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May 12, 1999

2 Min Read
Purchasing Basics:  Decorating methods

How do you decide which means of decoration best applies to your application? Parts are now successfully decorated in the mold, beside the press, downstream, and after assembly, and methods most commonly used are inmold decorating, hot stamping, heat transfer printing, pad printing, direct screen printing, and label application. Then there are painting and plating as well.

The Desired Effect
Probably the best place to start is with the end result you want to achieve. Does the graphic need to be in color? Can it be done in 4/C process or does it require separate matched colors? Is a metallic finish what you prefer? What is the substrate material and color? Does the material require pretreatment before decorating? Is there any chance it will be contaminated with mold release? Is show-through going to be an issue on a dark part? Any vendor quoting on a machine will want to see a part drawing, or an actual part if produced. Does artwork or at least a sketch already exist?

What sort of end-use environment will the product endure? Are heat, abrasion, chemical resistance, or toxicity factors in the selection of a decorating method? Will the decorated part have to undergo some additional process after decoration, such as sonic welding, or testing? Can your process tolerate a wet surface that needs to dry before being handled?

The Process Issues
Will the part be hot or cold when it's decorated? What is the estimated annual quantity required? Will it be a batch or continuous process? How big an area needs to be decorated? How big is the total part? What is its shape-round, flat, curved, irregular? How fast does the decoration need to be applied? What's the plant environment like? Is there risk of dust contamination, or moisture on the product, or excess heat?

What capital investment are you prepared to make? Is operator labor an issue, or will this be an automatic process? The chart below will assist you in formulating additional questions that may be specific to your part.

Decorating options

Decision factors

Direct
screen printing

Pad
printing

Hot
stamping

Heat
transfer

Image size and limitations

Any size

7 by 14 inches is
usual; 10 by 20 opt.

Roll-on can
apply 12 by 24
inches

Roll-on can
apply 12 by 24
inches

Resolution of detail

Medium

Fine to medium

Medium

Fine

Arc limits

360°

100°
360° special
wrap

90° (reciprocal)
360° special
wrap

90° (reciprocal)
360° special
wrap

Opacity

Good

Poor; multiple
prints fair

Good

Good for screen;
fair for gravure

Wet or dry process

Wet

Wet

Dry

Dry

Operator learning curve

Hours to days

Hours to days

Minutes to hours

Minutes to hours

Operator skill level

Semiskilled

Semiskilled

Unskilled

Unskilled

Part changover

Minutes to hours

Minutes to hours

Seconds to minutes

Seconds to minutes

Cost of inks, foils, transfers

Inks-not cost-
sensitive to size
or color

Inks-not cost-
sensitive to size
or color

Foils-cost-
sensitive to size;
linear increase
for addl. colors

Transfers-cost-
sensitive to size;
not as sensitive
to addl. colors



With our thanks . . .
. . . to suppliers Meyercord and Permanent Label Corp. for their contributions to this article.


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