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12886Re: [PPLetterpress] Laser Engraved Photopolymer Plates

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  • Joe Lanich
    Oct 25, 2011

      You will have to excuse my adjectives. I try to remain humble because I know I am still young and I still have much to learn. I don't want to oversell anything on a mailing list created by a man that prints pieces such as this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bielerpress/5288736711/

      For the work we do (invites, coasters, greeting cards, etc) I would say this direct engrave polymer is excellent. You can find photos of our work here: http://www.laughingowlpress.com/work/. The photos on that page are not all inclusive to this direct engrave material. Some of the work was with conventional photopolymer, laser engravings of MDF and delrin, and type. Now we use the direct engrave polymer exclusively. Using the direct engrave process allows us to go from computer to plate in one step with minimal equipment investment. It has shortened our lead times and lowered our cost compared to when we had plates made offsite.  

      The laser engraver we have is a 40watt Rabbit 6040. You can find it here: http://www.rabbitlaserusa.com/laser_RL6040.asp . You can use any engraver you wish. For this direct engrave polymer we run ours at 28% power, so you could even have a lower wattage of laser and still have success. In the end the machine you buy will affect both your quality of engraving and ease of use. My biggest gripe is the import control software for our laser is clunky, but it works. It likes vector files the most. 

      The engraving does leave a slope on the engraving, you can see a picture of it on the briarpress.org thread about this material. 

      Thank you for your questions. They greatly help with understanding the material. I look forward to more. 


      On Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 11:45 PM, Scott Rubel <scott@...> wrote:


      Thank you for volunteering information. I would like to hear more of your experience with this. "Acceptable" sound different to me than "excellent," so I would like to know what sorts of jobs you produce. What machine are you using?


      On Oct 24, 2011, at 6:04 PM, Joe Lanich wrote:


      Sorry I am late to this conversation, but I have been using direct engrave polymer plates for letterpress for threes months or so now and experimenting with other materials before that. While I do not consider myself to be a fine art printer, I do believe this process makes very acceptable printing plates. 

      I'd be happy to share my experiences with you if you have any questions. I am hesitant to put a link to my webpage describing the plates because I do have a profit motive (I am selling some of the plate material) and I don't want readers to believe I am here just shilling my products. I'll be honest with any questions, and there are pro's and con's to using the direct engrave polymer. I'd also be happy to perform any suggested test engravings on the material that would help to understand it's abilities. Like I said I have only been using it for three months and would be a fool to say I know everything. What I have seen has been very positive and has fit very well into my business. 

      Thanks for your time, 


      On Sun, Oct 23, 2011 at 11:46 PM, bielerpr <Bieler@...> wrote:


      I checked through Letterpress Platemaking, a fairly intense technical reference on everything related to photo engraving, published in 1969 by the Library of Industrial and Commercial Education and Training. It ends with the development of the photopolymer plate process and electronic engraving.

      Slope (angle of profile) is not a major concern but there is mention that "A good average profile for zinc etching has an angle of approximately 15-40% (average) from the verticle." It mentions that there is no particular standard and that a steeper slope in preferred in the Anglo-American sphere and a broad slope preferred on the Continent.

      In regard to photopolymer plates it suggests the obvious, extended exposure increases the profile and decreases the relief depth.


      --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, Gerald Lange <Bieler@...> wrote:
      > Erik
      > Not sure how to respond to this but imagine no relief as possibly cut by 
      > a laser. The structures would collapse under impression. Letterforms 
      > greatly differ in their surface structure. Counters, stems, serifs. And 
      > varying sizes. A relative relief helps provide support. In the 
      > punchcutting of type faces, varied relief is a characteristic as well.
      > I don't know off hand what the slope of a 150 lpi halftone dot would be 
      > on a photomechanical engraving but I assume it would be much different 
      > that than of a metal typeface, though I have one of the last thorough 
      > print studies on this and will look it up and report back.
      > Gerald
      > http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
      > On 10/23/11 1:05 PM, Erik Desmyter wrote:
      > > Gerald,
      > >
      > > I understand the variable relief but not such a variable angle. To me it still is a very small round dot created by the UV light going through a very small circle in the black film and hardening the polymer that can be exposed by that UV light bundle. I am still surprised at the 45 degrees on such a small halftone dot and I try to understand technically or optically why this would be so different to a letterform.
      > >
      > > Best regards,
      > > Erik
      > >
      > >
      > >> Eric
      > >>
      > >> These are halftone dots at 150 lpi not letterforms. They would show the
      > >> tiniest of surface image at extreme proximation and the shallowest of
      > >> relief and the foundation needed to support it. The least of impression
      > >> is all that is required to reproduce a halftone with accuracy to detail.
      > >> As I mentioned, the photopolymer process produces variable relief.
      > >>
      > >> Gerald
      > >> http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
      > >>
      > >> On 10/23/11 12:34 PM, Erik Desmyter wrote:
      > >>> Gerald,
      > >>>
      > >>> I agree that this is the main problem with lasers. However I am surprised to see here on this film based photopolymer http://www.flickr.com/photos/bielerpress/6272724517an angle or slope around 45 degrees. That can result during inking with soft rollers and under pressure that the ink goes rather easy over the top surface on to the sides of the mountain what then gives no longer sharp printed edges. With tradition metal type those sides would be around 75 degrees I guess.

