements in the last century, leading to many changes in the way pad printing works. The Swiss watchmakers were the first to industrialize the pad printer following World War II. The precision of pad printing combined with the advancing mechanics of that era allowed the Swiss Watch Industry to print watch dials. At the time, the pads were made of gelatin and used slow drying oil based ink. The process was crude and time-consuming, as the gelatin blocks were mechanically engraved and cleaned by handheld blades.

The first pad printer to resemble its modern-day counterparts was developed by Wilfried Philipp in Germany during the mid-1960’s. The first official prototype was used to print watch faces. The process was later revolutionized in the late 1960’s by the use of cold vulcanized silicone rubber and new solvent inks, making wet on wet printing possible. In time, the process became widely practiced.

Whether printing on watch faces, car dash boards, beakers, and keyboards, pad printing leaves its mark on the world.
Whether printing on watch faces, car dashboards, beakers, or keyboards, pad printing leaves its mark on the world.

In the latter 20th century, pad printing machines were run using chain-drive systems which were then replaced by electric motors. Today, many pad printers are fully automatic and operate using hydraulic and pneumatic systems.

Further advancements with inks, solvents, mixtures and the closed ink cup system have made pad printing easier than ever. This formerly temperamental procedure has now become easy enough to use on items like water-washed plates and other short-run products.

The Reach of Tampo and Pad Printing

Unknown to most modern consumers, pad-printed items are used worldwide; you probably have five or more pad-printed products within reach right now. Typically, pad printers are used for the following:

  • Electronic micro components such as cables, connectors, IC chips, and relays.
  • Industrial buttons and keys found on calculators, telephones, and computer keyboards.
  • Aerospace and automotive control panel markings including knobs, indicator parts, hose markings, and brake pads.
  • Electrical household appliances such as coffee pots, VCRs, televisions, and irons.
  • Large industrial appliance panels on dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers.
  • Toys such as figurines, dolls, Legos, and model cars.
  • Specialty advertising items like pens, mugs, lighters, water bottles, key chains, clocks, USBs, and watch faces.
  • Sporting goods such as golf balls, baseballs, swimming caps, tennis rackets, and footballs.
  • Household items such as infant bottles, pacifiers, rattles, hangers, nightlights, tagless garments, and mobile phone cases.
  • Medical equipment such as pill bottles, syringes, hypo tubes, guide wires, lenses, catheters, and hearing aids.

For more information on pad printing visit Basics of Pad Printing, Practical Applications of Pad Printing and the Advantages of Pad Printing. We also offer information on How to Make A Plate and offer custom plate-making services.

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