Does anyone have experience with printing on acrylic (and/or other similar materials)?
I know there are dedicated industrial machines that can print like this, but I am wondering if the knowledgable and experienced folks on here know of other tools/methods that I haven’t come across yet. The industrial solutions are not economical for my projects. Though a provider with low-minimums would work, too. The imprint would need to be durable, and would be non-recurring or individual. Typical size of the imprint would be 30mm x 10mm, and is a 2D barcode.
I believe that dye sublimation works just fine on acrylic–it’s very durable with intense hues, but you do have to have a fairly expensive setup (printers start at around $700 for a very cheap one and go up to $25K, and heat transfer press from $150 to $300).
Yes. I need a high contrast - created on a single color object. The opposite side will be 2 color acrylic. Thinking as typing… possible solution would be to use thinner acrylic, and use two pieces of 2 color acrylic, one being the barcode (either plain or mirrored depending on color scheme).
Marking by any non-insanity inducing means really. I’ve thought about engrave with pain fill, but given that it is a small relatively complex barcode, pulling the masking off would drive me crazy.
I will look into that! Thanks!
I’m on the hunt for laser printed transparent labels now! Great idea! Thank you!
I’ll have to see how a laser cut stencil works out for the barcode pattern. Thank you for the idea!
I would recommend finding someone with a Flatbed UV printer, that is what I would consider the ‘standard’ printer for acrylic. For dye-sub you must have special polymer-treated acrylic sheets (according to Roland’s dye-sub promotional material).
Here is one, randomly googled, of many print-service providers, that happens to have some photos (note: I am not endorsing this company, nor have I ever used them)
My digging has led me to these as my first attempt at a solution:
I have concerns about durability, but we will see what the outcome is.
The ideal solution is what @jbv suggested with the UV printer that cures as it prints (this is what I had in mind, but didn’t know what the technology was called).
The second best will be printing on some substrate (white labels, likely) and then affixing them in a slight laser engraved recess in the surface of the acrylic and then sealing them with either a doming epoxy or a UV cured gel. I figure the doming epoxy could be more durable, but the recess would need to be deeper.
For right now, I am going to take the cheapest and most accessible route - using UV cured gel that is used for manicures. The next step, if that ends up not working well, will be exploring the epoxy method. It looks like this method gets very economical very quickly, though my only concern there is what kind of substrate is necessary to not be blurred etc. by the epoxy.
One note about the UV cured epoxies, if this is something that will go outdoors, the sunlight will continue to cure some resins and it will eventually discolor, craze or become brittle and crack. Indoor use? No big deal, but for outdoor applications make sure to get a resin that’s formulated for continuous UV exposure.
Epoxy coatings have no solvents so they will not cause any blurring of printed and dried/cured items.
As long as the surface is cleaned before applying the resin, and the resin is allowed to fully cure, there should not be any issues with the resin separating from the base. A resin that’s made specifically for doming will be formulated for higher adhesion because of the inherent issues working over smooth/glossy surfaces without any “tooth” for stronger mechanical bonding.
The dome is just a solid mass of catalyzed polymer, there is no surface tension presenting a shatter risk as in tempered glass. It should be OK to laser, provided the material itself works well with CO2 lasers and doesnt create any nasty gases like PVC does.
This photo is a square glass jar with a domed vinyl decal wrapped around the corner. I used the flexible UV resin from epoxies etc. applied over white vinyl then sprayed silver paint over the doming. Made this as a test sample probably 10 years ago, just shot this photo today. You can see no separating even around the corner.
They also have Eco Solvent Inkjet printers that use roll material, I’ve been out of the outdoor graphics game for ~9 years now but back then the 54" wide VersaJet was on the order of $45,000. I’m sure there are smaller solvent inkjet machines available as well. These would work for printing decals that could be domed, the flatbed option is not absolutely needed unless you needed to load flat stock.