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All American's Guide to Pad Printing Plates

All American's Guide to Pad Printing Plates

Have you ever wondered how to make a pad printing pad? This step-by-step guide has all the information you need to get started with direct to plate pad printing yourself! You can also allow All American to custom make your plates for you.

1. Print your artwork on inkjet or laser film as a mirror image. The artwork should be printed out in black with the highest quality to enhance the density of the print. The image on the film should be solid black. If you hold it up to a bright light and view it with a magnifier, very little light should come through the black portions. This is important; if the image is not dense enough the plate produced will be too shallow for printing. If you cannot get good image density, call us at (215 634-2235) for information on the correct printer and film RIP to use.

2. The reason for the mirrored image is to allow the ink-side (printed-side) to touch the photopolymer plate during exposure. This is called emulsion-to-emulsion contact. This process keeps light from getting in between the image and the plate, ensuring there is no loss in detail.

3. When you have your printed artwork on the film, trim down the film to fit the plate. The artwork should be centered on the pad printing plate about 45 mm (1.8”) from the top edge. Try not to trim just around the artwork because the trimmed outline will be visible when you expose the plate.

4. Get a new photopolymer plate and peel off the plastic protector sheet. 

5. Place the artwork (film positive) on the photopolymer plate.

6. Place the film positive and plate on the exposure unit face down so that photopolymer area can be exposed.

7. Close the cover and expose for 60 seconds.

8. Open the cover, take the film positive out, and put screen tint on the plate. Be sure the duller side of the screen tint film is touching the plate surface for good emulsion-to-emulsion contact.

9. Put them back on the exposure unit and expose for another 35 seconds.

10. Take the plate to the sink and wash it out for about two minutes in 80°F water. 80°F feels lukewarm to the touch. Temperature is important, as water that is too cold may not wash out the image correctly, and water that is too hot may wash away the halftone dot pattern. Wash for 1 to 2 minutes, the water will dissolve the unexposed polymer. Note that the plate will not feel slimy when it is washed out correctly.

11. Dry the plate thoroughly to remove moisture from the polymer so it becomes hard and smooth. Dry at 200° F for 15 minutes. Overheating will cause bubbles in the polymer and spots in the plate

12. Put the exposed and dried photopolymer plate back on the exposure unit and post-expose plate for at least 15 minutes. 30 minutes provides better results and will set the plate to maximum hardness.

13. Your pad printing plate is ready to be put on the machine.

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