How Do Printing Plates Work?

The Printing plate holds the artwork to be printed, therefore it is a critical component in the pad printing process. The artwork is etched into the printing plate where it is flooded with ink and picked up by the pad.

The first step is purchasing a printing plate that fits your pad printer. Not all machines are created equal, plate sizes vary greatly.

Next, put the artwork on the plate. There are two ways to etch the artwork: chemical or laser etching. Chemical etching requires the use of photopolymer plates and an exposure unit. This process typically takes a bit longer than the other, however, it is a lower start-up cost. Laser etching requires the use of a laser plate-maker (either Co2 or fiber) that will engrave the plate material directly from a computer file. Offering greater repeatability and excellent precision.

Once the printing plate is etched, it is placed into the pad printing machine. A typical print cycle is as follows: an ink cup filled with ink is placed on top of the plate, the ink cup slides over the etched portion of the plate and slides back leaving only a small amount of ink in the etched graphic, the pad presses down on the etch to pick up the ink then slides over the part and presses down to release the ink.

Visit our Pad Printing page to learn more.

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