Many different ink systems have been developed over the years to optimize the
adhesion, transfer, and print quality for decorating applications on a variety of
substrate materials. Understanding how to best select and utilize the different
components of these systems is a critical part of improving and maintaining the
quality of any pad printing operation. Broadly speaking, these components fall into
three categories: inks, hardeners/catalysts, and thinners.
It is often best to start the process of ink selection by understanding the substrate material and adhesion requirements. While there are some options for effective general purpose pad printing inks, certain substrates require specialized formulations or pre-treatment methods to meet adherence requirements (ex. polypropylene, polyethylene, glass, silicone, TPE and other “soft-touch” materials). Certain industries or locations may also have compliance requirements that
influence what inks can be considered. Decorators that constantly struggle with
adhesion or compliance issues would likely benefit from submitting their material
samples to our ink lab for no-cost evaluation and testing to ensure that the best ink
is being used for the application.
Hardeners and adhesion promoters are added to certain inks at a prescribed
percentage by weight of the ink in the batch. As these catalysts are mixed with the
ink, they react together, and sometimes with the surface, to improve abrasion and
chemical resistance of the printed image. Depending on the ink series being used,