The Skinny on Plate Types

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.

Steel Plates

  • 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
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!

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