Pad Printing Articles

Understanding the Pad Printing Pad

Article by Peter Kiddell

Probably the most difficult question to answer about the pad-printing process is, "How do I determine what pad to use?". One answer won't apply for every shop or application. Rather than lay down inflexible rules, this article will provide a methodology for determining the optimum pad characteristics and a framework you can work within to get the best performance from your pads time after time.

As prior articles in "Screen Printing" magazine ("Pad Printing: Controlling Ambient Conditions for Better Quality," July '94, page 94 and "Cliche Selection in Pad Printing" Nov. '94, page 122) have stressed the key to good pad printing is to reduce and control the variables. Though the function of the pad seems simple - to just transfer the image from the printing plate onto the substrate - it is subject to the same types of print-quality fluctuations if you don't choose the correct pad type and use it properly.

Five key pad characteristics can affect the quality of the printed image:

  1. shape
  2. size
  3. hardness
  4. surface finish
  5. material

Vary any one of these and the print quality will shift. You must take these factors into account when you plan the job and order pads from your suppliers.

Shape and Size of The Pad Printing Pad.

Shape is the most important variable in selecting a pad.

Hardness of the Pad Printing Pad

The hardness of the pad is normally determined by the amount of silicon oil used when the pad is moulded.

Surface Finish of the Pad Printing Pad

Throughout the pad-printing industry, the custom practice among pad manufacturers is to furnish pads with a high gloss finish.

Material of the Pad Printing Pad

This topic refers not only to the material of the pad itself, but also the base onto which the pad is mounted.

Special Printing Pads for Large Images

In some situations, a large image area must be printed and the machine does not have the power to compress such a heavy pad in a smooth motion.

Quality Control of Pad Printing Pads

Poor-quality consurnables like pads can destroy the performance of the printing machine.

Pad Printing Pad Life

Next to "What should I use?", the most difficult question to answer is "How long should a pad last?"