Plastics Decorating recently sat down with Julian Joffe, President of Engineered Printing Solutions, to discuss the latest trends in product marking automation. They discussed automation in pad printing as well as the trend away from analog product-marking methods such as pad printing toward digital product-marking solutions such as industrial inkjet.
PD: Thank you for speaking with us. How has pad printing technology changed in the last several years?
JJ: The fundamentals of pad printing have remained unchanged for some years now-the biggest single change happened some 15 years back with the advent of the closed cup system. Since that time nothing has changed much– however the adoption of other technologies into the pad printing world is what has changed. The use of automation in the form of robotics has revolutionized the pad printers that are being used in certain industries by innovative companies. The use of more effective vision systems have also changed the Pad Printing world. In order for a technology such as Pad Printing to remain a strong contender and work for Industry in a globally competitive market –automation must be the first line of defense for technology users to remain competitive in an every changing workforce environment. Innovative OEMS will always find a way to borrow and improve technologies to implement them into the machines they are building in order to better serve their customers and maintain their leadership status as an OEM in that sphere of Industry.
PD: What developments or changes do you see happening with direct to plastics decorating in the next few years?
JJ: Analog systems will continue to remain competitive but the consumer driven internet of things will continue to challenge those analog systems that will in some instances be replaced and supplemented by digital printing technologies due to variable data and personalization. The biggest single advantage of digital over analog is of course the ability to print on demand with minimal set up and tooling cost. This single feature will allow digital to continue its strong growth in direct to plastic object printing. As the cost of equipment continues to decline on a relative basis due to increased volumes due to increased demand so will the ROI become more attractive and this upward spiral of demand will accelerate.
Digital printing means 1) quicker time to market 2) Shortened development times for new products 3) Lowered inventories 4) ability to create later stage differentiation (within the production cycle) These are only some of the advantages that digital has over analog but these are some of the reasons that digital will eventually find its way into all manufacturing sectors and find a place together with analog systems to boost efficiencies especially when shorter run customization becomes a part of every manufacturers offerings to meet customers’ demands.
“The biggest single advantage of digital over analog is of course the ability to print on demand with minimal set up and tooling cost. This single feature will allow digital to continue its strong growth in direct to plastic object printing. As the cost of equipment continues to decline on a relative basis due to increased volumes due to increased demand so will the ROI become more attractive and this upward spiral of demand will accelerate.“
PD: What type of questions should decorators ask when deciding between pad printing or digital inkjet for direct to plastic printing?
JJ: Roughly in this order, decorators should ask themselves the following questions:
- What is my production run length? How frequently will image changeovers be required?
- Is variable data a requirement now or in the future?
- How many colors are required? Inkjet is great for full color while monochrome single color image clichés can quickly be swapped out even for shorter runs.
- How often do the products being decorated change? Tooling changeovers can become the bottleneck.
- Does the shape of the part indicate one product-marking method over another? An example would be a cup or cap vacuum formed cavity. Flatter symmetrical shapes are easier to print using inkjet, but other shapes can cause headaches and the biggest issue would be the distance of the print head to the surface.
- What is the substrate? Some materials present a challenge in terms of adhesion. Sometimes inkjet inks will require pretreatment for quality –not only adhesion-due to relative wet out on substrates with lower dynes (surface tension).
PD: Thank you for your time.