Exposure Unit for Letterpress plates

Firstly I would like to apologize if this is a previously discussed topic but I couldn’t find answer to my question using the search tool.
I am planing to buy exposure unit for making my own plates.
I would love to get combined unit but they are very expensive and space is also problem.
After tones of Google search my confusion is more than my understanding!
The main confusion comes from all the terminology connected to UV exposure units and Photopolymer Plate makers.
My question is….. What exposure unit is suitable for photopolymer plates used in letterpress print….
I am thinking of using the Jet water washable series Photopolymer plates.
Is any exposure unit going to work for my needs or I need to look for something “special”?
I am considering buying the PLB - A4.iv Stamp Photopolymer Platemaker from the link below:


Is this a good choice…. Please educate me.

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This unit certainly looks like it would suit letterpress platemaking. Used units are pretty scarce, so this table-top device may be a good purchase for you. There are folks on this list who have made their own exposure units. That may be an option if you are handy with tools. Vacuum frames are readily available on the used market as many offset printers have gone to direct-to-plate methods. All you would need to produce, then would be the light bank of small (high UV) flourescent lamps.

The resulting unit would not be as compact as the unit in the link, if space is a concern.

I purchased a used plate maker form Anderson Vreeland in Ohio. The sales staff was great. You should contact them for any used equipment they may have for sale.

If you have a chance to see the unit your considering in operation that would be very important.

Check out AV used equipment list for an Orbital Vlll.

Also, check out the Yahoo Group: PPLetterpress


I made an exposure unit from a tabletop offset platemaker and photo copy stand lights. I wash my plates by hand. My plates have been 4 sq. in. or less and have not included type. My system is not state of the art but it works for my needs.


If you can’t afford a more professional combined unit, this will not provide you will quality plates and is money wasted. If you do not generate enough plates to compensate for the cost, this is a foolish investment. Buy your plates from a commercial processor. Concentrate on printing, not platemaking; it is an extraordinarily boring activity. Correctly, it’s done by the numbers and proper work sequencing, there is no craft, so to speak, involved. No matter what anyone tells you otherwise.



Hi Gerald,
Thanks for your comment.
The problem is where I live /Ireland/ nobody is offering processing commercially!
Even in UK there are few places where I can process them.
As I am new to letterpress I can imagine the number of plates I will need…
Waiting a week for one or few pieces of photopolymer to come is annoying and the cost, delivery and everything…
I think processing your own plates allows more freedom and control over the process..but may be I am wrong.
I can’t afford professional combined unit but I can afford professional exposure unit as they are half the price.
I want to learn printing and /Nowadays/ photopolymer plates are big part of my education.

Thanks all for the comments.

jessicadg, have you been in touch with Alpha Engravers in London, good, fast and not too expensive service. You send your file by e-mail and they send you the plates by post. That doesn’t take long!

Thanks Thomas!

I will check them out.

Jessica- I agree that making your own plates does allow you greater control and freedom than buying them from a commercial vendor. It also allows you to learn that aspect of the trade, and costs less money if you do it right.

Making your own plates is not nearly as difficult, tedious, or expensive as some folks would lead you to believe. Virtually any UV producing exposure unit can be pressed into service as long as you take the time to work out the correct exposure. Many folks here at Briar Press have built and use home-made exposure units. Hand-washing is easy.

I use a home-made exposure frame, and solar expose my own plates. After a short learning curve, my end results were every bit as good as commercial plates and cost a lot less. If you do a search here on Briar Press, you’ll find an extensive discussion about the process, both pros and cons.

Winking Cat Press

I found this video on youtube.. Might be of some help. He talks about exposure times, has a home made unit, shows him cleaning the plate up etc…


We made rubber stamps for years, first from hot type, then from in-house photoengravings, then from rigilon steel backed polymer plates. The later is water wash sheet material, no hazardous chemicals. The plates can be used on bunting magnetics or adhered to type high wood. Of course they are not suited to hot foil printing. Jet USA and others sell material for use with this.

The machine has a UV exposure, a wash out unit which consists of a magnetic table that has orbital motion, and a brush, and a drying unit. The exposure unit is used to post expose.

Due to the cost of material (matrix, polymer, rubber), it is pretty much obsolete for making stamps, but has seen some resurgence for making ADA signs.