Cliché Size and How It Can Affect Your Bottom Line

Recently it came to my attention that not all of my customers are aware of some hidden expenses.

For example, the cliché size vs. your business expenses is directly analogous with an electric/hybrid vehicle vs. a gas guzzler’s effect on gas costs. The hybrid costs more up front but the gas guzzler costs more at the pump.

I was visiting a customer in Miami a couple of weeks back and we walked over to a bunch of inexpensive-looking pad printing machines with 90mm cups. The client asked me to quote clichés for these machines. Their business uses about 6,000 clichés per year and the cliché size for these machines is 100x300mm. This is a full 100mm longer then the clichés our “expensive” “hybrid” pad printer uses.

The cost differential on the larger clichés: a full 30% more (in dollar terms about $1.80 more per cliché) than the smaller 100x200mm. This translates into about $10,800 cost per year more for their clichés  than for our machine!

“Why is the cliché on your machine only 200mm long while these are 300mm long?” asked the client.

“The answer is simple,” I replied. “Our machine uses a separate pad drive and cliché drive, while this manufacturer uses only one drive for both the pad and cup. When you use a single drive, the cup and the pad bars are connected together. To reach a comfortable distance that allows a decent part size to fit in front of the machine, the stroke on the cliché has to be the same as the stroke on the pad. So the cliché also is longer to accommodate the longer stroke. My friend, the machine is cheaper but the plates are making you ‘drive to the gas station’ more frequently.”

Sometimes we think that because a machine or product is cheaper we are saving money. But this example is evidence to the contrary.

Lesson: Shop well and buy from a company  you can trust.

This customer is now replacing all these machines with a more expensive – but better quality – machine that will cost less to operate and rescue his bottom line in the long run.

A Long and Happy Print Pad Life

Our pad department asked me to investigate why a long-time customer had stopped buying our pads. The idea crossed my mind that our pad department was questioning the quality of our pads compared to an unknown competitor’s. So, since I had been planning a trip that included this particular customer, I confirmed a meeting with them.

After our initial welcome, we sat down to talk. I asked them bluntly why they had started using another supplier for their pads without discussing their issues with us first. The customer became defensive, insisting they had not stopped ordering from us. They then brought me on a tour of the production area, where I saw the rows of machines we had supplied some years earlier, all working beautifully – with our pads.

The real shocker was their final disclosure: they were getting about 250,000 cycles plus per pad because they had adopted our recommended method of pad rotation. Based upon the number of machines in operation, we calculated they had saved about $12,000 per year over the past 2 years because of the way in which they cared for their pads.

I thought that I was going into this meeting to battle for this customer’s pad business. I had prepared a strategy of careful analysis and special pricing. I walked away feeling a bit silly when I realized they could have paid a lot more for our pads than we were charging and still remained a loyal customer. But I was happy that we were saving our customer money by selling a superior product and giving away solid, money-saving advice for free. We were heroes.

This true fairy tale ends with “and they all lived happily ever after,” because this particular customer was smart enough to listen to and implement our suggestions. Please understand that these same pads can also wear out after 50,000 imprints, and pad life is very dependent on ink type, substrate and maintenance. 

For additional information, see our previous blog Pad 101. If you’re not getting individualized attention from your supplier, call us. We even customize our service!

The Different Pad Shapes

Choosing the right print pad for a pad printing job is not an easy decision. Five key pad characteristics (shape, durometer, size, surface finish and material) affect the quality of the printed image. But shape is the most important variable in selecting a pad, so let’s discuss why in today’s blog.

The Different Pad Shapes
Pad suppliers offer many pad shapes in their standard inventory, but most are based on three basic shapes:

  • Cylindrical
  • Rectangular
  • Linear

Although hundreds of pad shapes are available, most are based on these three shapes.

Each of these shapes could have either curved or flat printing surfaces, depending on the part to be printed. But regardless of what shape the pad has, it must “roll” onto both the cliché and substrate for good printing results. If at all possible, avoid flat-bottomed pads that have a tendency to trap air as it contacts the cliché.

