Archive: Nov 2023

Printing on Fabricated Products

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Many parts and components we manufacture here at ESPE provide protection to personnel by covering electrical components and providing a barrier between the electric field and any conductive enclosure. When circuitry can be accessed, it is advisable to provide adequate warning markings to alert people to the dangerous voltages that the barriers isolate.

While our typical end use is protecting from electrical shock hazards, our products can be printed with pinch-point hazards, hot surface warnings, and even common part numbers or folding instructions for easy assembly. Stickers and labels can provide temporary warnings sometimes, but they will fade and can be easily removed or tampered with.

ESPE will work to provide permanent visual warnings to your fabricated barriers and coverings, protecting end users throughout the life of the product or machinery they go in. In this blog post, we’ll provide more details about printed product fabrication, pairing the correct fabrication method with the best printing method for the job.

Techniques of Fabrication

Printed products are produced in various methods that involve different processes and materials, including:

1. Steel Rule Die Cutting

Steel Rule Die cutting uses a single or several long blades bent to the part’s final dimensions, inlaid in a large flat board with grooves and punches matching the bent steel blade. The die is then set in a hydraulic press that stamps the steel blade into the material at extreme pressures, cutting scoring, and perforating shapes on materials as they progress through the machine. This production method is most conducive to embossing, but doing so increases die costs and requires remanufacturing of the dies for revisions of the design or wording.

2. Stamping

Stamping involves using a die to press a shape or design into a material using mechanical force. This process creates patterns on materials and could imprint lettering, but like embossing, it increases costs and requires remanufacturing upon revisions.

3. Laser Cutting

Laser cutting uses a high-powered laser to cut through or engrave materials. The laser’s intense heat melts and burns away the material at the beam’s focal point. Computer-controlled motion guides the laser over the material, creating precise cuts or patterns. Engraving with lasers can create sophisticated patterns and images at varying intensities to create depth with a resolution of up to 600 dpi. However, this method can be costly, as the time and energy needed to create a single 6″ x 6″ image at maximum resolution can take more time than cutting out hundreds of parts.

4. Drag Knife Cutting

Also referred to by us as digital die cutting, this method uses a sharp carbide knife on a large plotter to cut out shapes of nearly any dimension or complexity with very little initial investment in tooling. The same head that drags the knife can drag a pen; this is called plotting and can be used to drag around a ballpoint pen or felt marker to plot precise markings and letterings. While limited to a single color, it is the most economical method regarding upfront cost and revision for simple lettering. The machine can handle long, complicated drawings but, like laser engraving, can take much machine time.

5. Routing

Routing involves moving a fast spinning drill bit to cut out shapes and parts either too hard or too thick for other machining methods to accomplish cleanly. The depth and routing tool can be changed within the same setup to engrave or etch the part’s surface; this will leave a permanent channel in the material and can be revised easily but may not be the most visible, suiting this method best for part numbers or channels.

Types of Printing Methods

Here’s an overview of some key printing methods:

1. Silk Screening

Commonly referred to as screen printing, this method involves pressing ink through a mesh screen onto a part, creating images, patterns, or text. It’s the go-to choice for producing vivid designs in a repeatable fashion, as it can use any color of ink in any shape by layering different colors.

2. Ink Printing

This traditional yet effective method employs inked plates to transfer designs onto materials. It’s widely used for producing high-quality images on paper, packaging, cloth, and various surfaces. This is perhaps the highest fidelity printing method but could be considered overkill for hazard labels and part numbers.

3. Scribing/Etching

Scribing or etching involves creating markings on a material’s surface through mechanical means. This technique is commonly used for engraving or marking metals, producing permanent and legible markings, such as serial numbers. This is not to be confused with chemical etching, which is another process entirely

4. Hot Stamping

Hot stamping involves pressing heated dies onto foil and transferring a thin layer of pigment or metallic material onto a substrate. This method is rudimentary as it relies on set block lettering to achieve simple indications like a multi-position switch. Being limited to a few letters and a small surface area limits the capabilities of hot stamping to niche situations but can be an economical option when the desired lettering is minimal.

5. Plotting

This method employs computer instructions to drag pens or markers across paper or other materials. Originally used for technical drawings, the technology has been co-opted to mark finished products. Plotting is limited to a single pen or marker color but can be done while other production methods are deployed, saving setup and production time.

6. Embossing

Embossing raises the design from the material’s surface by pressing it between two dies. This method adds texture, depth, and decorative elements to paper, plastic, and metal. The result is a tactile and visually appealing effect that enhances the overall appearance. While this method works best with rigid metals like a license plate, certain plastics also take well to embossed lettering like a credit card number.

7. Engraving

Engravings are cut or carved designs, text, or patterns into a material’s surface using mechanical force or lasers. We can create intricate and lasting markings on surfaces; however, the path the tool or laser needs to travel to complete the engraving is typically many times the length of the exterior of the part and, as such, can be a significant percentage of the overall machine time and thus cost per part.

This method should be limited to harsh outdoor environments where even inks can break down highly intricate and visually significant cosmetically focused parts. An acrylic port hole cover may need permanent engravings to indicate fluid level, or a channel may be cut behind a gasket to provide airflow behind an otherwise flat plate.

Experience the Potential of Printed Product Fabrication With ESPE Manufacturing Co.

Ready to evolve your manufacturing business? Partner with ESPE Manufacturing Co., Inc.! We are a trusted company prepared to provide expert guidance and innovative solutions to make your vision tangible. We cater to various industries with our wide range of services, including fabrication, laser cutting, stamping, and more!

Take the next step and contact us to learn more. You may also request a quote to transform your creative ideas into tangible products today!