Pad Printing Polymer Plate Making

UV Exposure units for making pad printing cliches

Producing a pad printing plate or cliche is simple, quick and extremely cost effective! Pad printing systems require a printing plate to be made for each colour of a design that will be printed. These plates can be made in a number of ways, but by far the easiest and most cost effective way is to invest in a UV exposure unit and some water washable polymer plate material. Producing a pad printing plate is simple, quick and extremely cost effective!

Some companies that have a need for pad printing plates will outsource the task of making the plate to an engraving company. Not only does this take time, but there is also a cost to produce the plate. When time is serious constraint, perhaps more so than the cost for the plate, many organisations now look to make polymer printing plates in-house.

In order to make the pad printing plate, a number of items are needed, the most expensive of which will be a good UV exposure unit such as the Black Box pressure pad system or the Xeros vacuum bed range.

Pressure Pad UV Unit

The Black Box UV unit is the most cost effective model we offer. The tubes are housed in the bottom of the steel case and a foam pressure pad is fitted to the lid. A digital timer control and display is fitted.

Blackbox Pressure Pad UV Exposure Unit

Vacuum Bed UV Unit

The Xeros range of single and double sided (DS) vacuum bed UV units feature an attractive low profile aluminium case, and are fitted with an advanced electronic timer controller and pressure display.

Xeros Single Sided Vacuum UV Exposure Unit

The choice of UV exposure unit depends on two factors. Firstly the type of artwork that has to be produced and secondly, the funds available to purchase the exposure unit.

If the artwork is relatively simple, and does not have text that is smaller than 12 point size and has no fine line detail, then the Black Box pressure pad exposure unit will suffice. When artwork is complex, has small text and elements of fine line detail, then the Xeros vacuum bed range will be preferable.

How do I make the plate?

This begins with the production of a right reading emulsion down film positive which is needed to expose the polymer printing plate material. All pad printing plates are made from a positive image.

The film positive can be made in a number of ways which we discuss in detail when you purchase a system. Once you have a positive, the printing plate is placed inside the UV exposure unit along with the artwork. Light from the UV unit is passed through the clear parts of the film hence only part of the printing plate is exposed to light – some areas of the plate material are protected from the light by the black areas of the film. Once the exposure has been completed, the plate is removed from the UV unit and developed in warm water. The process of developing removes the unexposed areas of the polymer from the metal backed plate leaving only the printing areas visible, but etched into the surface of the printing plate. The plate is then dried to remove any moisture and is finally ready to be used.

The steps required to make the plate are as follows:

  • Complete the design for the plate or open the file provided by your client
  • Produce a film positive (can be printed by black laser printer or inkjet when used with a RIP and special ink)
  • Place the film and polymer printing plate inside the UV exposure unit and expose
  • Remove film and plate and develop the exposed plate in water
  • Dry the plate carefully
  • Mount the plate inside the pad printer and print the job

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