The days of looking up the parameters on a job set up sheet and entering them by hand are no more!
In the world of engineering anything is feasible when you really think about it. Engineered Printing Solutions has taken the standard hand held barcode scanner and integrated it into our machines, creating new generation of custom pad printers.
When the barcode scanner option is installed in the printing system, the risk of improper parameters being loaded when changing from one print job to the next is virtually eliminated. All the operator and setup individual has to do in order to load the correct printing parameters is to plug in the hand held barcode scanner and scan the barcode for the product. The system then automatically loads the print parameters for that product.
While this option has been popular with our customers in the medical industry due to stringent process validation requirements; we feel many other industries would benefit from this feature as it requires much less operator and setup involvement in the configuration of the system for the new print job. There by reducing the time required and virtually eliminating parameter errors, thus reducing misprinted parts. If however the operator chooses to manually enter the code they are still able to hook up a keyboard and enter the program information.
Our engineers at Pad Print Machinery of Vermont can install this option into almost any of our machines that are custom built in our Facility. The bar code scanner option can be configured to be compatible with almost all barcodes. At the moment Pad Print of Machinery is using 1st and 2nd barcodes. But our engineers are able to adhere to whatever barcode needs to be read by the product at hand.
Compared to the world of manual pad printing, the world of automation is virtually unlimited, within reason. Here at Engineered Printing Solutionswe have taken a standard KP05 bench mounted printer and stripped it of the software and hardware. We then completely customized it to be able to produce 8,000 pieces per hour, all the while requiring minimal operator involvement. How do you decide if automation is right for you? Well you need to ask yourself 3 questions: How many pieces per hour do you need to print? How many colors on the image? Finally what is the size of the image? With this machine, it all starts with the Bowl Feeder which aligns the parts all the same direction and feeds them down a track to the printer, printing the parts and finishing with the items going out under an infrared heater, ensuring that the images are dry enough to continue down the production line to other operations or to packaging. However with every innovation there are obstacles which we must work through.
Some of the technical problems that can arise are:
Being able to efficiently feed the parts to keep up with the printer.
Printing multiple images in one pad stroke can create some undesirable results. This may require custom pads.
Being able to efficiently process parts through the system without damaging even the most delicate part.
Ensuring that the printed image is dry enough to withstand downstream operations as soon as it leaves the system.
In this case we are printing 8 pieces at a time so our engineers need to make sure that the images are being placed correctly on each of the 8 parts every time.
Comments Off on Inkjets: How Do I Choose the Right Inkjet Printer?
That’s the million dollar question! (Don’t worry. It won’t cost that much.) We’ve already outlined how you might benefit from the addition of an inkjet printer, and how to justify the cost of another piece of equipment, in a previous post. Now you have to match your workload and job requirements to the right machine configuration.
What’s the best inkjet machine solution?
That depends. Here are a few criteria used to get that answer:
Image quality – higher resolution means higher priced heads (or more passes).
Throughput – there are “multi-pass” versus “single-pass” options (more on that later).
Part size – limitations on height / width = machine size.
Image size = part size = machine size.
Substrate used – Regardless of the print technology, some substrates (PP & PE come to mind) still require pre-treatment for best image adhesion.
Number of colors required – dark substrates will need White base-coat layer, plus CMYK
What’s the best inkjet technology for me?
Do you need high volume / throughput with minimal part handling? Consider an automated conveyor, single-pass inkjet printer. You’ll typically get:
A print width that will be a minimum of 2.75″ and can be wider on a custom configuration.
Print resolutions up to 720 dpi in a single pass.
This is a great configuration for in-line applications, especially when pre-treatment is required. In many applications, you might require tooling of some sort to make sure parts are spaced and aligned consistently. Some units will incorporate a series of sensors to detect the part, and software that tells the heads when the part is in position for printing. We’ll help you with those.
Do you need higher resolution (up to 1200 dpi) but less speed? Perhaps a flatbed printer is your best option. These units offer:
An advantage for smaller / identical parts that can be placed in machined trays or nests.
