Can you print on molded pulp

Table of Contents

Yes, printing on molded pulp is feasible using techniques like inkjet, screen, and pad printing for detailed and vibrant results.

Overview of Molded Pulp as a Printing Medium

One form of sustainable packing materials and containers is made of molded pulp, which is mainly derived from recycled paperboard and newspaper. This environmentally friendly option minimizes waste and spares natural resources, which aligns with the global green agenda. Furthermore, the following are the printability differences between paper and molded pulp along with its unique characteristics.

Pulp Molding

Pulp molding employs a mixture of water and fibers from different sources, such as recycled paper, cardboard, and other kinds of fibers . This process involves soaking the materials in water and blending them into a slurry, which is then molded into the desired shape. The final form is drying in a press mold and results in persistent strong and lightweight items. Molded pulp is 100% degradable and usually consists of about 75-90% of the fiber from recycled products, which effectively spares virgin fibers . The product consists of fibers mixed with water that have been carefully processed under pressure and temperature.

On the other hand, the molded pulp is usually produced with a rough surface and important tools may tame this raw form, such as coverings to increase the final product’s printability . The surface of molded pulp is rough and for better comparison with other materials, it is suggested to measure its smoothness. Its roughness indicator is always higher than the smooth surface of the original paper and cardboard, which affects the droplet size of the ink. The ink droplet is hence smaller and tends to run unevenly, which may result in worse pictures and texts.

Molded Pulp vs. Traditional Paper and Cardboard

The main distinction between molded pulp, paper, and cardboard is the sustainability and overall environmental impact of production. Traditional paper makes up too a huge portion of the world’s waste and is made of fibers sustainably supplied from various private lands. Paper production does, however, consume substantial amounts of water, and paper plants use about 4% of the world’s total energy . Molded pulp is more efficient in water consumption and energy, which makes it a favorable environmental choice . However, unlike high-grade paper and cardboard, molded pulp has an undesirable roughness characteristic, which restricts its use. Sophisticated covering makes it challenging to provide more excellent common quality pictures and texts . Such cases may include high-end packing or highly-reputed companies printing detailed graphic standard pictures. Despite the rough texture and printing restrictions, molded pulp is still a cost-effective material. It is always cheaper than plastics in terms of total material cost, which is around the same as cardboard. The bonus comes when the overall weight is lower too, so the cost for the shipment is doubly lower.


Flexible Printing Techniques for Pulp Surfaces

Advanced techniques applied in printing have facilitated the efficient design of molded pulp products, which can be challenging to execute on otherwise. These methods are adapted to the material’s texture and form, creating a process to develop appealing and functional items.

Pad Printing for Small and Irregular Surfaces

Pad printing is a technique used specifically with 3D objects, and it allows 2D images to be transferre onto the product. This solution in printing is versatile, as it can accomplish printing on small and relatively irregular or challenging surfaces, which is impossible for traditional printing . It operates by transferring ink from the silicone pad to the product, which doubles as a stamp to place images where needed . The technique also allows for high resolution, a variety of colors, and detailed imagery, which are especially important for decorative patterns. As a result, this method is especially useful for printing on small and molded pulp objects or simple paper pulp packaging in which logos , instructions, and other small images are applied. Pad printing allows for cost-effective and fast image transfer without much effort related to mold production. It is an affordable technique for small to medium production volume as its equipment does not require a high initial investment, from few thousand to twenty thousand USD.

Inkjet Printing for Non-Contact Applications

This technique allows for a non-contact transfer of ink on some surface, with little damage to the product during the process. The application of ink can be carried out from some distance above the product without pressure, and it is efficient on uneven material surfaces. At the same time, inkjet printing allows for printing various patterns or images and many colors, which makes it versatile . Its primary benefit is that no square plates or molds are used in the process of preparation for printing. In overall, inkjet printing allows for high-speed printing through minimal periods of ink drying and no material waste. It benefits both small-scale and large-scale production, especially when printing customers’ projects a single time.

Screen Printing for High-Impact Images

Lastly, screening involves transferring image on the molded pulp from a mesh held temporarily above the product. The process involves a squeegee that moves across the screen, spreading the ink and filling open mesh apertures . This process is efficient in creating bold images on various molded pulp products for various uses. It is especially beneficial for large-scale production items, as the set-up costs generated by the screen’s production are offset by the viability of producing bold and bright colors on many products in a short time.


Innovative Approaches to Branding on Molded Pulp

The branding of molded pulp products is a unique and challenging process due to the textures of the molded pulp materials and their environmental considerations. Although this type of branding is not widely used, two effective and innovative methods have been developed: die-casting and laser engraving. Both methods enable the creation of distinct brand images and ensure that the images on the molded pulp products are enhanced and durable.


Die-casting is a branding method used in the case of the production of simple embossed or engraved images on the molded pulp. In this method, a mold or a die is created featuring a raised or a recessed image or writing, which can be a brand’s logo, a pattern, or any other element. The mold is pressed on the wet pulp press during the molding process, and the intricacies of the embossed design are directly implemented into the product . The main advantage of this method lies in its simplicity and cost-effectiveness in the case of large productions. The cost of the production of small runs is high when the mold has to be created, but when the production run is large, the cost of each unit is very low, as no inks or other products have to be used, and no additional materials have to be used. Therefore, this method is the best option when a company wants to produce large amounts of packaging or a product with a simple and durable brand. However, this method eliminates any possibility of separation as the brand of the product is a part of the item, and it cannot be disposed of.aised into the final product .

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