Air trapped between the pad and the cliché, or between the pad and the substrate, can cause print distortion and pin-holes, a result of uneven ink pickup or imprint. To produce a quality print image, the pad surface must roll onto the cliché picking up the ink, and use the same rolling action depositing the ink onto the image area. The better the roll, the more ink that is transferred. The shape of the pad largely determines how well the pad will roll. This is what makes shape the most important variable in selecting a pad.

Ordering Custom Pads
For very unusual parts and imaging needs, sometimes custom pads are a good choice, combining two different profiles on one pad. They are expensive and must be carefully designed and tested to avoid print distortion. For more information, Cylindrical Printing Padshere or call 800-272-7764 to discuss if this is a viable choice for you.

Pad 101: Getting The Most Out Of Your Pad Printing Pad

pad printing padThe pad printing pad is one of the most important elements in the pad printing process. Image quality and ink coverage, are affected by your pad print pad. Here are some tips to help you get the best from your print pads and extend their life in the process.

  • What’s my substrate? Your substrate is your blank canvas waiting for printing. Be sure your substrate is free of oils and debris, especially sharp particles that could shorten the life of your pads
  • Why do my pads wear out and/or split? Never use excess pad pressure during printing. Adjust your down-stroke and let the ink do the work. Also, have your machine settings checked regularly. Over-compression and printing on sharp edges result in split pads. Do differentiate between normal wear & tear and damage due to problems.
  • How often do I need to clean my pad? Remove solid debris, dried ink and dust from your pads after each printing. Always use adhesive tape to remove debris, especially when the pad is dry from aggressive thinners. Never scrub, scratch or brush your pads
  • What can I use to clean pads? Try to use tape only, sticky side onto the dirtied surface. This will usually remove most dust and dirt. Only use alcohol-based pad cleaning fluid, the smallest amount required to do the job. Avoid strong solvents. Use them only for initial removal of silicone oil on the surface. After cleaning, apply rejuvenating oil to the surface before resting for at least 24 hours. This will prolong pad life.
  • How many pads do I need? Rest the pad for 24 hours in a cabinet after printing. Have an extra pad to swap out during the rest period.
  • What’s a safe environment? Always protect the pad’s print surface; store uncovered in a clean dry environment.
  • How long should a pad last? Pads should usually handle 50,000 impressions or more. With proper care, we have seen pads last longer than 100,000+ cycles.

Next discussion: Pad shape and durometer – is it right for the job?

Remember: Pads are costly to replace. The better you treat the pad – the longer it will last.

Join the Conversation!  How many impressions/per pad was your record? Have you used Engineered Printing Solutions Pad Finder Wizard? Are there other tools that could help simplify your orders?  This is your forum. Teach us!

Fields marked with an asterisk are required.
This will enable us to direct your inquiry to the appropriate Sales Engineer.
Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
Upload an image file (optional)
Note: Under no circumstances will we sell, share or otherwise distribute your data outside EPS.

Part 2: When is Automation Right for your Pad Printing Business?

In Part 1, I explained some of the indicators of a need to implement automation in your process, and some of the challenges you needed to anticipate and control during the implementation.

Let Me Tell You a Story
This is the story of a manufacturer with two endings – one happy, one sad. The company printed and labeled widgets at a rate of 100,000 per day with 15 employees on task in an environment that created an overhead of $22,000 per laborer. The supervising print manager, unable to keep up with that large a shift, threatened to quit, forcing the owner to offer him an extra week’s vacation immediately, and each year thereafter, to stay on the job.

A year ago, the CEO/owner received an email from his engineering manager. The PPMOVT sales rep was nagging him to consider a really expensive ink jet machine. The cost was $350,000 and ran at an operating speed of 150,000 widgets per day. In his opinion, the expense and production was far more than their company needed, but he wanted to keep the owner informed of what was available.

