Engineered Printing Solutions Announces New Partnership!

[East Dorset, Vermont – January 9, 2017] –  Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS) a wholly owned subsidiary of XAAR Plc (Cambridge, UK) is proud to announce a partnership with leading eastern European print industry representative HKM Sp. z o.o., this channel partnership will launch in 2017. EPS VP of Sales, Tim Scully, affirmed “The decision to diversify our global sales network began with a careful examination of potential partners who share our philosophy. The success of our company is dependent on our ability to listen, learn and partner with our client. Our Sales and Engineering teams approach each project with an enthusiasm to deliver a solution that exceeds each client’s individual needs and allow our Customer Service staff an opportunity to deliver unrivaled post purchase support. HKM shares this philosophy and our enthusiasm for the market potential of our unique industrial solutions. HKM will play a vitally important role in our continued growth throughout the eastern European market.”

Established in 1998 in Sopot, Poland, HKM offers a wide breadth of services to serve the flexographic industry. HKM not only offers manufacturing and refurbishment of rotary tooling, but also supplies a wide range of printing machinery for the most demanding customers. The company’s experienced staff provides extensive maintenance service.

Engineered Printing Solutions (“EPS”) is the market leader in product printing equipment, providing cutting edge product printing equipment globally.

EPS has built a successful business through supplying customized printing solutions to a wide variety of market sectors including promotional, packaging, medical, automotive, apparel, appliances, sports equipment and toys. Its core initiative has been the development and implementation of flexible, cost effective digital inkjet solutions that help address sustainable manufacturing initiatives.

Engineered Printing Solutions understands the importance of Corporate Sustainability practices. Our innovative solutions are both lean and green.  Go paperless, let us show you the benefits of Liquid Labels™

Supporting and Training Industrial Printing Customers

In this edition of EPS Insider I caught up with Jim Tower, Technical Services Manager at Engineered Printing Solutions. Simply put, Jim is dedicated. He commutes around an hour each way every day and he offers customers around the clock mobile phone availability. His morning commute is devoted to mental preparation for the work day ahead, and his commute home offers an opportunity to wind-down.

Jim and the Technical Services Team play a vitally important role at EPS. Jim and his team are responsible for supporting the Sales Team in the early stages of product qualification, generating the samples for each of our prospective clients. Technical Services is deeply involved in the development and maintenance of our facilities process development. They also put the final stamp on our completed projects during the quality control phase prior to shipment. And lastly, our most important point of competitive differentiation, our post-manufacturing customer support that follows every product we ship for the products entire lifespan.

Q: What is your role here and what responsibilities does it entail?

“I am the Technical Services Manager at EPS and manage a 15 person department. Our team handles a wide variety of responsibilities, a good place to start is at the ‘hand off’ from the Machine Assembly and Engineering Team(s) after a piece of equipment is complete. We make sure that the equipment meets all specifications, and after we are satisfied that these specification have been met we build a process for support around them. We are very critical during these activities because nothing will leave this building unless we are positive we have met our customer expectations. Accomplishing this is all about process development, and this is where the talent of this department really comes into play.”

“In addition, we provide support for the life of the equipment after we have completed our final testing steps before we ship to their facility. This post purchase customer support is a large part of what we do every day. It begins with what I term, installation commissioning and on-site training. This involves visiting the customer’s facility, checking the equipments condition, reproducing the production process, establishing a baseline of what the equipment is capable of, and then training the customer to effectively perform the process themselves.”

Q: Can you tell me more about the free lifetime technical support that we provide to our industrial printing customers?

“While we offer an extensive warranty for every product we sell, the personal relationship never really stops for us. We provide free post-warranty, lifetime technical support to all original equipment owners of our machines. This support is provided via phone, email, Skype…whatever remote assistance is most comfortable for the customer. All of our larger systems can be operated and diagnosed right from my desk via TeamViewer, the proprietary remote access software solution we have relied on for years.”

“We find a special pride in our ability to develop long-term relationships with each of them. We cherish all of our customers and we frequently receive positive feedback because they know that we are always here for them. We will send a qualified Technician to any facility within a few hours time if the situation warrants this level of timeliness support. We know that really matters and we have loyal, repeat customers because that’s the level of support we are known for.”

