With the proper tools you can bring the platemaking process in-house streamlining your operations saving you time and money.
Printing plates can be made using either a laser engraving machine or by using an exposure unit.
For in-house platemaking you will need:
- Artwork in a high resolution vector graphic format
- Ability to make adjustments to your artwork with a vector graphic editing program such as Adobe Illustrator
For Laser Plate Making you will also need:
- CO2 Laser of 10-35 Watts
- Laser engravable plate materials
For Photographic Plate Making you will also need:
- Inkjet Printer such as an Epson wide format printer
- Inkjet film positive supplied by Printex
- Plastic container to hold plate developer
- Developer Solution (tap water for water wash plates or alcohol for solvent wash plates)
- Developing Brush
- One of these two type of photopolymer Plates: Water Wash Plates | Alcohol Wash Plates
Using a CO2 laser of 10-35 Watts:
- Set the home position of the laser to the exact corner of the laser etching bed.
- Align your laser plate material to the laser bed using the corner configured as home.
- Using Adobe Illustrator or similar program you will need to configure your artwork as 80% opacity black – this provides a “dot pattern” to the engraving.
To save time engraving we also recommend to remove/hide the dotted plate outline of the template.
- For our Epilog Mini 35 Watt CO2 Laser we recommend starting with a “raster engrave” setting at the maximum resolution (1,200 DPI) and a speed setting of 12, with a power setting of 7.
The platemaking process is straightforward consisting of several main steps.
- First Exposure: Film positive artwork exposure
- Second Exposure: Screen exposure – controls the depth of the plate etch. A shorter exposure will result in a deeper plate, a longer exposure will result in a shallower plate.
- Washout: Gently remove uncured photopolymer plate material from the artwork area.
- Blow-off & Dry: Remove any remaining plate developer (water or alcohol) by blowing the plate clean with compressed air. Next place the plate into a drying unit at 150F for 10 minutes.
- UV-Bake: Finally place the plate back into the exposure unit for a final 10-minute UV bake to fully harden the plate material.