If you’re looking to put photos on a key chain, play some plastic poker cards or create personalized party favors. Then print on plastic may be the answer. With this technique, images can be printed directly on hard as well as flexible plastics such as acrylics and polycarbonates, etc. This is accomplished through an additive process of layering the ink onto the surface of the plastic until the desired design is complete.
Printing on plastic yields high-quality and long-lasting results, but it has some limitations. The technique is most suitable for solid and opaque items. Such as name tags and credit cards, because the ink can completely obscure any background color or text underneath it. Printing on transparent plastics with inks that block ultraviolet light may be possible
Images can be printed directly onto hard and flexible plastics such as acrylics and polycarbonates. This technique is often used on key chains, poker cards, and party favors. Additive process of layering ink onto plastic surface to achieve the desired look.
- 1 Printing on Plastic
- 2 Different methods to print on plastic
- 3 Conclusion
Printing on Plastic
Have you ever wanted your own custom-designed water bottle? Or maybe a pair of earrings with your company logo for giveaways. Well, did you know that using an ink-jet printer you can print images on plastic as long as the plastic is clean and free of dirt, grease, or other impurities? First, you have to know exactly what type of plastic you are going to print on and then how well the plastic will take ink.
Printing on a non-porous surface is a lot different than printing onto paper. Because your image isn’t going to absorb into the material, it’s going to sit on top just like a coating. You have to think about what plastics can be printed on and the quality of the finish. When choosing your printer, ink color, and type of paper to use.
There are Four Basic Types of Printable Plastic:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- polypropylene (PP)
a hard plastic that is used widely in outside signage, is more difficult to print on because it absorbs ink very quickly, and once the plastic starts to absorb the ink, the water-based printer ink just puddles on the surface. This means your image will start to look “fuzzy” as it runs together and becomes blurred as you layer ink on top of the ink. This is because the acrylic absorbs moisture and expands as it gets wet, which causes the plastic to warp.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) Plastic
This type of plastic is a hard, dense plastic that preserves colors. The general rule is the darker the color the better it will take ink. It is the least porous of the plastics and you can print directly on this material without a problem.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Plastic
This is the type of plastic that 2-liter soda bottles are made from. It is also used to make white glue containers, bleach bottles, milk jugs, and carpet piping. Additionally, it has a low absorption rate which means that it preserves the color of the ink very well. It also has a high melting point so it won’t warp.
Polypropylene (PP) Plastic
This plastic is used in medicine bottles, syrup bottles, and plastic cups. It has a high melting point of about 200 degrees Celsius/392 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will not warp.
Non Printable – Cellophane and Mylar Plastic
In addition to the above-mentioned plastics, there is also cellophane and mylar, which are not suitable for printing on because they are too thin, but these plastics have a low melting point so you can use heat to emboss images on them.
Different methods to print on plastic
Printing on plastic is a little bit different than printing on regular paper, This is because most plastics are quite smooth and not porous at all so they don’t absorb any ink or toner. If you try to print with regular printer ink or toner on regular plastic it will pretty much just glide over the surface.
Print on plastic by Sublimation Printing
The term sublimation printing typically refers to a charge-transfer process where heat is used as the transfer mechanism.
Typically, the solid ink (powder) colorant particles are made to be very porous such that they can take up and hold great amounts of pressurized gas (usually air). Upon heating, the pressurized air expands and escapes the solid ink particles, creating the vapor-like effect. In other words, the air is trapped inside because it can’t escape until heated.
Pressurized gas fired through a “sublimation” printer head reaches around 90 degrees Celsius and thus turns into a vapor in the form of tiny droplets where it comes in contact with the powder surface. The gas then diffuses into the powder, which in turn gives up its color to the liquid ink.
Print on plastic by Screen Printing
The screen printing process is a very effective form of decoration and design. Incredibly, the entire process can be done by hand but screens are normally made on a flatbed printer. The photo emulsion itself comes in liquid form and is poured onto the mesh. The emulsion hardens once it hUV Litho printing has been exposed to UV light which allows ink to pass through the clear areas. As for ink, it can be either water-based or solvent-based solvent-based.
The screen is laid out with a stencil of the parts that are meant to remain clear on the final product before being exposed to light. The entire process takes place in one large room that must be completely dark. Because any form of light can damage the emulsion that has already been applied. Once the product is exposed to light, it must be washed before any ink can be added.
Print on plastic by Flexo Printing
Flexo printing is a process of applying ink to flexographic printing plates. The flexo printing process was invented by Charles Cheston. The son of Thomas Edison’s patent attorney in 1880 and patented in 1883.
Advances in flexographic printing have been steady since. Today, flexo presses are considered some of the most versatile printing machines ever invented. They allow for multiple colors to be printed on blister cards or cartons with very fine detail and gradients. Flexography is used for in-plant label finishing, paper converting, corrugated advertising, and food packaging (such as blister packs or coffee cups). Flexo printing is comparable to rotogravure printmaking.
A flexographic printer typically consists of two major components:
- A flatbed cylinder with mechanical squeegee-like rollers which presses the ink through the plate onto the substrate
- An inking unit that comprises a rotary ink fountain, a doctor blade, and a mechanical unit to control the amount of ink applied.
UV litho printing is a form of rotary printing, just like the offset printing that you are probably familiar with. It differs from traditional offset lithography in that it uses ultraviolet light to transfer the ink to the paper. UV stands for Ultra Violet. This is because normal visible wavelengths of light will not activate certain kinds of ink. To make them stick, they need a wavelength of light that is shorter than the human eye can detect.
UV printing has been around since the 1800s. It was developed in Germany and used for maps, charts, textiles, and magazines. Later on, it was also introduced into the U.S, where it became commonly known as screen.
Print on plastic by Pad Printing
Oil-based inks are used with most UV pad printers. The printer prints the image within a set area of about 1/4″ high by 6″ wide on the surface to be printed. The ink is then transferred to the rubber pad. Which is slightly larger than the print zone (typically 3″ x 6″). Like flexography, the pad is brought into contact with the printed surface. Because of its shape, it transfers the image by capillary action.
Used primarily for printing on irregular surfaces such as corrugated boxes, egg cartons, and plastic items. Where UV inks hold their color better than solvent-based ink systems. Cannot print white unless a clear overprint varnish is used.
Print on plastic by Laser Printing
A laser printer is a kind of printer that works by propelling droplets of ink onto paper using heat to fuse the tiny particles together securely. A computer sends data, in the form of electronic signals, from a personal computer or workstation to a laser printer.
Which then creates an image on a sheet of paper laser printers have advantages over dot matrix and inkjet printers: higher speed, better quality (higher resolution). And most importantly they can produce more complex images (shapes, characters).
The act of printing (electronic) documents, images, or web pages on plastic surfaces, in particular packaging materials. The method can be implemented using a special printer with custom ink and specially coated paper to print three-dimensionally.
Printed electronics is the technology where electronic components are printed on a variety of materials like plastics, papers, glass. It is used in flexible displays, solar cells, and wearable electronics.
Printing on plastics is not new. It has been around since the 1950s and it began with silk-screen printing on glass and plastic surfaces. Inkjet and laser printers work by laying down a fine line of liquid or powder onto the surface where the material is deposited. A single-pass print one color, but more passes can be completed to create a multicolor image.