In the screen printing vs. pad printing debate, it’s less about deciding which method is best, and more about determining which is best for your particular application. If you’re the one responsible for making that determination, you know it can be a tough choice. Hopefully the following tips and information can help you along the way.
Screen Printing vs. Pad Printing: Basics
Screen Printing Basics
Screen printing (also known as screening or silk screening) has been around in some form for over a thousand years. The screen printing process begins with an ink-blocking stencil applied to a woven mesh screen. Ink is then transferred through the openings in the screen, pressed through to the underlying material with a squeegee or roller. Fun fact: Andy Warhol used screen printing to make his famous prints of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.
Pad Printing Basics
Pad printing was invented in the 1960s — so, compared to screen printing, it is relatively new technology. The pad printing process involves image plates, printing pads, and ink. A pad printing machine presses a rubber or silicone printing pad into a customized ink plate and then presses the inked pad onto the object. Picture the good old days, when the librarian rubber-stamped the due date into your library book, or imagine the hobbyists who stamp their own greeting cards. Now, picture that on a much larger, sophisticated (and automated) scale. It’s kind of like that.
Screen Printing vs. Pad Printing: Advantages
Screen Printing Advantages
- Generally less expensive than pad printing
- Excellent ink opacity
- Suitable for small and large printing areas
- Reliable on flat and round surfaces
Pad Printing Advantages
- Superior resolution and fine detail
- Can be used on nearly any material
- Reliable on a wide variety of surfaces: flat, round, concave, or uneven
- Suitable for print on mechanically sensitive and/or delicate surfaces
Screen Printing vs. Pad Printing: Limitations
Screen Printing Limitations
- Not suitable for concave or highly irregular surfaces
- Generally cannot capture the sharp edges and finer detail offered by pad printing (although impressive detail can be produced with specialized screen printing)
Pad Printing Limitations
- Can be more challenging to automate due to diversity of products that can be run on one machine (although Diversified Printing Technologies continually stays on top of latest developments in customization, automation, and robotics)
- More expensive than screen printing (but strategic automation ultimately results in measurable cost reduction)
Whether screen printing or pad printing, both methods offer important advantages along with their own limitations. Both screen printing and pad printing have revolutionized the printing world, and both continue to bring new innovations to the industry. If you’d like additional insight into choosing whether pad printers or screen printers are best for your application, let us know. We’d love to help.