Q: In addition to simply providing the free lifetime support, what about it do you think sets us apart from other companies in our industry?

“I think what sets us apart is our responsiveness and expertise, which is second to none. You can ask any customer and they will tell you as much. We make every effort to get back to our customers within minutes of a request. In addition to my team having a high level of expertise and quick response time, they are a ‘likable’ group. People enjoy speaking to them, and prefer that over opening a manual and troubleshooting an issue themselves. We have a mantra here; if our customers are successful we are successful. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and therefore they are more likely to consider EPS for future projects. We have built relationships with our customers and know where they are at with a piece of equipment. As a result, we can pick up on something right where we have left off.

“That being said, the double-edged sword here is that if a customer is picking up the phone to call us, it’s not because they wanted to say hello. It’s because they have encountered an issue and they need a quick and thorough resolution. Let’s use a newly purchased machine as an example. A significant investment has been made and there’s a learning curve there, plain and simple. The customer is still getting their ‘sea legs’ and that is where most problems occur. It’s our job to diffuse the situation, to calm them down and do what we do…which is to work them through the problem. This is what my team is very good at.”

Q: How and why do customers depend on your department for sample production?

“There’s any number of reasons as to why we produce so many product samples. It can be a contract basis, a custom basis, and most commonly during the presale phase for a new tool for proof of concept and quality. A company might simply need samples done for a trade show. A customer may be struggling with their own in-house printing, and ask us to figure out the problem. There are lots of reasons we’ll turn a machine on here!”

Q: What do you think best summarizes the importance of the technical services department?

“It would be the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘service-less machine’. Our customers simply need us in one manner or another. Regardless of whether or not it is a technical issue with some aspect of the printer, or the operator is struggling with a process. My team is here to see them through it.”

Q: What do you personally enjoy the most about your position and leading your team on a daily basis?

“The challenge of the job, hands down! After doing this for 20 years, I still learn something new every day. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it. Engineered Printing Solutions is a ‘custom automation house’, and thus no two processes are the same. We are uniquely positioned to produce and service three very different solutions; pad printing machines, cutting edge digital machines and completely customized, uniquely manufactured proprietary machines. There might be a few cookie cutter aspects with the smaller, pad printing equipment. However, when you get into the larger machines, none of it is the same. The challenge for my technicians and I is understanding what those differences are so we are able to diagnose and repair them. That’s the challenge, in addition to always meeting the customer’s expectations…of course!”

For more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, such as standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and auxiliary equipment, visit www.epsvt.com, email info@epsvt.com or call 1-800-272-7764.

Industrial Printing – Customer Needs & Challenges!

In this edition of EPS Weekly, I caught up with Dan Leiter, sales engineer here at Engineered Printing Solutions. Dan has been in the printing industry for 25 years, with the last 10 years of it providing industrial printing solutions to clients via both pad printing and inkjet technology. We had an interesting conversation that touched upon a number of things related to the dynamics of the customer relationship. This ranged from the inception of the EPS/Client relationship to ongoing support and maintenance of a solution that has already been designed and delivered.

What do you think is the most critical consideration when beginning to work with a client toward the custom design of an industrial printing machine, be it a pad or inkjet printing solution?

The qualification process of defining the customer’s needs and delivering a solution or product that meets those needs is by far the most critical part of the process. It can be a difficult job, because a lot of our larger customers often have the involvement of numerous people from various departments such as engineering, operations, and marketing. The project might start out with a very simple process for a company, but as more players get involved, more requirements get brought in to the mix that have to be met.

As a result, we have worked hard over the years to establish and confirm expectations as early in the project as possible. We have achieved this through extensive specifying of needs with our customers to minimize unnecessary research and development costs, as well as keep projects on schedule.”

Do you feel that taking this ‘deeper dive’ with specifying needs early on with the customer has been successful in defining what the customer is truly looking for and needs?

“Yes. It has allowed us to define things, so that invariably when a customer approaches us later in the process regarding a specific functionality (or feature) that was requested, we can in turn reassure them that they will be getting exactly what was detailed in the design documentation.