A vacuum platen so you can print flat “stock.”
A series of print heads (arrays) on a rack that moves across the bed, printing and curing as it goes, giving you the capability of printing in a single direction, or printing in both directions, depending on your needs. It’s not as fast, but print resolution may be a higher priority.
With either of the above technologies, you will have the capability of adjusting print speeds, ink density / droplet size, head heights, and color hues. Speaking of colors, if you are printing process color on a dark substrate, you will need to print a white base layer first, but both technologies can accommodate that. In addition, it’s possible to print a clear-coat to protect the image or provide a more glossy appearance, but you’ll probably have to sacrifice one of the white arrays.
Do you only print in one color? Obviously, it’s possible to print monochrome or spot colors with inkjet, but keep in mind that it’s not practical to change or flush colors in the same array. With most high end industrial inkjets, ink is fed from bulk tanks, not cartridges (helps to keep the consumable costs down).
Therefore, if you are thinking of printing with one color only, monochrome machines are available, but you need to be very sure that you will only require that one color. Custom machines have been built with white and black arrays, so the customer can print either (and even mix both to get a gray hue).
Does your customer ask to make changes on press or repeat exact specs? Inkjet will usually provide the capability to manipulate the images at the machine, with the assistance of on-board graphic art software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Some machines are capable of storing jobs (or job “queues”) so operators can simply select from a drop-down box. Custom machines are network-capable, so jobs can be entered remotely, and many in-line / automated units can be accessed remotely for both job entry and diagnostic capabilities.
Now you know a lot more about inkjets than the average pad printer. Don’t forget: at PPMoVT we build your inkjet the same way we build your pad printer — from the ground up to your specifications. That makes it clean, efficient and engineered for accuracy and cost effectiveness.
Comments Off on Part 1: When is automation right for your pad printing business?
Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions sometimes involve designing and engineering automation capabilities. When appropriate, we recommend an upgrade from your existing equipment. Why would you do that? After analyzing your current process, we sit down with you and discuss where you can save time and money by investing wisely in a custom automated system.
A successful business makes wise investments that increase in value over time. We all know time is money, but we forget that the time needed to gain a return on our investment is crucial in making decisions. A 10% return on an initial investment within one week would be classified as a huge windfall. A 10% return in 10 years, even in today’s soft market, would be a wasted effort.
So when is the right time to consider automation?
It’s time to consider automation when you find your business losing time in setup, prep and assembly, especially when there aren’t enough hands to go around. It’s time when you want to grow your business but your staff can’t keep up with the orders you have.
It’s time if the form of automation has a reasonable ROI (return on investment) based upon industry norms. Automating can be as simple as moving a box that stores work-in-process to a more convenient location, making the job easier and quicker, saving time and therefore money. Your investment in this sample is 10 minutes of time to come up with an idea and 15 minutes implementing the idea (25 minutes total investment) which subsequently saved 5 minutes per day. ROI = 5 working days = excellent investment, when the industry standard on ROI is 16 months!
It’s time when the cost of labor is holding back your growth. If your company is in the business of manufacturing, in most cases your single biggest expense is labor. This is where automation can become an emotionally charged issue among employees. How many times have you heard people complain that the boss is going to replace them with a machine. Perhaps technically true; however, the bigger picture is that you must yield a few jobs to chores a machine can’t do in order to grow the company. It also provides an opportunity to retrain or release those employees who had limited or no growth potential. In order for a business to survive and thrive automation is one of the simplest tools to implement.
It’s time when you want to expand your business with cash and labor invested wisely, with one eye on your ROI and the other looking toward potential growth. If you had some money available and could get a 10% ROI in a month, would you do it? Would you do it if it was relatively risk free? I’ll bet you’re smiling now!
In our next post I’ll tell the story of one CEO’s “no-brainer” decision in a tale with two endings: one happy, one sad. Until then, consider some of our custom automation solutions:
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