Awards & Engraving

January '20

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A&E JANUARY 2020 • a-e-mag.com 47 For the best quality UV imprint, you want the printable surface to be as close to the print head as possible (1mm is ideal), while still allowing enough clearance so the print head doesn't strike any higher points on the product. Use a ruler or a caliper tool to measure the depth from the highest point on the object to the depth where the imprint will be applied. If the area to be printed is recessed more than 4-6mm and requires an imprint with sharp detail or fine text, the item may not be suitable for UV printing. OVERCOMING CHALLENGES A critical component in producing a high-quality imprint is to provide the flat- test, most level printing surface possible. To achieve this with an oddly shaped or tapered item, you may need to create some sort of jig or fixture to hold the product in the proper position, while using a level to make sure the top of the product is straight. Keep the print head at an even distance from the surface while it travels back and forth to avoid variations in imprint quality. Some users have the capability of laser- cutting or routing their own jigs, while others choose to get creative with quick- drying modeling clay or silicone mold kits. Of course, if working with a product that you will print a lot of, or on a regular basis, it is wise to invest in a custom tray from your printer's manufacturer that provides consistent positioning and easy integration with printing templates for multiple pieces. Another challenge is if your imprint surface has a very deep texture, or recessed areas that need to be filled in with ink. To maximize the distance that the ink can travel from the print head, it's recom- mended to choose a large dot size in your RIP software, or a variation of droplet sizes to get both coverage and distance. Some RIP applications offer a color boost option to increase ink saturation, which may help, as can experimenting with print resolutions and various ICC color profiles. This is also a consideration when printing on items with curved surfaces like ornaments, urns, or bowls. The farther down the curvature of the surface the ink has to travel, the fuzzier the imprint becomes. A good trick is experimenting with a test file that has varying limitations (see Dia- gram 1). Covering the object with a remov- able clear adhesive tape and test printing a series of outlines with sizes labeled can show you at what size the imprint looks the clearest and determines points of distortion. Limit your final imprint size accord- ingly, and if you do get some overspray, wipe the ink mist immediately with a microfiber cloth, and remove most of it. You can also maximize the imprint area of curved objects by printing in one area, then rotating the product and imprinting another part of it. The fact that UV printers are so versa- tile, allowing you to decorate products of all shapes and sizes, opens up a world of pos- sibilities. It may take some experimenting and ingenuity on your part, but you can usually find a way to add customization to even the most challenging objects. Ulti- mately when pushing your limitations, try, try, and try again to discover how low or how far can you go. A&E

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