On the other hand, if the customer is requesting additional features and/or functionalities after an entire process and procedure has been documented, that’s something different. Yes, we are always going to go above and beyond to make our customers extremely satisfied with the end product. However, add-ons and change requests in the middle of a machines design inevitably result in more project hours and thus additional costs.

The pre-build specification process places a milestone in the path, which protects both the customer and EPS by minimizing the probability of unforeseen costs and completion delays. So ultimately, it’s about getting as granular as possible when establishing expectations, and keeping everybody on task.”

As a sales engineer, what are some of the things that you find most gratifying (as well as challenging) when you’re working toward a custom, industrial printing solution for a customer?

“I’ve been in the graphic arts industry my entire adult life. We all claim to have ‘ink in our veins’. As a result, I have a natural inclination toward the entire printing process, including direct-to-shape, which I’ve been doing here at EPS over the last 10 years.

What makes it challenging is that we often have to reinvent the wheel to meet our customer’s specific needs. Every job can be an entirely different product – every job can comes with an entirely different set of requirements. You have to ‘define’ all of these requirements and then develop a solution that is going to ‘address’ all of them…each and every time.

I would say what makes it gratifying is taking a complex set of requirements (that are unique in nature) and exceeding the customer’s expectations in the end. A lot of what we do here is about helping our customers bring an innovation and/or invention to life. We are playing an active part in making entrepreneurial visions a reality. This is why we refer to our customers as partners. It’s a reference that is used all too often, but is completely fitting in our business.”

Tell me more about the customization side in all of this. What do you mean when you say “every job is different”? Can you give some examples?

“There is almost always a difference and/or variation when it comes to the automation that we customize for a client. This ranges from the type, size and shape of the product that they’re looking to decorate on, to the way in which they are looking to decorate on it. Product examples as simple as a tape measure, a glass bottle, a flashcard (to name a few), still have specific print areas that the customer wants to decorate.  This in and of itself creates the need for a custom fixture, and that makes it unique to that particular customer. Even with similar shaped products, it’s different from customer to customer. Customers manufacturing the same type of product can have different processes in which our equipment needs to fit.

They’re all trying to create new processes to improve their quality and efficiencies. It’s exciting, but at the same time challenging. That being said, we love being part of it!”

Can you think of a specific industrial printing solution (pad or inkjet) that stands out as far as size and scope?

“A project that comes to mind is a printing services company that was looking for a digital inkjet machine that would exclusively work on their direct mail campaign. The machine needed to offer heavy personalization, short run capability and high throughput. In addition, the client wanted a solution that would print onto a pen 180 degrees (around the circumference of the pen barrel), in two different colors, and onto a dozen different pen styles.

These requirements required a digital inkjet printer that was highly customized from both an automation and software standpoint. When you’re working with a number of variables that require specific robotic features and heavy software programming, you’re now looking at a fairly complex and sophisticated machine. You are also looking at a significant investment.

In the end our mechanical and software engineers worked together to deliver a heavily customized XD070 Industrial Inkjet Printer. (Click link for more information on standard configuration). The machine met all the demands that the client requested and we’ve been providing ongoing training and field support since it was deployed to their manufacturing environment last year.”

What do you think the future landscape of industrial printing looks like, and do you see it changing how you work with your customers?

“In terms of the direction that the industry is going, digital is clearly driving the bus now. Digital is still in its relative infancy as far as a decorating technology. Where digital needs to go to achieve broad market acceptance primarily involves pretreatment and ink adhesion.

Getting the ink to stick to the product and meet customer durability standards is paramount. Most of our customers are not printing on ‘throwaway’ items and have stringent requirements when it comes to this. The image needs to be able to maintain its quality while being exposed to various degrees of wear and tear, cleaning and expected life of the product.

It is my belief that new methods of pretreatment will be entering the market and gaining acceptance. Currently we use various methods; a chemical wipe, a flame, corona, and plasma treatments.  Although they all have their strengths, ink adhesion with glass, metal and ceramics come with challenges. It is the new pretreatments that are expected to largely address these challenges, allowing greater ink adhesion and durability.