      > >>>
      > >>> Best regards,
      > >>> Erik
      > >>>
      > >>>
      > >>>> Scott
      > >>>>
      > >>>> Maybe a picture or two is worth a thousand words:
      > >>>>
      > >>>> http://www.flickr.com/photos/bielerpress/6272724517/in/photostream/#/photos/bielerpress/6272724517/in/photostream/lightbox/
      > >>>>
      > >>>> http://www.flickr.com/photos/bielerpress/6273250924/in/photostream/#/photos/bielerpress/6273250924/in/photostream/lightbox/
      > >>>>
      > >>>> These are microscopic views of the surface of a halftone image. This is
      > >>>> why photopolymer can provide such exquisite detail. The relief depth
      > >>>> between imaging of close proximity decreases with exposure and provides
      > >>>> structure.
      > >>>>
      > >>>> Gerald
      > >>>> http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
      > >>>>
      > >>>>
      > >>>> On 10/23/11 10:00 AM, Scott Rubel wrote:
      > >>>>> Gerald,
      > >>>>>
      > >>>>> Good thinking about all this. I certainly would want it to be a
      > >>>>> minimum of 2400, for one thing, but I have not known how to think
      > >>>>> about the other disadvantages.
      > >>>>>
      > >>>>> The thing that I hope for when I think about the potential of laser is
      > >>>>> straight sides to the raised type. I don't I understand why there
      > >>>>> would be a limit to the depth in a counter as opposed to any other
      > >>>>> part. My knowledge of lasers is based on mostly half- or 3/4-witted
      > >>>>> speculation mixed with fantasy, which is why I do not understand your
      > >>>>> last paragraph, but I trust your assessment.
      > >>>>>
      > >>>>> --Scott
      > >>>>>
      > >>>>> On Oct 22, 2011, at 10:57 PM, Gerald Lange wrote:
      > >>>>>
      > >>>>>> Scott
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>> I suspect that if cut just short of the floor of the plate rather
      > >>>>>> than down to the backing there would be no problem with the steel
      > >>>>>> reflecting. A more significant concern would be cutting through the
      > >>>>>> pre-exposed floor as plate stability would be sacrificed. Actually,
      > >>>>>> with this technique, the thinner the plate the better. All that
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>> I assume the identity of the plates themselves and the correct
      > >>>>>> timing for the exposure is a minor problem. 1200 dpi is still not
      > >>>>>> good enough, basically high-end laser printer quality. Imagesetter
      > >>>>>> quality at a minimum of 2400 dpi would be needed to match current
      > >>>>>> film based exposure.
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>> A major concern would be maintaining relative reverse relief depth,
      > >>>>>> which is fairly uniform when exposing photopolymer plates specified
      > >>>>>> for letterpress applications, no matter what the thickness of plate.
      > >>>>>> For instance, the relief depth of the counter of a small point size
      > >>>>>> lowercase e or o is not going to be open to the depth of the floor
      > >>>>>> of the plate. It is halted with maximum exposure at a specific
      > >>>>>> range, about .30 mm; relief depth is not uniform [which is actually
      > >>>>>> the best technical argument refuting the practice of extreme
      > >>>>>> impression]. I don't see how this could be controlled with a laser
      > >>>>>> cutter.
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>> Gerald
      > >>>>>> http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>>
      > >>>>>> --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, Scott Rubel<scott@> wrote:
      > >>>>>>> The website days it goes to 1200 dpi. If the coordinate tracking is
      > >>>>>>> accurate as it cuts, that should render pretty good six point type.
      > >>>>>>>
      > >>>>>>> It is hard to tell the quality of the laser, but I think I will ask
      > >>>>>>> them for a sample of steel backed polymer. I wonder how that works
      > >>>>>>> without the steel acting like a mirror.
      > >>>>>>>
      > >>>>>>> These laser beams can be unbelievable thin, if they are high quality.
      > >>>>>>> I work at a place where we make giant cameras for giant telescopes,
      > >>>>>>> and we order custom "slit masks" which are large sheets of aluminum
      > >>>>>>> with thousands of precision placed cuts in them. The cuts aren't much
      > >>>>>>> thicker than a hair, and you would think the laser is just moving
      > >>>>>>> along a path and cutting the slit, but in reality it cuts out the
      > >>>>>>> shape of the slit and almost microscopic blanks fall out of the metal
      > >>>>>>> every time a slit is cut. So if this Epilog Legend 36EXT machine is
      > >>>>>>> high quality, I would think six point type should work fine.
      > >>>>>>>
      > >>>>>>> --Scott
      > >>>>>>>
      > >>>>>>>
      > >>
      > >>
      > >> ------------------------------------
      > >>
      > >> Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >>
      > >>
      > >>
      > >

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