Direct-to-Plate System

Printex USA

Pad printers who use a film-based prepress workflow know that making a high-quality cliche is a multi-step undertaking that requires them to effectively manage a host of variables, equipment, and chemicals. Care must be taken when making a film positive, exposing the cliche, and developing the cliche’s imaging area. Any inconsistency can lead to problems in production or yield dissatisfactory images.

Printex developed its G2-DTP laser plate-etching system, in partnership with Epilog Laser, to remove the roadblocks to quality commonly found in film-based cliche-making for pad printing. The system ensures consistent creation of high-quality cliches without the need for lots of equipment and chemicals and enables pad printers to produce cliches on-demand for both short-run and high-output jobs. It is based on Epilog’s Mini 24, a CO2 laser system and is designed for use with laser-engravable polymer plates.

According to Printex, the G2-DPT supports halftone-screen imaging that rivals conventional pad-printing plates and can deliver bold text and graphics from 3-point light text and 1/3-point lines to large solid areas. The system can hold plates up to 24 x 12 in. (610 x 305 mm) in size, and it can engrave at resolutions from 75-1200 dpi. Printex says time from computer to press-ready can be from as little as 30 seconds to 15 minutes and notes that laser-engraved polymer cliches are flat, doctor-clean, and compatible with open-well and closed-cup pad-printing machines.

G2-DTP is controlled by proprietary driver software that’s compatible with Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and Visual Basic programs. The system also features Epilog’s Radiance High Energy Optics and Accupoint Motion Control. Radiance Optics involves the use of additional components, such as a mirror and focus lens, that shape and refine the laser beam after it leaves the tube and before it’s delivered to the work surface. Epilog designed its Radiance Optics technology to create a rounder, smaller, and more uniform spot with higher power density. Accupoint Motion Control combines linear encoders and servo motors for positioning precision. Linear encoders provide critical timing information that synchronizes the G2-DTP’s motion-control system to the firing of the laser. Closed-loop DC servo motors and brushless DC servo motors are used in the X and Y axes to provide what Printex describes as incredibly fast acceleration and deceleration times, as well as smooth movement without binding. NeverWear recirculating bearings, which are made of ground and polished stainless steel, complement the motion system.

A Waveguide laser is at the heart of the G2-DTP. The digitally controlled, air-cooled Waveguide laser tube is designed to eliminate engraving problems caused by oval-shaped laser beams, inconsistent power stability, and slow switching rates by combining higher CO2 gas pressure, less stringent requirements for mirror alignment, faster switching rates, and a smaller bore. The Waveguide laser is modular and field replaceable.

Among the G2-DTP’s standard features are Red Dot pointer, Air Assist, and Auto Focus. Red Dot pointer gives users a visual cue when they need to determine engraving position on the work surface. Air Assist directs a stream of compressed air across the work surface to remove heat and exhaust combustible gasses. It can be connected to a standard compressed-air supply (30 psi maximum). Auto Focus reduces the laser beam to its smallest possible spot size at the point where the laser beam meets the work surface. It uses a magnetic plunger system to automatically position the work table. Options for the G2-DTP include a mini floor stand, rotary attachment for working on curved surfaces, a standalone air compressor for the Air Assist system, and a vector cutting pin table.

The G2-DTP supports 10 BaseT Ethernet or USB connection. Its dimensions are 34.5 x 24.5 x 16 (876 x 572 x 406 mm). The system requires ventilation to the outside and comes standard with a 4-in. (102-mm) output port. Printex, 12113 Kirkham Rd., Poway, CA 92064, 858-513-2418, 800-982-1928, fax: 858-513-2419, Web: www.printexusa.com.

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