As far as how we are going to be working with our customers towards solutions, it will still be a lot of customization based on customer needs, and probably more. This is because customers (particularly large ones) will be looking for an all in one machine specific to their product line. A company that wants to print on 18 different products (all of various shapes, sizes and substrate types), and wants a single machine to accomplish is what you’re looking at here. That’s where we come in, because that’s what we do at EPS. That’s what we’ve already been doing for quite some time.”

For more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, such as standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and auxiliary equipment, visit www.epsvt.com, email info@epsvt.com or call 1-800-272-7764.

Designing a Custom Digital Inkjet Solution – The Beginning

EPS Weekly is a new resource that we’re starting here at Engineered Printing Solutions. Its purpose is multifold, as it is intended to inform, educate and provide an inside look at the many factors that go into industrial printer manufacturing.

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Metcalfe, Applications Engineer in our single pass digital inkjet division. Kevin’s role is a critical one, as it primarily involves determining the process in which EPS can satisfy customer requirements when designing a machine specific to their industrial printing need(s). This involves working with all aspects of product decoration from adhesion testing, print quality, throughput requirements and any other specifications that the customer may have. A large part of Metcalfe’s expertise lies in performing extensive feasibility studies to troubleshoot potential issues related to direct-to-shape printing, such as scratch resistance, color gamut, substrate composition and contour, pretreatment methods and testing, testing and more testing.

How it Starts

The process typically begins with a set of predefined requirements from the customer. Samples are sent to the EPS facility to be sample printed, delivered back to the customer for review, and the journey toward a custom solution begins! It is during this process that a lot of discovery takes place and the relationship between EPS and the client becomes more of a partnership as new ideas are exchanged, possibilities discussed and limits pushed.

Substrate Pretreatment

Meeting our customer’s adhesion requirements is paramount, and various methods are implemented during testing to determine what will produce the best results. Corona treatment, atmospheric plasma, flame and primer are all examples of pretreatment methods utilized in acquiring necessary adhesion to specific substrates.

Meeting adhesion requirements ranges in difficulty, depending on the substrate and the complexity of the desired result. For example, while polystyrene is a simple substrate to achieve adhesion with using UV inks with no pretreatment, other substrates such as polypropylene or high-density polyethylene are more difficult and require more process development. This is what makes Metcalfe’s position a very important one.

Cost and Compromise

Sometimes the ability to produce a difficult solution for the customer comes down to capital expenditure and/or compromise with respect to what their expectations were at the beginning of the project.  While some are willing to invest in additional research & development to achieve their goals, sometimes the answer requires changing how the substrate is manufactured.

“It is a series of stages that is prudent to follow. If you haven’t dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s with regard to the process (the right ink, the right pretreatment, the necessary cure and adhesion), you can find yourself in a position where you have built a machine that does not yet meet customer requirements, so we must be thorough in our feasibility studies well in advance of building a machine.”

The Speed of Inkjet

The industrial inkjet printers built at EPS range from basic, single head monochromatic machines to complex staggered head array solutions capable of printing multiple colors, primers and clear coats.

“One of the great advantages of single pass inkjet is incredible throughput. The faster that you can run the parts beneath the print heads in a single pass formation the faster they come out the other end, while still meeting whatever other requirements that the customer may have” says Metcalfe.

EPS’s single pass applications are UV curable, meaning that the inks are cured using targeted wavelength ultraviolet radiation.

When is Inkjet the Answer?

There are many reasons to embrace digital technology for decoration over analog solutions. The desire for short runs, better print quality, just-in-time manufacturing, and quick job changeovers are just a few of the reasons to switch to digital.

The question of when to switch to digital comes down to the customer’s requirements, and whether or not these can be met via inkjet technology. The industry is still scratching the surface with regard to its capabilities. One of the more interesting aspects of Kevin’s position is overcoming a decorating challenge where there was initial uncertainty as to its feasibility.

“The challenge is both interesting and intriguing, because you’re pushing at the edge of an envelope here and the technology is constantly changing. Despite what others may say, there are always opportunities to do something more.”

What Makes EPS Different?

A history of being willing to custom design and build a machine to meet a customer’s needs clearly sets EPS apart from other companies.  Our foundation is rooted in the analog process of product decoration, and this experience informs our design choices when building a digital solution.

