Photopolymer Plate Makers

I am interested in learning more about photopolymer plate makers. Has anyone purchased one from Boxcar or NA Graphics. Reviews? If you have purchased a plate maker, what is your average square inch cost to produce plates? Does anyone know where to buy a good second hand plate maker. I haven’t seen many on here. Thanks.


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You won’t see them on here because Briarpress expressly forbids the listing of these machines (Honestly, with all the interest in the process/the machines themselves, I am NOT SURE WHY).
According to the guidelines for posting FS/T ads about them, they are considered to be “Commercial equipment” akin to offset presses and the like, although listing V-50’s and Windmills (which are probably more intense machines that PPP makers) are A-OK.

Maybe someday the ban will be lifted. I tried to list one a while back that was available here in Brooklyn, and it was denied. If you’re interested I can see if my friend still has it (depends where you are), it’s used and in great condition and I know for a fact that he wants to move it for a reasonable price (you could litereally save thousands if you found one used).

Hmm, never knew that was the case. Interesting.

I’ve seen some used platemakers on various print supply websites, but there seems to be a much smaller market for PPP devices in comparison with nuarc and other platemakers/exposers.


Happy New Year.

It really isn’t a matter of average square inch cost but rather will it really cost you. You would need to be full tilt production to justify the cost. If not, you are much better off buying from your trusted photopolymer plate processor.

You do have to not only purchase the machine, you have to put it somewhere (likely have to build a darkroom), and then there is the cost of raw photopolymer plate material and the cost of learning how to process it correctly, and the electrical and water…

At any rate, unless you are producing a lot of plates everyday, and printing them, which are two different things, likely this will not pay off.

My advice, focus on what your really want to do.


helimited and all - just to try to clear up our somewhat vague posting policy…we do list platemakers and a variety of larger presses and other items if they are an insignificant part of an inventory or listing that includes mostly items that conform to our guidelines. The reason we don’t list these items alone is because we would then have to be open to all the supplies and other pre-press items that are sold elsewhere. It would become very time-consuming and difficult to navigate through all the listings to find the items that relate specifically to preserving the actual letterpress for which this site was originally built.

Discussion welcomes questions about a broader range of letterpress related subjects, but we can not handle all of the book arts and pre-press supplies on our Classifieds.

Believe it or not, we are still working on building a site that will incorporate the original pin mark and museum sections, will require less personal monitoring of spam in the Classifieds, will provide some income for other services while still offering most of our core services free, and that will allow other members of the community administrative access. At that time, we may be able to expand into a broader area of offerings in our Classifieds.

Hope this explanation helps. May the New Year be peaceful and productive for everyone.

For what it is worth, I have an Anderson and Vreeland Stack Flexo platemaker, and it works very well for processing letterpress plates. I have no experience with the units boxcar and NA graphics sell (it’s the same brand- JET), although they look a bit upgraded (digital displays as opposed to manual stuff, etc).

I do like that I can call A&V for service here in the North East and actually get a person who knows what to do with my problems, even if I have a used machine. It’s nice.

If you own the machine, you pay for electrical, supplies for the machine (Kreene which you need to buy a lot of, brushes if you need to replace them which is contingent upon wear), and you need to buy photopolymer raw, unprocessed. You also need film to shoot the plate with. If you use plastic backed plates, add adhesive to that expense. Add all that up and it becomes costly at first, but cheaper over time as opposed to paying for plates/mailorder, and then add to that the convenience of HAVING THE PLATE IMMEDIATELY. No rush fees. Noone else to depend upon.
If that is worthwhile to you, it’s a good idea to look into getting a machine for yourself.


I disagree with gerald- in my experience you do not need a darkroom for these machines.
Unexposed photopolymer needs to be handled carefully, but only in low light to provide satisfactory results, not “safelights”. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can just leave it out without a darkbag or a drawer to store it in, but… It’s the same as positive working photo-litho plates and dual cure photo emulsion for screenprinting- the “darkroom” mindset is overkill IMHO.
You simply need be careful with how MUCH exposure to low/diffuse light the plates receive. I’ve found that shades down/curtains closed is good enough.

