What to See at NPE 2006: Decorating, Printing and Finishing
While there is plenty of news at NPE this year in pad, screen, dry-offset, flexo, and inkjet printing, as well as laser marking, hot stamping, heat-transfer decorating, and some less familiar technologies—the real star of the show is summed up in two words: “in-mold.” Responding to excitement in automotive, appliance, and electronics industries, at least 19 companies are showing materials or equipment for in-mold film-insert decorating or labeling (IMD, IML) for injection molding and thermoforming. And one firm—Ube Machinery—is finally commercializing in-mold painting for injection molding—a technology first exhibited in prototype form at NPE 1988.
Six companies are introducing a variety of pad printing equipment at the show. Among them, ITW Trans Tech is showcasing the Gemini 130, which has two printing heads in a unique “V” configuration that allows two-color printing applications using a single part fixture. It also allows ink pickup, printing, and pad cleaning to proceed simultaneously. Pad Print Machinery of Vermont is unveiling a new high-speed, digital on-demand pad printer as well as its new XE series with a Windows-based operating system driving a servo-controlled print head and conveyor unit with 20GB hard drive that allows for vast storage of jobs.
Tampoprint is showing off its new two- or three-lane Rotoprint rotary pad printer for cap closures. It can mark up to 150,000 caps/hr in one to three colors. Teca-Print is introducing its fastest pad printer to date, the TPS 111, with a cycle time of 0.7 sec. When it comes to speed, Apex Machine claims a breakthrough for its new C-506 cylindrical part printer, which allows a 6-color ink and plate change in 5 min.
In screen printing, Proell is showing Nori-Cure UV-L3, a scratch-resistant, uv-cure screen printing lacquer and special effects such as rainbow metallic and mirror-like chrome.
At least six companies will be discussing laser marking. One of them, LPKF, will present its technology for using a laser to “draw” electrical circuitry onto the surface of parts containing a suitable metal additive. Tampoprint is featuring the Alfalas Promo-MOF (Mark-on-the-Fly) laser system for marking the underside of up to 60,000 caps/hr.
Hot stamp it
Heat-transfer decorating is going high-tech at the show. Cassco Machines is featuring its new Command Center, a control platform that runs all the company’s hot-stamping, heat-transfer, and assembly systems.
Kurz Transfer Products is showcasing the LS 102 LK, a new hot stamping machine with up to five heads for applying foil to extruded profiles. Kurz is also introducing the Hastings Model ES1000 electronic heat-transfer press with servo control of X-Y registration of the stamping head. Registration is assisted by a laser sensor on the stamping head, resulting in placing a heat transfer within ±0.004 in.
Something unusual to look for is Vergason Technology’s new Press-Side Rapid Cycle Metalizer. It vacuum metalizes parts in 3 to 6 min. Its coating chamber measures 28 in. diam. x 48 in. high.
Another out-of-the-ordinary decorating exhibit is Water Transfer Printing at a company of the same name. It applies decorative patterns to flat or 3D parts without leaving voids or seams. A film with the printed pattern is floated on the surface of a water bath. Then the part, which has been spray-coated with a chemical activator is placed in the tank to receive the transfer. Finally, after washing and drying, the decorated part is sprayed with a protective acrylic finish.
As in-mold labeling, or IML, attracts a growing following among U.S. molders, some are finding that mastering a complex new technology is no small task.
To make the proper choice, each application must be considered on its own. Each has its own particular characteristics and requirements.
Laser welding is gaining acceptance as a specialized method for joining plastic parts that are sensitive (e.g., contain circuit boards), involve complex geometries, or have strict cleanliness requirements (medical devices). So far, most of this activity has taken place in Europe.