Pad printing or screen printing. What to choose for product marking?

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Pad printing is a printing method for transferring a 2-dimensional image onto a 3-dimensional object. The process is as effective on flat surfaces as it is on parts that are round, have complex curvature, concave or convex surfaces, and have recessed or convex areas.

Pad printing became popular after World War II, when watchmakers began printing on the curved surfaces of watch dials. This ability to print on substrates that were difficult to print on made the pad printing process a well established technology and is now used in many industries such as medicine, cosmetics, electronics and more.

What does pad printing consist of?

The most important component is a silicone pad – a smooth stamp called a pad that allows the image to be transferred with permanent ink to the item. A machine holds the product steady and presses it into a matrix – a metal plate with an engraved design – before it is imprinted by the pad. Pad printing can successfully decorate three-dimensional parts because the silicone pad wraps or conforms to the shape of the part without distorting the image when the image is transferred.

Koszulka z nadrukiem Hard Rock Cafe
(Photo by Kishor, source: unsplash.com)

Advantages of pad printing

  • Pad printing can be used to print on virtually any surface: plastic, wood, ceramics, rubber, textiles, metal, glass, pharmaceuticals, and even food.
  • Another advantage is its high durability, non-abrasiveness and resistance to chemicals
  • Pad printing is also characterized by the speed of implementation, because of the fact that it is a simple method, orders are completed in a short time.
  • It is a cheap printing method, both for single copies and for orders of bigger batches of printed products.
  • Interestingly, pad printing provides a much better resolution of graphics than screen printing method, thanks to which it is perfect for small objects e.g. pendrives, key rings, pens, on which company logotypes can be precisely imprinted.

Screen printing

Screen printing is the oldest printing technique originating from stencil painting, popular already in ancient China and Japan. Two Japanese are considered to be the authors of screen printing – Yuzensai Miyasaki, who used this method to decorate kimonos in the 17th century, and Zisukeo Hirose, who in the 19th century invented a stencil called “katagami”, which became the pattern for the currently used screen printing forms. The stencil was applied to a mesh of human or animal hair stretched over a wooden frame, whereas today the frame is made of aluminum with a nylon, polyester or metal mesh stretched over it.

Japoński widoczek
(Photo: JJ Ying, source: unsplash.com)

How does the screen printing method work?

The first step to start any screen printing is to prepare a proper matrix, which is a rectangular frame with a stretched mesh made of nylon or metal, on which a printing template is placed.

The template should be covered in places that will not be used during printing – the holes of the mesh should be blocked. The print is created by forcing the ink onto the material using screen printing presses.

Advantages of screen printing

  • It has a wide range of applications. With screen printing we can mark flat surfaces, but also cylindrical (convex). It is mainly used in textiles, screen printing is also used to mark plastics and wood.
  • Screen printing is famous for the lowest price on the market when it comes to marking products. The larger the edition, the lower the price. The higher price of individual copies is due to the fact that the screen printing kit is prepared for a specific order. That is why this method is recommended for larger orders.
  • Screen printing is extremely resistant to external factors such as humidity, UV rays or washing
  • We can choose from a full range of colors for screen printing, therefore this method allows us to obtain full saturation and deep colors.

What to choose?

It all depends on what kind of products we want to label and what quantity. If we have to label bags, T-shirts or self-adhesive stickers, the screen printing method will be the best, as it is perfect for flat surfaces and allows obtaining attractive colors on them

When we have to label gadgets with irregular surfaces, pad printing will be the best solution. When we want to order a few gadgets, pad printing will be more cost-effective, and when we decide on a bigger order – screen printing will be more economical.

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