Direct printing on molded plastic parts

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By Dave Klinkman | Jul 12, 2016
Direct to Print on Plastics

Direct printing on molded plastic parts can be used to create a variety of parts within the aerospace industry, such as seat row markers. In addition, this capability can be employed using several different printing processes including screen and digital printing. But before these parts can be used in an airplane, it is essential that the graphics align with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards.

Screen printing is best for projects with a high volume of parts. This method creates extremely durable parts, allows for highly accurate color matching, and offers the ability to use metallic and specialty inks, which can’t be done with digital printing. However, this process requires specific tooling to be made for each printed part which can become costly. At GMN Aerospace, we screen print parts with OEM approved inks.

Digital printing is better suited for a low volume of parts. This printing process can print multiple parts at once and allows for increased customization of graphics without the additional tooling costs. GMN Aerospace has developed our own in-house process with a durable digital ink that performs as well as OEM approved inks. Additionally, as an international option, we have the capability to print ADA compliant braille signage using a digital process. The braille characters can be printed in colors or as clear dots. But digital printing for this capability is a new process for GMN Aerospace and is still under development to meet OEM requirements.

In order to comply with OEM standards, two key issues need to be addressed. First, the final product needs to pass an anti-flammability and low toxicity test. This is to make sure the part won’t ignite easily, and at the point it does, assess how much toxicity is emitted. Second, since the cleaning agents used in airplanes can be harsh on the graphics, parts are also required to pass a stringent solvent wipe test. In the end, regardless of what printing process is utilized, the only vital requirement is that the parts meet OEM specifications to ensure they are safe and will be able to withstand their environment over the product’s lifetime.