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January 14, 2014

Not only are there many suppliers of printing plates, the plates also vary in material, durometer and thickness. How do we determine what is best for us?

Although all plates have the same function, to pick up and transfer your ink or coating to your substrate, you must choose carefully to ensure you achieve a consistent ink or coating transfer for at least the length of your print run.  Some fundamental decisions are easy such as selecting a plate that will suit your ink or coating chemistry i.e. water, UV or solvent.

Next you need to determine what thickness you need based on the undercut of your print cylinder and thickness of mounting tape you intend to use.

Determining what durometer you need is a little more subjective, but a general rule of thumb is the smoother your substrate the harder the plate. But this is also affected by the hardness of your mounting tape, as well.

Another major factor is whether you are still using film to expose the image to the plate or using more modern direct laser imaging. If you are purchasing your plates this is not really a factor, but whether you purchase or make your own, choosing a plate that is water, solvent or thermal development clearly has a potential environmental impact and should be considered carefully.

While less of a consideration today the plate material can also be molded rubber, although the majority of choices are varieties of photopolymer materials. So what works best for you? The decision is obviously helped by consulting with a variety of suppliers but is only really determined from experimentation by yourself with various plates on various substrates under a variety of conditions. A final choice comes from how sophisticated your graphics are, which again your plate material or imaged plate supplier can help you with.

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