Personally I do not think you do not need to justify the expense by being so busy that you can give reason to acquire the machine- if you can consider that using it and then selling it again in the long run will work out well enough for you, then perhaps it is worth looking into. I bought a machine for parts and replaced a few minor pieces/plus the brush, re-wired it, fixed the vacuum pump, and now I have a machine I can probably sell for 5-6 times what I paid for it, and get the usage out of it.
Like a press, it’s about buying smart and selling smarter, and being practical with what you are willing to do to fix the equipment. Ask Dan from “The Arm” and he’ll tell you the same.

These machines are worth their weight if you can get a good price for one used and you have the ability to operate it.

However, the stuff that goes with it, and the ability to make good plates, are what make the whole EXPERIENCE of owning one require somewhat of an understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.

-They’re only about as difficult to move as commercial ovens/kitchen appliances.

-They take up a small footprint/most of the time encompass all the operations required to process plates.

-Most of the time the difficult part to find will be accurately processed silverfilm to shoot plates from- without an image setter or a good source for really opaque negatives, you’ll be up $#!+ creek.

-Inkjet film just doesn’t work as well unless you have the right RIP and film and ink density set up, and that takes experience with software/hardware that the average letterpress hobby printer does not have/is not willing to acquire. You need a top of the line inkjet printer to garner reliable results, and don’t even think about printing small type unless you have that all dialed in.


So you mean if I list 5 vandercooks, four windmills, three ludlow casters, two linotypes, I can also list my photopolymer platemaker? (say that line to the tune of “the first day of xmas)

I am sorry, but I disagree again- I would think it wouldn’t be very difficult to allow photopolymer platemakers specifically and expressly, and still not allow Nuarc fliptop platemakers and various other exposure units that have nothing to do with letterpress.
No more difficult, that is, than weeding them out from the postings that are already there with inappropriate machines/equipment. You’re already putting the time into it/having to- if you made a rule and stuck to it, would the issue not arise far less than if you were to ignore them as you currently are?

They’re letterpress machines, after all, even the ones for “flexo” still work for letterpress plates, and the thing about these machines is that everyone on here seems to talk about the plates, but noone discusses the machines that make them. Producing the plates is sometimes about as difficult as printing them, once you are skilled at it.

Don’t get me wrong- I love what you people do for us, and I try to support the site (I’ve paid for my X-ified listings VIA paypal so far I think), but it’s just interesting that they’re relatively ignored as far as typographic/printing/letterpress equipment goes, and even though they’re simple, they’re pretty fascinating machines.


You seem to disagree a lot :—) Nothing wrong with that I suppose but in regard to the dark room thing, no matter what your thinking, these are clearly “photosensitive” materials dude. That sort of means, keep them away from UV light, sunlight, non-shielded lamps, etc. A simple darkroom would suffice nicely and prevent, oh, I don’t know, fuck-ups? Which is a good thing, I’d think.


Gerald’s quite right here about the light sensitivity of photopolymer, but a full darkroom isn’t absolutely necessary. It is preferable if you have the space because a darkroom also allows a degree of dust control, and dust is just as much a source of potential flaws as fogging plates. In tight quarters a curtain and low lighting levels (or shielded lighting) may suffice, but putting a platemaker up against equipment that may generate paper dust or spray powder pretty much guarantees flawed plates, which means remakes, which are expensive in time and material and if you don’t catch something in time, rejected jobs and re-runs.

Hey gerald, I never said you were wrong, i just disagree’d “dude”! :-D

I think you guys are really right about contaminants, and that means making sure all that stuff stays away from the plates- but it’s okay, though, to briefly handle plates in dim light, during the amount of time it takes to pull a plate out, remove the cover, stick a neg to it, put it in the machine, vac the kreene, smooth out, and then close the machine/switch on exposure- if you’re in a dimly lit room that has no direct sunlight, you should be fine?


………………… Because it’s worked very well for me so far…….