“At the end of the process, once all the hurdles have been cleared, every customer we partner with receives an engineered printing solution that has been purpose-built to suit their specific manufacturing and decoration needs. Once installed in their facility it is extremely rewarding to watch their decorated product racing off the end of the conveyor.”

For more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, such as standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and auxiliary equipment, visit www.epsvt.com, email info@epsvt.com or call 1-800-272-7764.

Direct To Shape Printing – Is Label Replacement Inevitable?

The industrial labels market is expected to exceed 50 billion dollars (USD) by 2020 according to Markets and Markets, the second-largest market research firm worldwide in terms of premium market research reports published annually.  It is also a fiercely competitive market that consists of more than a half dozen label manufacturers that have had a strong foothold in the industry for many years.

While digital direct-to-shape printing has been seeing growth in other printing markets such as textiles and ceramics, the packaging industry has been slow to adopt the new techniques for a number of reasons.

Bottles and jars and cups…oh my

The packaging industry is charged with decorating substrates that have more shape and curvature than any other market. In addition, the variety of materials – including glass, plastic, metal and cardboard among others – all require different pretreatment methods, while manufacturers are under changing consumer demands for personalization and more eco-friendly practices.

“From direct printing on bottles to can-to-carton conversions, packaging trends are fascinating to watch.”Ben Miyares, Contributing Editor – Packaging World

While the advantages of digital label printing (namely personalization and short run capability) are clear, digital direct-to-shape is perceived by the packaging industry as a ‘replacement technology’ and it is difficult to determine how much the consumer is willing to pay for these benefits. Adoption of direct-to-shape label printing is the ‘elimination’ of the label altogether and thus a major industry game changer.

Changing the mindset

In a packaging world that has largely consisted of labels used for the branding, coding and decorating of product, the idea of direct-to-shape printing is a substantial culture shift. It is one surrounded by economics, perception, new technology and new processes. But it is a shift that is likely to take shape (no pun intended) in multiple packaging sectors, as the technology and expertise continues to improve.

More than just a change of mindset is the fact that the integration of industrial inkjet is a challenge in and of itself. This is not because it is more complex and overwhelming, but the simple fact that it is a ‘new’ disruptive technology. Integrating any new technology into a manufacturing environment means process change. This can mean everything from working with digital for the first time to adapting to print head and ink changes.

“Compared to screen or pad the lack of any setup time or tooling cost more than compensates for the higher ink cost. Compared to digital label printing, direct to shape removes one process step but also removes the label printer – and his profit margin.” – Marcus Timson, Co-Founder – InPrint (IndustrialPrintBlog.com)

Overcoming the challenges

There are also logistical challenges that are going to require further testing and collaboration. When you are talking about the concept of jetting ink directly to substrate, adhesion and print head positioning inevitably come into play. Removing steps in the process and/or benefitting from the economics of something mean very little if quality is compromised. Maintaining optimal print resolution and acceptable adhesion cannot ‘take a back seat’ for direct-to-shape to be fully embraced across the packaging industry. Therefore, the supply chain will need to continue to work together to overcome these new challenges and allow direct to shape to pick up momentum by way of being a stable, diverse solution for many.

New ideas and opportunities

Thanks to the continuous evolution of digital printers (and specifically the capabilities of the print heads themselves) – quality, consistency and feasibility are among the challenges that the industry is taking head on. Digital printing already eliminates costly parts of the analog process, but direct-to-shape takes it one step further by eliminating the cost of the labels and their application. Furthermore, this new process will likely spark innovation that results in new product ideas, exciting changes and measureable savings. Sound familiar? Once again, digital printing has the potential to change everything!

So back to the original question

Will direct-to-shape printing replace the usage of labels in packaging entirely? The best answer to that question might be ‘maybe, but not right away’. The packaging industry is a printing market that consists of many submarkets all with their own demands. At the end of the day, it will come down to a willingness to embrace the new challenges and invest with the right partner to integrate the new technology.

Direct-to-shape labels will happen over time for different parts of the industry. For some, there are already “out of the box” solutions available. For others, it will be a longer arc to adoption. As process engineers move the digital solutions out of the R&D stage and onto the production floor, they will find ways to make operational changes that save time and money, while catering to their customers’ ever-changing needs.

