Toys Personalized Decoration Technologies

“Water Printing” and “Digital Printing” have shown to be applicable for achieving the objective.

Ibi, Spain, March 16, 2012 --( Over the last two years AIJU has developed the Project Decoratoy, aimed at the study and applicability of diverse decoration techniques for the personalized decoration of three dimensional plastic pieces, mainly in the toy sector, carrying out decoration testing using several technologies. Those having showed great applicability are Water Printing, Digital Printing and Transference Films, among others.

Water printing consists of printing the image to be used to decorate the piece on a water soluble Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) film. This film is placed in an immersion tank, filled with water, in such a way that the PVA film makes direct contact with water and is dissolved while the ink stays floating on the water. Next, the ink is sprayed with a chemical activator and the sample is introduced into the water, so that the ink covers the sample and adheres to the surface. Finally, once the surfaces of the decorated piece are clean and dry, a transparent coating is applied to increase the durability of the piece and its resistance to weathering.

Digital Printing consists of the direct reproduction of a digital file on a physical piece, generally 2D. When working with this technique with three dimensional geometries two difficulties arise: the distance and the inclination relative to the impression head and the substrate. The technology has shown to be interesting and valid for the personalized decorations of pieces in which the maximum distance is around 12 mm between the highest and lowest points of the piece geometry and the relative angle between the head and the face of the pieces does not exceed 30º.

Regarding the vinyl transference films with digital impression, there are references that it can be adapted to 3D surfaces with great flexibility. For the most complex surfaces, it could be necessary to apply heat so that it adapts perfectly to the piece’s geometry.

Previously, several techniques were researched in-depth. Pad Printing (and its new system with sealed ink cups and microprocessor controllers), Serigraphic Printing (that requires the development of the UV curing of inks on difficult substrates such as polyolefins, acetals and other thermoplastic resins), and Offset Printing (which permits double face printing). All of them allow the use of multiple colours, to obtain improved productivity, a better register and further versatility. Other novelties use laser marking with this aim, although they still have some restrictions in order to obtain colour and shine adjustments, therefore they are used in non-aesthetic applications.

Miguel Angel Leon, the technician in charge of the project says that, “this project offers us a great challenge, but it is being undertaken with the conviction that the toy industry is going to be able to adapt to systems with the desired aim, being conscious of their advantages and inconveniences, scopes and limitations, in a way that the toy industry will be able to apply the best option for each specific case.”

This research is funded by IMPIVA and co-funded by FEDER funds, within its R&D programme (Expedient no. IMIDIC/2010/56), arose due to the concern shown by organisations in the sector, over new tendencies observed within their specific fields, that are characterized by an increasing demand for personalized products, in shorter delivery times, and small production runs.

About AIJU:
The Toy Research Institute (AIJU) is a non-profit making organisation, located in Ibi, the Spanish geographic centre for the manufacture of toys. It was founded in 1985 with the collaboration of the Spanish Toy Manufacturers Association (AEFJ) and the Regional Government (IMPIVA).

Its aim is both, to transfer and allow toy manufacturers access to the knowledge of new technologies in order to improve their competitivity, while offering technological and financial assessment, and supporting the professional development of people involved in the sector. For this purpose, it has a staff of 77 professionals who develop their work in the different departments that make up AIJU. Besides, this organization is provided with the required infrastructure to manage the different activities it undertakes.

The department intended to carry out these tasks is that of Product Development – Laboratory Department, specifically the Processing and Materials area. This area has several research lines for the development of new processes, among them the development of new decorative processes within the sector as well as pre-treatments for their optimisation. Additionally, this area is devoted to new materials development for both, traditional and rapid manufacturing technologies. The area carrying out this project has been working closely with the Rapid Manufacturing area for 10 years now with the objective of reaching final material sets.

AIJU is an active member of the Rapid Manufacturing European Platform and the Spanish mirror led by ASERM, the Spanish Rapid Manufacturing Association. It is also a member of EuMAT and Manufuture and a member of the “Materials” group promoted by REDIT, the RDT Centres of IMPIVA’s Network.

In the field of standardisation, the entity is working on the potential feasibility of proposed legislation as well as new safety criteria for toys, with participation in several proficiency testing schemes both, on a National and European Level. Thus, it is participating in the development of new standards for toys in the European Committee of Normalization (CEN).
AIJU - Toy Research Institute
Miguel A. León