In the world of Pad Printing, silicone is an integral part of the process. Without durable silicone pads to collect the ink from the etchings of a plate, pad printing would not be possible. There is also an extensive list of products made of silicone- with that number growing each year. Silicone products can range from traditional products such as wristbands and kitchenware (ladles and spatulas) to newer innovations such as cell phone covers, medical devices and credit card wallets, attached to the back of a cellphone. Click here for our top 5 applications for silicone ink: http://www.inkcups.com/blog/pad-printing/top-5-silicone-ink-applications/.
But why use a silicone pad or silicone ink? Pad printing companies have always used solvent based ink to print on products. With silicone, it is much different. Silicone is typically the go-to kitchen material because it makes mixing sticky mixtures easier to work with and less of a mess. You can assume that getting ink to stick to it is also a difficult task. Silicone is wetter than other inks which is why it is liquid until it is dried and cured in an oven. This ink can withstand extreme temperatures and will not crack or peel when bent. Keep in mind that there are products out there that will say they are made from silicone but are a mixture of many materials. If you try to print on a silicone product with a silicone ink and it does not stick, there are tests you can complete in-house to address this issue. For one, you can do the “microwave test”. If the item is truly silicone, it will not melt when put into a microwave or oven. If it does melt, you probably have a mixture of materials and will require another ink to correctly adhere to it.
When using silicone pads to pad print, it is imperative to understand how pad size, pad cleaning, multi-color printing and the depth of the plate etch all contribute to producing a clean image. The pad size is important because using the smallest possible pad will ensure the ink will pick up the image. Cleaning the pad is also imperative- silicone ink is unlike solvent-based ink where it will stick to the pad every four or five prints, so cleaning the pad using either a lint free towel or cloth needs to occur. Some pad printers, such as the ones Inkcups produces are even equipped with cleaning stations that will clear away the ink to eliminate poor print quality. Since silicone ink cannot release all of the ink due to it sticking, the depth of the plate needs to have a very deep etch. By having a deep etch will allow for a better image opacity.
Curing silicone ink on products will fluctuate as the bigger or smaller a product is as well as how much ink is needed to be laid down, will have different times and temperatures needed. For example, printing silicone ink on a small wristband will more than likely require less time and heat as opposed to a larger item such as a swim cap. Inkcups SI series is usually used for six minutes and the temperature starts out at 124 degrees C (Celsius) for the product being cured in an oven. The goal with curing ink onto the product is that using less heat and less time is ideal for productivity.
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