What Defines Functional Printing?

The phrase “industrial printing” is becoming more and more an all encompassing term used to describe the printing process utilized by the manufacturing sector which has evolved over the last couple of decades. Throughout the world we are seeing a continued expansion of printing technology beyond product decoration, and this expansion, spurred by manufacturing, is pushing the role of print to the limit. From the advancing capabilities of industrial printing machines, to the development of versatile inks and print head technology, there are now many new and exciting solutions to traditional hurdles.

It’s fair to say that all of these changes and additions to the industry have created new segments in the market, and sometimes the lines can be blurred.

One such segment where confusion occurs is functional printing. The definition of functional printing varies (depending on who you are talking to). The concept of print ‘providing a function’ has been around since printing’s inception. Traditional methods such as a highway sign visually warning us those two lanes are about to merge, a watch dial, or the markings of a tape measure all provide a function. Are these examples of “functional printing”? Well, technically yes, but functional printing can include more than tics on an odometer.

Among the many breakthroughs that are occurring within the printing industry, is the ability of a printed substance to actually perform a function, such as ink that illuminates, or conducts electrical current. Yes, illumination and electronics are very far from being new technologies, but the ability to effectively ‘print them’ is still an industry at its infancy, redefining the role of print providing a function.  These growing capabilities are opening new doors for industrial manufacturers and process engineers charged with ever changing market demands and ink manufacturers are glad to follow suit. The manufacturers who stimulate this growth are at the forefront of these new developments. Robin McMillan (European Marketing Manager of Industrial Inks at Sun Chemical) believes that functional and industrial print are “two sides of the same coin”. More specifically, he prefers to talk about ‘Functional Industrial Specialty Print’, which he describes as: “a group of markets where printing is used as part of a manufacturing process or as a functional part of the end product.”

This partnership between manufacturers and industrial printing is just one example of how the definition of functional printing will change and develop as it ‘creates and competes’ to meet the needs of such a wide range of industries.

How to Prevent UV Curing from Damaging Print Heads

When it comes to UV inkjet printing, reflective, transparent or glossy substrates do not always ‘play nice’. These substrates can be anything from glass and crystal to simply any type of shiny media that causes UV light to bounce back into the print heads. The problem with UV light reflecting back into the print head is that it results in curing the inks within the nozzles and on the nozzle plate itself. This can cause serious (and costly) damage to the print head and therefore shorten the life of the head unnecessarily.

The following are some tips on how to prevent UV curing from damaging print heads:

  1. Eliminate the use of refractive materials when manufacturing fixtures or printer jigs. When designing a fixture, be sure it is a dark matte finish material, and covers any negative space between parts to block UV light from bouncing back to the print heads.
  2. Consider the angle and intensity of the UV lamps. You should always use the lowest amount of UV possible to gain full cure for your application.  If your machine was not supplied with UV light shims, contact the technical service department to inquire about this feature.
  3. Always print onto substrates that are ‘flat’ or parallel to the head array, and be sure the platen gap is no larger than 1.5mm. If you happen to be printing on a mirrored substrate that is flexible, be sure to attach it to a flat material first.
  4. Be proactive and check the health of your nozzles frequently. Perform an auto cleaning every other platen and to ensure that all nozzles are working, run nozzle checks every hour of production. If you notice that ink is curing either in the nozzles or on the face plate, flush the affected head with maintenance fluid.
  5. Always perform ink nozzle checks at the end of a shift. If any nozzles are missing, clean your print heads before powering down the printer.

Prematurely damaged print heads (due to UV light refraction and reflection) are expensive and unnecessary. Follow the tips above to avoid this issue and ensure proper care and functionality of your inkjet printer.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Ink Mixing – A Pad Printing Best Practice

Ink mixing for pad printing is a fairly simple task. However, when done incorrectly it can adversely affect the whole printing process. This can result in subpar results that leave you not only having to remix your ink, but disrupting production and costing time and money.

