Answers to the nuts and bolts of your pad printing, screen printing, laser engraving, and plate-making explained by Inkcup's technical experts.
Pad Printing is a printing method that uses a silicone print pad to pick up ink from an etched cliche (plate), and transfer it to a part. Unlike with Screen Printing or Heat Transfer, Pad Printing lays down a very thin layer of ink, which makes the print soft on touch and cuts down per-label cost. See a pad printing machine demos under Learning Center, Tagless Overview tab.
The Physics of Pad Printing
The transfer of ink relies on the evaporation of solvent, which is contained in the ink mixture. The side of the ink that is exposed to air gets tackier than the other side. Hence the ink first sticks to the print pad and is released from the plate, and then sticks to the part and is released from the pad.
The flexibility of the print pad allows printing an image – without any distortion – onto a variety of surfaces: porous, grooved, rounded or irregular-shaped.
Pad Printing was invented in the beginning of the 20th century, and has been widely used since for printing promotional products, automotive and industrial parts, medical equipment, sporting goods and toys. Since 2008, Pad Printing is becoming the gold standard for Tagless garments and footwear production.
Short answer: Yes, to 99%.
Long answer: SB ink works on the vast majority of fabrics, for example cotton and cotton blends, poly blends, spandex, lycra etc. The exception is very loosely-woven fabrics, such as lace.
Short answer: No.
Long answer: SB ink cures by air and is tack-dry within seconds after printing. You can place one printed piece of fabric on top of another right after printing. (But do not apply pressure right away). Ink is fully cured within about 3 days – this is when the items are ready to pass wash tests.
If you already have a drying oven, you can use it to fully cure without waiting.
Short answer: 1 or 2.
Long answer: Long answer – 2 color is only possible on white garments with the ICN-2200PS. 1 color is generally done with white, black, or Cool Gray 6 using the B100, B-150 or Brite machine.
Yes, you have 3 options:
Pad printing ink is laid in a very thin layer (hence the softness of the print and low ink costs). Because of the thinness, a white print made by a standard pad printing machine with standard white ink on a dark fabric will look grey. So we recommend using the Cool Grey 6 color, which is a standard practice for the majority of clothing brands.
ULTRA White ink is an improvement on standard white formulation. ULTRA White requires machine speed calibration, but results in a noticeably improved opaqueness.
And here is the great news! Inkcups engineers have developed the Brite Tagless System that allows printing brilliant white and light colors (white, yellow, pink, light blue, light green etc.) onto dark fabrics. The Brite Tagless printer has a lower maximum speed than our standard pad printers. But the softness, flexibility, compliance and durability of the print is uncompromised and the brightness is stunning. This is the only solution in the world, available exclusively from Inkcups.
Short answer: Up to 5.5” (140mm) in diameter.
Long answer: With the B100 or ICN-2200 pad printers, maximum image diameter is 3.1” (80mm). With the B150 or ICN-150 pad printers, maximum image diameter is 5.5” (140mm).
Short answer: Arial 6pt.
Long answer: It depends on the font style. Extremely fine lines may not withstand wash tests. Send us your graphic file and we’ll determine how small your font can be.
50 industrial washes.
Short answer: No.
Long answer: The SB pad printing ink is laid in a very thin layer, and it is very stretchable.
An air compressor with 3-5 cfm (cubic feet per minute) at 80-100 psi (pound per square inch) depending on image size.
Short answer: Yes, 10-20% of ink amount.
Long answer: If you are printing in very hot and dry conditions, you need to choose a slower-evaporating solvent (EB or S3) and/or add more of it (15-25%).
Short answer: “Slow” and “fast” refers to solvent evaporation rate.
Long answer: We provide 3 solvents for Tagless Printing. Here they are, from the fastest-evaporating to the slowest-evaporating:
Short answer: 10% of ink amount.
Long answer: Most manufacturers use hardener for Tagless Printing. Hardener allows the printed tags to pass the 50 industrial washes. Without the hardener, the tags might be able to withstand 5-10 industrial washes.
Short answer: 8 hours.
Long answer: “Pot life” means how long the ink is usable after it has been mixed with solvent and hardener (if any). To achieve 8 hours, the ink needs to be closed tightly – in the can or in the ink cup. If you are printing in a very hot and dry environment and/or printing at high speeds, pot life may be several hours shorter.
Short answer: A rule of thumb: have at least 1/3 of the ink cup filled with the ink mixture.
Long answer: For the 90mm ink cups, the minimum amount of ink mixture should be 50 grams. For the 150mm ink cup, 100 grams. Otherwise, the plate may not be flooded properly and you may have gaps in your prints.
It is normal to have ink streaks on the plate. Do you have ink smudges transferring onto your product? If not, no adjustment is needed.