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Thursday, September 8th, 2011
How to Make Photopolymer Printing Plates (Pad Printing Clichés) – Instructions & Videos
What is Pad Printing?
Pad printing is an industrial process of printing onto for objects with curved and/or uneven surfaces. Pad printing machine has 3 main components: the pad, ink cup and the printing plate (also known as a pad printing cliché.) The ink cup slides over the image etched into the plate and leaves a thin layer of ink in the etched area. The printing pad picks up the ink from the plate and transfers it to the parts by gently pressing down on one after the other. The pad printing plate is the most important part of the printing process; this is where the image is set. How well the image is set into the plate will largely determine of the quality of the printed image.
Types of Pad Printing Clichés
There are three types of plates that may be used with a pad printer: photopolymer printing plates, laser plates, thin steel plates and thick steel plates. Laser plates are designed to be etched directly from a digital file, sent from a computer to a laser engraver. Thin steel plates are chemically etched. Thick steel plates can be either chemically etched or laser etched. Photopolymer printing plates are made by exposure to light, developing and curing, a process that takes a film positive, exposure unit and curing oven.
The Challenges of Photopolymer Plate Making
Making a photopolymer pad printing cliché is a multi step process, which involves making a film positive first and then exposing, developing and curing the plate. There are many variables, things can easily go wrong and they often do. Over the years, the technical support team at Inkcups Now Corp. found that the number one reason for misprints, substandard prints and production stoppages are the various mistakes in polymer plate making process. These step by step written instructions below coupled with video instructions are meant to help people get it right. If you still have questions or problems, feel free to contact the Inkcups Team, we are here to be your partner in decorating projects!
Video Instructions on Making Photopolymer Plates & Film Positives
Here is a link to the FILM POSITIVE MAKING VIDEO for the pad printing plate.
Here is a link to the PHOTOPOLYMER PLATE MAKING VIDEO, which shows how to expose, develop and cure the pad printing cliché.
Written Instructions on Photopolymer Plate Making:
1. Spray the film positive with TONER SPRAY.
2. Cut out the film positive to fit the size of the plate.
3. Remove the protective plastic from the plate.
4. Place the film positive FACE DOWN on the plate.
5. Place in the Exposure Unit, expose to UV light for 60 seconds
6. Remove the film positive from the plate; replace with screen film.
7. Expose to UV light for 60 seconds.
8. Remove the screen film from the plate.
9. Gently rub the plate with Plate Developer for 60 seconds.
10. Rinse the plate with water to remove the plate developer.
11. Dry the plate with compressed air.
12. Place the plate in a Drying Oven for 10 minutes.
13. Remove the plate from the drying oven, put back into the Exposure Unit.
14. Expose to UV light for 10 minutes.
The Best Method for Making Pad Printing Cliches – Laser Engravable Plates Creating photopolymer plates may be the most cost effective method, however it is not the best method. Photopolymer plate making takes 20-40 minutes, the image is second generation, and not as sharp.
There is a fast method, producing superior quality plates: laser plate-making. Laser etched image is first generation (digital image goes directly onto the plate, without the film positive stage); the etch has straight walls and is totally repeatable every time. Laser plate making takes only 3-5 minutes and does not involve any chemicals. Inkcups Now pioneered direct to plate laser technology and has a lineup of Laser Engravable pad printing plate materials to accommodate any application and production requirements, learn more here: www.inkcups.com/supplies/laser-plates/
About the Author
Inkcups Now Corporation ( http://www.inkcups.com ) is a manufacturer and distributor of pad printing and screen printing supplies, equipment as well as innovatory computer to plate laser plate-makers and inkjet printers. Offices are located in the U.S. (MA, CA, GA, RI) and Canada. For more information please visit www.inkcups.com or call 1-978-646-8980.
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