Below are a few tips to help you get it right the first time:

  1. Always be sure to use an ‘ink friendly’ mixing cup to maintain ink integrity. See our blog Choosing A Mixing Cup For Pad Printing for tips on this.
  2. Always thoroughly mix the in the source (bulk) container prior to scooping or pouring into the mixing container – this will ensure consistency from the start to finish of the bulk container.
  3.  Always ensure that your measuring scale is accurate, set to zero and on a flat surface.
  4. Use sufficient ink based upon the cup depth and size that is used on your printer to ensure that the ‘etch’ on the cliché is well inked by the cup/cliché motion.
  5. Use the correct amount of hardener and ALWAYS mix ink and hardener prior to adding thinners or additives. Instructions for mixing of additives is written on the bulk liter can and are dependent on the series ink.  A helpful tip – pour ink from can away from markings in order that they remain legible.
  6. Pad printing inks are diluted with 10-20% thinner. Ideal viscosity is predicated on the machine speed ambient conditions (humidity and temp.), the hardness of the pad and the porousness of the substrate being printed on.
  7. If needed, continue to add thinner by the drop in small increments until you have achieved desired thickness. This technique always minimizes the chance of over-thinning your ink. (refer to our viscospatula for instructions)

 

Short-Run Printing – The New Digital Megatrend

It’s no secret that we live in an on demand world. Technology has provided us with immediate gratification in nearly all aspects of our lives. Print on demand is a perfect example of how the digital age has redefined the what, how and when of our printing needs.

Albeit a less popular buzz-word, short-run printing is becoming an ‘industry equivalent’ in many respects in the world of commercial and industrial printing.

Manufacturers need to enable their clients with the ability to produce smaller, customized quantities in a cost-effective manner. This is proving as necessary on the industrial printing side of the industry as it is the consumer printing side.

“Customers want to do shorter runs. They want to do shorter runs, because they want to version, or they want to have personalization, or they want to run very specific campaigns. We see those same megatrends that are happening in the core (publishing, transactional, commercial printing) are happening in the packaging industry”, said Eric Weisner (VP & GM of Hewlett Packard) in a recent interview.

The Benefits to Companies (Large and Small)

Although digital printing has been commonplace in the home and office environment for some time now, it is still referred to as a change of revolutionary measure in the professional printing world.

The efficiency and profitability that digital printing creates is stirring up a world of possibilities in the printing industry. It is driving innovation and pushing companies to new limits, all very good things.

Among short-run digital printing’s many benefits is the fact that it is not company size-centric. While the benefit to small businesses is obvious, larger companies with hundreds of products benefit equally. The ability to print the amounts needed at a particular time (and apply changes ‘on the fly’) makes short run printing just as appealing to big business.

It’s all about meeting deadlines and staying within (or below) budget, regardless of who you are.

Endless Opportunities: What the Numbers Are Saying

Commercial printing currently makes up close to 40% of the worldwide $901 billion print industry. Over the past 20 years, digital printing has literally transformed the industry (initially at the consumer level). Think about how receptive the market was to the introduction of personalized cards and calendars? We love the ability to make something ‘our own’ through personalization.

Digital printing has given us the ability to innovate endlessly. High quality, short run capabilities (with constantly improving technology), offering the ability to print on virtually anything…in small amounts and with variations as well.

Digital short run packaging has hit a high gear with the private labeling of in-demand goods, personal care products, food  and beverages, seasonal packaging and special events to name a few. It has also created an affordable and flexible means for brands to test the waters with short runs of new products, as well as testing those new products in different languages.

Industrial Printing: Short Run and the Manufacturing Process

Digital short run printing (for both decorative and functionality purposes) during the manufacturing process is another large segment. Medical devices, automotive parts, textile and glass are all industries that are prospering from both digital and its short run capabilities. When it comes to innovation, market testing and customer requirements, digital short run is becoming more and more an obvious choice.

“The migration to customized digital solutions that satisfy the needs of brand owners and product managers is why equipment manufacturers are developing new and innovative solutions in imaging, inks, material deposition, and printing technologies.” says Ron Gilboa, Director of FIPS.

