Photopolymer Plate Making

I am setting up a letterpress shop in Istanbul and I want to buy a photopolymer plate maker. I have decided on the model , and it is going to be one of the 2 models of Jet.

But my question is that how to get the negatives for platemaking.
What is the better way?
Which printer would you suggest?
There are some Canon and HP alternatives but is it better to have a laser imagesetter? They cost quite a bit high.

Please help me out with this …


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I have no direct experience with this myself but from what I’ve seen and read, the best results are gotten from an imagesetter direct to film or a plate camera shooting from hardcopy to plate film. What I’ve read about printer-based solutions (either ink-jet or laser based) suggests that the negatives produced are inferior to those produced by more traditional methods. What type of printed materials are you wanting to produce?

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Imagesetters are expensive but make the great films.

There are folks who say they make usable negs with laser or inkjet printers but I don’t think you’ll find any of the big printer manufacturers advertising that their machines make great negs and here “get this model for that”. I think that means that it’s still not 100%.

If you output your copy on a regular laser jet printer on white paper and then expose in a vertical camera you can surely make excellent negs. Then your concern would be finding a source for film and chemicals and you would need to have it set up in a dark room. You can do tray developing or you can find film processor machines that they sell to dentist’s offices that will take your exposed film and output a dry, developed neg.
Both the vertical camera and film processor would very likely be available cheap, 2nd hand since they are old tech.

I make my own photopolymerplates and I use an Inkjetprinter.
I just started with making those, but I got good results so far.
First it is important to use a good printer where you can alter as many settings as possible, most important is the density of the print and the amount of ink, it is important that it is as black and as dense as possible.Printingspeed should be as slow as possible for a really dense print.
For the film I use film for silkscreenprinting. There are specially coated transparent inkjet films which allow for a very sharp image and very dense blacks.
Silcscreenprinting works also with UV exposure similar to photopolymerplates (at much higher amounts of uv-light), so those are the best materials to use when making plates at home.
There is also a special extra black and dense ink you can buy to use in an inkjet printer.
You can buy all those materials at specialized silkscreen suppliers.
I made a couple of plates and the results were very promising, I will have to test out if there are any limitations compared to an imagesetter film.
Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

Which printer model are you using? What is ink/toner consumption like in terms of $.
Screen printing involves developing an image on a coated fabric. I’m thinking the tolerances for samll images and letters would be less for screen printing then for photopolymer. When you look at your printed negatives with a loop or magnifier, do the smallest letters look sharp?

Somewhere I read about someone that uses a wide format inkjet and gets superb photo-quality results. It was pretty expensive, maybe in the range of imagsetter. I will look for that link.

Hello Bruce,
I think the ink costs are somewhat of ignoreable, maybe you will use up the double amount of ink compared to printing something out on paper.
There are many different meshsizes for screenprinting,
it all depends on what you will print.
I can print very fine halftone images with sreenprint and small details (like letters etc.) , as fine or even finer than in letterpress, the fabric is very tight and smooth, and goes up to 300 mesh per inch (or even more), similar to 300 dpi at your printer.
Very fine fabric is as smooth and even as silk.

As I stated before, it is important to use the proper film, it is a special foil with a coating which allows for very fine printouts with a very dense coverage of the ink.
The UV lamps used in professional screenprint exposureunits run up to 2000 Watts, so they are way stronger then the neonlamps in letterpress exposure and so the film must be very dense.

I have a 4 year old HP printer in A3 format, it cost around 250-300 Euros when I bougt it. (Now it costs under 100)
Epson Stylus Photo printers are even better and recommended for such printing.
I think you will not need a high end printer, something in the middle price segment will be sufficient.
There is also a special FilmMaker Ink for Epson printers especially made for printing films.
The film costs around 120 Euro for 100 A3 sheets (depending on the brand)

At my printer I just alter the settings to slow up the drying time, printing on foil, the best printing resolution and higher amount of ink.