A Specialized Print Technology

Used for a Variety of Industries

Pad printing is a unique printing process used for transferring 2-D images onto 3-D objects. Like the name, this technology utilizes a silicone ‘pad’ to essentially pick up an image (such as your logo) and transfer it onto a designated object (your product). This technology is typically used to print on difficult or oddly shaped surfaces like a golf ball, toy, syringe or remote. From single-color transfers to a detailed CMYK print process, or even from printing flat objects to oddly shaped ones, pad printing jobs can be complex.

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Why Pad Printing?

Pad Printing Offers Distinct Advantages

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Pad printing is an indirect offset printing process in which a soft silicone pad is used to transfer a two-dimensional image to the surface of a three-dimensional object. This unique printing method allows detailed images to be added to delicate, mechanically sensitive, or irregularly shaped products that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to print. With its versatility, reliability, and low cost, pad printing is a suitable printing option for everything from decorative consumer goods and electronics to precision medical devices and automotive parts.

3D Products

Ability to print on 3D objects of different shapes and sizes

Special Purpose Inks

Special purpose inks like security, thermochromic, photochromic, and confectionary

Quality Images

Higher quality images compared to other technologies

Sensitive Products

Can print delicate and mechanically sensitive products

Industrial Environment

Ability to print products that require withstanding industrial environments

Material Variety

Larger variety of materials compared to other technologies

Cost Effective

Offers a low cost print alternative for small space print jobs

Special Effects

Application of special effect inks like glow in the dark, neon, and shimmers

Pad Printing Supplies Overview

Several basic supplies and consumables are required to execute the pad printing process, each of which is described below.

What Is a Pad?

The pad printing pad is the ink transfer mechanism used to deliver the image to the substrate. Made from a soft silicone material, the pad can precisely and effectively print three-dimensional substrates by conforming to their shape without altering or distorting the image. The pad's shape, size, stiffness, and silicone type will depend on the surface and shape of the substrate as well as the image being transferred. While most pads are round or rectangular, pads can be custom-shaped to accommodate unique or unusual substrates.

What Is a Pad Printing Machine?

Pad printing machines come in a range of designs and configurations to accommodate various image sizes and coloring needs. Most standard machines are designed to print one to four colors, while some newer models offer up to eight colors. Various loading and unloading arrangements can also be integrated into the machine, including over/under and linear conveyor systems.

What Is an Ink Cup?

The ink cup houses the pad printing ink used to print the image onto the substrate. It features an attached ring, usually made of ceramic, to remove excess ink from the printing plate as it slides across its surface. This ensures that the ink only remains in the etched sections of the plate.

What Is a Pad Printing Plate?

The image to be printed is etched onto a pad printing plate, also known as a cliché. For most processes, the etching is performed using either photopolymer plate-making or laser etching. The photopolymer technique uses UV light, a film-positive or line-screen film, and a photosensitive curing process to etch the image, while the laser process uses a CO2 or fiber laser.

What Are Pad Printing Inks?

One of the most important elements of the pad printing process is the ink, which is available in a variety of standard and custom colors. Inks can be formulated to offer various levels of adhesion, abrasion resistance, and opacity depending on the type of substrate being printed and its intended application. Selecting the right ink formulation is critical for achieving a high-quality and long-lasting image on the final product.

Additional Pad Printing Supplies

In addition to the printing pad, plate, and ink, other consumables may be required to optimize the ink's composition or enhance the image's adhesion to the substrate. Examples include:
  • Hardeners
  • Solvents
  • Retarders
  • Primers
  • Ink thinners

Pad Printing vs. Screen Printing

Screen Printing

Another popular printing method is screen printing, which uses ink, a mesh screen, and a squeegee to transfer a stenciled image onto a surface. Screen printing equipment is largely automated, allowing it to quickly and effectively print photorealistic images on large volumes of t-shirts and other items. However, this method is limited when it comes to capturing fine details or printing on hard, uneven surfaces.

Pad Printing

In comparison, pad printing can be used on virtually any surface type or material. Unlike screen printing, pad printing is particularly well-suited for applying images to irregularly shaped surfaces and conveying extremely fine details. This makes it the preferred choice for printing on small, uneven, or curved products, especially when working with intricate image designs.

Pad Printing at Teca-Print

Teca-Print is a leading manufacturer of precision-engineered pad printing machines and high-quality consumables such as print pads, clichés, and inks. From electronics and cosmetics to medical and automotive components, our printing solutions can be optimized to fit the needs of nearly any product. Our emphasis on continual process improvement has made us an expert in pad printing automation, research, and development, allowing us to provide customers with the most innovative pad printing technologies and features available.

We also offer extensive in-house sub-contract printing services, which include everything from product pre-inspection and preparation to multi-step printing, curing, and post-print inspection. To learn more about our pad printing products and comprehensive sub-contract services, please contact us today or visit our printing services page.