When we stop and take a look at the substrates that digital short run printing can print on (from both the decorative and functional perspectives) it is easy to envision the boundless opportunities and the inevitability of growth. The technology now exists to digitally short run print on metal, glass, plastic, wood, wax, fabrics, ceramic…even food.

Direct-to-Shape: Replacing the Printed Label and More!

As Marcus Timson well stated, “Printing and placing labels onto packaging and products is big business.” As a segment of the printing industry that is approaching $50 billion, there is no shortage of innovation brewing as to the possibility of replacement of the printed label. Businesses are starting to realize the economics of it, while also beginning to embrace the new possibilities that come with direct-to-shape. The flexibility of direct-to-shape compared to printed labels allows for more customization and more creative freedom. The ability to effectively print directly onto various contours opens a world of possibilities.

safety-helmets-glasses.fw

Decorative Examples

  • Clothing
  • Fabrics
  • Home Furnishing
  • Flooring
  • Toys
  • Bottles/Jars
  • Helmets
  • Signs
  • Candles
  • Glasses

sensors-circuitry.fw

Functional Examples

  • Circuitry
  • Sensors
  • Batteries
  • Catheters & IV’s
  • Instruments
  • Display Panels
  • Antennas
  • Dashboards
  • Switches

…the list goes on!

 Conclusion: So Much Can Be Done In the “Short Run”

Digital short run printing within the realm of industrial manufacturing is opening the doors to enormous opportunities. When technology creates the ability to innovate cost-effectively and with less and less creative limits, a renaissance of sorts occurs. Companies are able to introduce new products in a manner that is less risky, new markets are created at a faster rate, and providers of the technology are continually inspired to invent new capabilities. This is what the age of industrial digital printing is creating. A kind of new “Industrial Age” in and of itself.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Pad Printing – It’s All About The Pad!

The print pad is one of (if not the) most important aspects of the pad printing process. Made from silicone rubber, it is the perfect ink transfer medium when designed, used and maintained correctly.

The properly molded print pad will have the following features:

  • Excellent adhesion
  • Flawless Ink Detachment
  • Perfect Ink Transfer
  • Stability of Form
  • Resistance to Solvents & Inks

Printing pads comes in all shapes and sizes and are often custom designed. This is because they are created for very specific applications, both unique and specialized.  Below are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to the print pad.

Pad Size

The pad itself should be at least 20% than the image that it is printing on. If the height and width of the pad is less than this, the probability of distortion near the edges of the image is more likely.

Pad Shape

The shape of the image itself is one of the most important factors in determining the shape of the pad.  Use the following guidelines when considering your printing pad:

Rooftop shaped pad – for shorter, wider images (and straight text)
Round / cone pads – for flat surfaces with a round image area.
Square or Rectangular shaped pad  – for square/rectangular shapes.
Half Moon pad – recommended for curved surfaces and longer text.

The other vital factor when it comes to the print pad is the contour (or angle) of the print pad. A steep, opposite angle of the print area is ideal, as to allow for clean transfer of ink by displacing air during pickup and transfer. The absence of a steep enough angle causes air to become trapped between the pad and cliché and damages the ink-to-image transfer.

Pad Hardness

The higher the number is, the harder the pad. This is also referred to as “shore”.  It is determined by the amount of silicone oil when creating the pad. More silicone oil makes for a softer pad, while hard print pads are made using less silicone oil.

Hard pads – Produce sharper images (with less distortedness) and generally better coverage,
Soft pads – Produce longer image life due to more ink placement onto the image,

Pad Lifecycle

While it is easy to understand that softer pads last a little longer because of their flexibility, all pads eventually lose their image transfer quality due to silicone oil depletion inside the pad. At this point, surface application of oil is ineffective and drying out of the pad is inevitable.

While air blowers that produce clean and dry air will increase machine efficiency (and help with clean image transfer), it is important to know when your printing pad has reached its expiration.

Remember to keep your pad printing environment between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (which allows ink solvents to evaporate at a normal rate) and humidity between 50-60%. Maintaining this humidity level is crucial in the proper functioning of the ink and evaporation solvents.

Learn more about print pads by visiting our website at www.epsvt.com. There you can also find more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and other auxiliary equipment. Email info@epsvt.com or call 1-800-272-7764 if you would like more information.