Colors, a pad printing affair

Imagine our world without markings on watch dials or small prints on your camera, DVD, blakberry, audio set and washing machine. Think about the ABCs on your kids toys. Certainly, it wouldn't be the same world we live in today. Thanks to pad printing, it has made our world more colourful and informative as well as being more accessible and affordable to everyone.

What is pad printing?

Pad printing is an indirect off-set gravure printing process. It uses a flexible silicon rubber-pad to transfer an inked image located on a printing plate (cliché) onto the surface of an object (substrate). This unique process can transfer fine letters, intricate lines, graphics or even a 4-colour half-tone image to a convex, concave, irregular or texture finish surface.

A brief history

While rudimentary, manual pad printers were developed for the watch making industry following World War II.

During the 60s and 70s, pad printing made big strides with advancement on pad material, ink chemistry and plate technology. The first modern day pad printer made its appearance in 1965 for the clock industry.

Today pad printing is the industry standard to print reliably and repeatedly on three-dimensional and textured surfaces for almost any type of applications.

Pad printing in action

  1. From home position, the sealed ink cup sits over the etched artwork area of the printing plate, covering the image and filling it with ink.
  2. The sealed ink cup moves away from the etched artwork area, taking all excess ink and exposing the etched image, which is filled with ink. The top layer of ink becomes tacky as soon as it is exposed to the air..
  3. The transfer pad presses down onto the printing plate momentarily. As the pad is compressed, it pushes air outward and causes the ink to lift (transfer) from the etched artwork area onto the pad.
  4. As the transfer pad lifts away, the tacky ink film inside the etched artwork area is picked up on the pad.
  5. As the transfer pad moves forward, the ink cup also moves to cover the etched artwork area on the printing plate. The ink cup again fills the etched artwork image on the plate with ink in preparation for the next cycle.
  6. The transfer pad compresses down onto the substrate, transferring the ink layer picked up from the printing plate to the substrate surface. Then, it lifts off the substrate and returns to the home position, thus completing one print cycle.