The owner summoned his engineering manager to his office. “How many people would it take to run this machine? What would the operating costs per widget be?” The manager had done his homework. “The ink cost per piece would be less than it’s costing now, and one unskilled person could operate the machine. But how could we afford such a big investment?”“We can’t afford to not buy it. Our total ROI would be less than 14 months!” (This didn’t even include the cost of the disgruntled print manager, who earned $56,000 per year.)

The Happy Ending:
The owner purchased and installed the new equipment, and was able to reduce the price of his widget by two cents apiece. Sales increased and their biggest customer dropped his Chinese supplier to give them the work.Over the next 12 months, profits increased by $300,000 and they hired 14 people to fill additional jobs created in the customer service department. Now that’s what I call ROI. They lived happily ever after.

The Sad Ending:
We have all personally known companies that have gone out of business because they never picked up on opportunities like this; companies that wouldn’t make the hard but necessary decisions to support growth.The alternate ending to this story? The CEO allowed himself to be convinced that the more powerful ink jet’s expense was not worth the risk, and some of their long-time employees would be out of work, too old to find new employment. They subsequently lost orders to other manufacturers who invested in new automation, which resulted in poor old ‘Jane,’ the operator who complained her replacement would be a machine, losing her job, along with the 250 other employees who went on unemployment.Then the snack bar around the corner from the formerly thriving manufacturer closed, leaving Jim the proprietor without an income and his Chef looking for a new job.Several other former vendors went out of business as well because they no longer received orders from their preferred customer. THE MANUFACTURER HAD GONE OUT OF BUSINESS.


Join the conversation! How have you handled growth and change in your workplace? Are you involved in the tough growth decisions?

Part 1: When is automation right for your pad printing business?

Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions sometimes involve designing and engineering automation capabilities. When appropriate, we  recommend an upgrade from your existing equipment. Why would you do that? After analyzing your current process, we sit down with you and discuss where you can save time and money by investing wisely in a custom automated system.

A successful business makes wise investments that increase in value over time. We all know time is money, but we forget that the time needed to gain a return on our investment is crucial in making decisions. A 10% return on an initial investment within one week would be classified as a huge windfall. A 10% return in 10 years, even in today’s soft market, would be a wasted effort.

So when is the right time to consider automation?

  • It’s time to consider automation when you find your business losing time in setup, prep and assembly, especially when there aren’t enough hands to go around. It’s time when you want to grow your business but your staff can’t keep up with the orders you have.
  • It’s time if the form of automation has a reasonable ROI (return on investment) based upon industry norms. Automating can be as simple as moving a box that stores work-in-process to a more convenient location, making the job easier and quicker, saving time and therefore money. Your investment in this sample is 10 minutes of time to come up with an idea and 15 minutes implementing the idea (25 minutes total investment) which subsequently saved 5 minutes per day. ROI = 5 working days = excellent investment, when the industry standard on ROI is 16 months!
  • It’s time when the cost of labor is holding back your growth. If your company is in the business of manufacturing, in most cases your single biggest expense is labor. This is where automation can become an emotionally charged issue among employees. How many times have you heard people complain that the boss is going to replace them with a machine. Perhaps technically true; however, the bigger picture is that you must yield a few jobs to chores a machine can’t do in order to grow the company. It also provides an opportunity to retrain or release those employees who had limited or no growth potential. In order for a business to survive and thrive automation is one of the simplest tools to implement.
  • It’s time when you want to expand your business with cash and labor invested wisely, with one eye on your ROI and the other looking toward potential growth. If you had some money available and could get a 10% ROI in a month, would you do it? Would you do it if it was relatively risk free? I’ll bet you’re smiling now!

In our next post I’ll tell the story of one CEO’s “no-brainer” decision in a tale with two endings: one happy, one sad. Until then, consider some of our custom automation solutions:

Look at some of the videos. Can you imagine a similar step in your process?

Join the Conversation!  How have you handled growth and change in your workplace? Are you involved in the tough growth decisions?