Whether you are an existing customer of EPS, a prospective consumables customer, or use other service providers it is important for you to have a quality assurance process in place. Poor quality clichés adversely impact the quality of the decoration you want printed.
At EPS, we adhere to the highest standards in our quality control procedures. To ensure we deliver on our promise of providing the best services available we recently invested in a new top of the line Zeiss Smartzoom 5 – fully motorized digital microscope.
This amazing piece of equipment allows our plate making team to quickly and accurately determine whether a plate falls within specifications during quality control checks. Members of the plate making team are able to check for image depth deviations, defects and imperfections that occur during the etching process. The information is then recorded in the customer’s data (folder/file).
The Smartzoom 5 has greatly improved the capabilities of the plate department over the Nikon measuring microscope that was previously used. This sizeable financial commitment underscores our pledge to deliver quality products to our customers.
Contact us to discuss our full line of pad printing consumables.
Engineered Printing Solutions reps often hear the question “what plate type should I use?” The answer is standard for pad printing:
- What is the intended application
- How detailed is the artwork (fine lines? large solid areas?)
- What are the environment’s conditions (dusty? flying debris?)
- What is the thickness or opacity of ink required?
- What is the size of the run?
Your rep is here to help you analyze your job and narrow your choices, including plate type. There are two major image plate types: Steel and Photopolymer. Let’s take a closer look at each.
- Thick Steel Plates. These are old-fashioned and originally used in pad printing because it was usually the only choice. There were few to no other more affordable materials. These thick steel plates were tempered and machined flat prior to acid etching. Very expensive and requiring an outside plate-maker service, their redeeming quality was longevity, often providing several-hundred-thousand print cycles.
- Thin Steel Plates. These plates have gained in popularity due to the improved materials used. They provide excellent flatness for proper functionality and higher tempering (into the Rockwell 70’s) for long life. Their cost is much lower than thick steel plates and can be used on the same standard plate stages as polymer plates. These plates also need an outside plate-maker service – acid bath required.
Photopolymer plates come in a variety of types and are made of photosensitive material that changes chemical composition when exposed to ultraviolet light. Using a film positive, the image is etched into the plate, preventing the image area from being exposed to the UV-light. To control etch depth in larger color areas, a second exposure with a screen is necessary.
- Double Exposure. These plates are available in several polymer materials depending on the etch depth and the number of impressions needed. An exposure unit is required to expose the plate and would require using a line screen. This material is available in either alcohol- or water-based development. A full list of plate materials can be found on our website – Printing Plates here.
- Single Exposure. This special material provides a very thin photopolymer coating, clad to a very thin steel backing. The plate can only be etched to a .001” depth and requires a single exposure. This material has a shorter impression life than conventional Double Exposure plates. Since it lacks the customary screen in the artwork area, it is used only on fine line or text artwork. It is not used to print bold artwork or solid backgrounds.
- Laser Etched. These plates are used in conjunction with a laser etching device such as our RapidFire Laser Etcher to produce plates similar to the conventional Double Exposure plates, including screened artwork areas of all types. Bringing this ability in-house eliminates the need for artwork films and provides multiple benefits in speed, turnaround, corrections and profitability.
Where do I get help?
Recommendations, troubleshooting and assistance in all areas of your production cycle are at the end of your phone or mouse! Call the trained and experienced Pad Print people at 1-800-272-7764, or use Live Chat on our Home page https://www.epsvt.com
We’ll stop by for a cup of coffee!
Recently it came to my attention that not all of my customers are aware of some hidden expenses.
For example, the cliché size vs. your business expenses is directly analogous with an electric/hybrid vehicle vs. a gas guzzler’s effect on gas costs. The hybrid costs more up front but the gas guzzler costs more at the pump.
I was visiting a customer in Miami a couple of weeks back and we walked over to a bunch of inexpensive-looking pad printing machines with 90mm cups. The client asked me to quote clichés for these machines. Their business uses about 6,000 clichés per year and the cliché size for these machines is 100x300mm. This is a full 100mm longer then the clichés our “expensive” “hybrid” pad printer uses.
The cost differential on the larger clichés: a full 30% more (in dollar terms about $1.80 more per cliché) than the smaller 100x200mm. This translates into about $10,800 cost per year more for their clichés than for our machine!
“Why is the cliché on your machine only 200mm long while these are 300mm long?” asked the client.
“The answer is simple,” I replied. “Our machine uses a separate pad drive and cliché drive, while this manufacturer uses only one drive for both the pad and cup. When you use a single drive, the cup and the pad bars are connected together. To reach a comfortable distance that allows a decent part size to fit in front of the machine, the stroke on the cliché has to be the same as the stroke on the pad. So the cliché also is longer to accommodate the longer stroke. My friend, the machine is cheaper but the plates are making you ‘drive to the gas station’ more frequently.”
Sometimes we think that because a machine or product is cheaper we are saving money. But this example is evidence to the contrary.
Lesson: Shop well and buy from a company you can trust.
This customer is now replacing all these machines with a more expensive – but better quality – machine that will cost less to operate and rescue his bottom line in the long run.