Well, then, you are right. But, likely you know what you are doing. Some folks (well most) would not though, thus the warning. And the sort of warning that though this works fine for someone who has thought it through, probably not best to recommend or encourage it as a way of doing things for folks who haven’t. As always.


We make our own plates and don’t have a darkroom. In fact, the platemaker has it’s own little space next to the sink (which is that best place for them, given that you’ll need to empty/fill/clean it regularly). When we’re platemaking every morning, we simply close the door to outside and make sure no large amounts of light are leaking into the studio. We handle the raw plate under fluorescent lights, no probs.

And what do you do if you can’t get the sunlight out? Make them at night. Easy :)

Cost wise, you’ll have to pay a lot for the platemaker, then pay a lot for the raw plate, as they are pretty pricey per packet.

I’m seriously thinking about making one - my budget doesn’t quite extend to buying one right now - has anyone here made one before? They don’t seem very complicated is there something obvious i’m missing?

I started making one and luckily stumbled upon a nice platemaker for a few hundred bucks. Score!

I still plan to make my homemade unit as a post-exposure unit but haven’t gotten around to it. I found all the supplies I needed online. The T8 blacklight bulbs, ballasts and bulb sockets were under $100. I was going to use a spare darkroom timer I had as the timer, but a little research found this sweet unit on e-bay:

The trick is going to be the washout. Before seeing how well the platemaker washout worked, I had visions of washing out by hand or building something that would do the job. Now I’m not so sure. It would take a bit of engineering to roll your own. Washing out by hand just doesn’t compare. Something about the consistent washout really makes it work better.

Inside the washout unit, there are two motors. The first motor acts as a timer. It’s a very slow turning motor that has a half-round pulley on it. The pulley activates a microswitch that reverses the polarity of the other motor, causing it to run backward. The other motor, a bigger one, has a chain that drives two gears that connect to the washout plate.

I’d be happy to take pictures of it if you’re really interested in seeing how it works.

madmaudepress: If you wouldn’t mind sharing the pictures I’d be very keen to take a look! If I do end up doing this I will definitely document the process to share with others.

You need to run numbers, as has been said, and think about how many plates you are going to be making. It is hard to justify a new one unless you are making a lot of plates.
As was said, you will still need to buy your plate material, water and power, and you will still need to send out and pay for film. Even a film guy that offers you quick turnaround will take a day or two, which is the same as boxcar or other plate producers can offer. And you will have to take time to make the plates, which, depending on the model, will take about 20-30 minutes per plate (regardless of plate size), so factor in what your time is worth to you.
The plus side is control, and experimentation, and flexibility to remake a damaged plate,etc. you just have to decide what its worth. If you could find a nice used one for under a thousand bucks or something, then it could be a good buy. Otherwise, save your cash and focus on printing. Best of luck.

I might have to join the ranks of printers who expose their own PP plates, at least for emergencies and my own work. I like the reliability of ordering plates for client work right now, but the recent winter storms caused a rush job to turn into an overdue, stressful job. It’d be nice to have a backup solution, and I already have access to a stouffer scale and nuarc unit.

Anyone know where I could find a copy or the original Operators manual for a Polimero A4 Photopolymer Plate maker. I’d be glad to pay for a copy or appreciate a scanned pdf file.


Don’t know about the manual but there is an instruction sheet of some sort in the files over at PPLetterpress.


Yes, I posted a small instruction sheet on PPLetterpress for the Polimero. There isn’t a lot to it, but it does explain the safety switch that protects the bath heater from over-heating, as when it is used without water.

hi guys, I am now in the lookout for a platemaking machine with washout and have come across an A4 platemaker with washout and cure tray…it is made in india by a company called flexo group. You can see it in action on this link. It seems to be the business and at 1500$ it is also seemingly good value. Does anyone have any experience with this particular machine or heard any reports about them.

Thank in advance,


The title of the short is Automatic Rubber Stamp Machine. If that is what you want, seems perfect.


Does anyone have any experience with what type of glue is best for adhering the green mat in the wash up?

Contact cement, sealed on the edges with Green Die Sealer.