Automation is an important part of efficient, consistent pad printing. Find out about some of the options designed to enhance speed and precision for industrial applications.
By Sigi Knappik
Moving up to the next level of production is a challenge many pad-printing operations will face. The catalyst may be a new job or an existing project that grows significantly in quantity. Whatever the case, increased throughput will allow you to handle the task and make an attractive choice when high-volume production runs come along. The big question is: How do you steer your way through associated technical issues, remain competitive with other decorating methods, and still show a good profit on the bottom line? Here are some guidelines to consider.
Levels of automation
The types of products you wish to print will help you determine the level of automation you need. Consider the parts you will print. Do they require decorative or functional graphics? What’s the difference between the two? You may have more leeway in tolerance with a decorative print. A functional print, however, requires much more precision. Imagine what would happen if the graduation markings on a syringe were not printed to specification!
Different types of equipment are available to meet demands for automation. At the most basic level, a semi-automated system requires an operator (labor) to stand close to the machine to load parts by hand. Touching the parts themselves may be acceptable in some applications, but some industries may have more stringent parameters for the handling of a product. Fully automated systems, on the other hand, require only that an operator occasionally load a box of parts into a hopper or feeder bowl.
Customer requirements often dictate which method press operators use to load parts into an automated pad-printing system. Your choices are manual, semi-automated, or fully automated. The key is in the total volume and the speed required. For instance, manual loading is virtually impossible for a run of several million parts, even when you have several months to finish the job. High volume requires high speed. A good guideline to follow when deciding on manual or automatic feeding of product is the three-second rule. If press-throughput rate requires parts to be loaded in less than three seconds, then automatic feeding is essentially required for product quality and employee safety.
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