Although converters are often tasked with cutting materials, the printing process has become a simultaneous step in die cutting for branding, instructions, and warranty information.
Printing in Production
There are many important factors to consider when it comes to deciding how to go about printing a new part.
For instance, what kind of material are you buying? Furthermore, what type of ink will you use?
To better understand printing in production, we’ll first want to look at the different types and decide which one works best for you.
Flexographic printing, or “flexo” printing, occurs when ink is loaded into a tray, which is then connected to rollers that apply an even coat to the substrate, much like a rubber stamp.
Although the printing plates cause higher setup costs than digital printing, flexo is far cheaper than its competitors due to the low machine cost.
However, water-based flexo ink can be much messier because the consistency is harder to maintain. A converting team should use workers with extensive experience to guide them while making flexographic prints for minimum errors.
Ultraviolet printing has an increased turnaround time due to its drying process.
While water-based inks are dried through thermal heating, UV printing uses LED UV light to cure gel inks in seconds.
One downside of this process is that the UV ink is costly and won’t dry until cured.
The LED UV lights are also highly expensive, and although the quick ink-curing leads to increased tolerances, the overall setup takes longer to perfect.
If you’re looking for a quick, precise printing method and money isn’t an issue, UV printing may be the perfect choice.
DIRECT VS. INDIRECT PRINTING
Direct and indirect printing are two of the most popular modes of industrial printing.
Direct printing is the process behind heating a chemically treated surface to turn the paper black in the shape of your desired text or image.
It may allow for the color black plus one additional color, but the heat-sensitive material is susceptible to additional warmth or light.
The speed and ease have popularized direct printing for many fast-paced applications such as shipping labels, but it runs the risk of overheating and ruining the paper, making it a poor choice for items to be stored long-term.
Indirect printing occurs when a proxy material is used to carry the text over.
Instead of the label itself being thermosensitive and transforming when heated, other methods are used to carry text over. In fact, thermal transfer printing is a perfect example.
THERMAL TRANSFER PRINTING
Thermal transfer printing works using ribbons, though the ribbons are more like adhesive backings than the kind you put in your hair.
These wax or resin-coated ribbons are full of transferable text that melts onto the target material once heat is applied.
Unlike direct printing, the process of thermal transfer printing is quite long-lasting. For this reason, thermal transfer printed labels are often used for barcodes or clothes tags.
Thermal transfer printing is significantly more costly due to the replaceable ribbon, but it also enables colorful, weather-resistant graphics. Consider thermal transfer printing if you’re looking to create a label that won’t wear down.
One modern invention to increase production efficiency is the ability to guide a fresh die cut directly into the printer.
This is typically done by leading the product into a thermal transfer printer, which is then stamped with the proper design and sorted in with the other finished products.
FIXED VS. VARIABLE PRINTING
Variable or “random” printing occurs when working with a set pattern but somewhat relaxed tolerances.
In variable printing, a millimeter difference doesn’t mean life or death. Therefore, while the parts should still be very close in appearance, they aren’t 100% identical.
Alternatively, the process of fixed printing is much stricter with tolerances, with parts often marked with sensors to line up perfectly.
If your product serves a critical purpose, you may need to use fixed printing for the same results every time.
Depending on the field you’re operating in, you may benefit from using serial numbers in your print.
For example, say you have a small number of highly specialized parts to work from. Surely you want to keep track of each part to ensure it ends up in the right place.
Serial numbers exist to follow specific products to study their performance.
If one product has an issue, it’s important that the manufacturer can reach out to other batches and check up on any errors.
As you may already know, branding is the act of curating your company’s reputation.
How is your business seen through the public eye? Part of this is through image association, such as your company logo or color scheme.
It’s important to strive for a strong reputation through your brand colors, the shape of your logo, or a multitude of other elements that build recognizability.
SPOT COLOR PRINTING
“Spot colors” are the best way to acquire your desired printed color and practically essential for product branding.
Different companies have different color schemes, making it important to print in the exact color that represents your brand. Yet, most printers run a few different shades of inks and can only create certain colors.
Ordering a specific shade is more expensive than the default options, however, an increased number of manufactured products can somewhat justify the pricing difference.
Mixing a small batch of custom color for a handful of parts will cost more in proportion than ordering a larger size.
Don’t sacrifice your brand reputation for the sake of finding a color that’s close enough. With the right converter you can strive for perfection every time.
PRINTING AND CONVERTING
When you think of having an object printed, you may not immediately think of using a converter. Why not?
There’s no point in having an object cut and shipped somewhere else for printing when this can all be accomplished in the same place.
A converter is like a baker: You can purchase the raw materials yourself, but a converter will deliver you the finished product.
If you needed a cake baked, you wouldn’t order it plain and go somewhere else to get it frosted. Not only would you spend more money, but it also just doesn’t make much sense.
Converters play an important role in the custom die cutting process, but it may take experience to properly recognize their value.
To learn more about our die cutting and printing capabilities, contact us here.