Laser engraving photopolymer plates

Has anyone out there successful adopted, or tested laser engraving photopolymer plates for letterpress?

I am currently outsourcing my plate manufacturing with a supplier, who is great, but have noticed a few people staring to dip their toes into this area.

I’d like to produce them in-house, but in a more efficient way that enables me to create a design from our graphic design studio direct to plate.

Any tips, thoughts, links, or assistance in this are would be very helpful.


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I just use plain acrylic and it works fine for me. I don’t do small text or anything, but it works great for everything else.

If you are going to use a laser, then there’s no need to use photopolymer plates for type-high letterpress. Quite a few of us have used direct laser-to-printing surface techniques to produce plates for quite some time now.

Personally, i use a 40w laser to cut wood-blocks quite regularly…. and have no problem with creating fine details and tiny type. I posted pictures a few years ago of laser-cut blocks here on Briar Press…. showing 6pt univers used on business cards.

The technique is far more ecologically friendly than using pp plates, and the blocks last virtually forever in storage. In fact, i just printed some postcards just yesterday from blocks that were laser-cut back in 2008.

Those laser cutters look pretty expensive. I use a 3d printer to print the plate and mount that on wood block to get type high… Those printers are getting very cheap to buy.

de-1701….. using a 3d printer certainly does look promising. I’ve pondered using one to make the face of wood type.

What sort of fine detail are you able to achieve?

Can anyone recommend a quality laser engraver?

winking cat,

Check with Scott Moore at Moore Wood Type (see yellow pages). He has been laser engraving wood type ornaments with great success for about a year now.


Rick…. i’ve been lasering blocks myself for about 5 years now…. and posted a description w pics a few years ago.

I was inquiring about the 3D printing that de1701 mentioned. since they are cheaper than lasers, they might be a good low-cost alternative.

Maysorum- I can’t recommend a laser. all of them are rather expensive, and my 40w is no longer in production / is semi-obsolete / is rather clunky. Maybe someone else here has a unit they can recommend?

aka winking Cat Press.

Sorry for the double post!

Winking cat…. here’s a link to an image

….. the shell is for a business card and I’ll attach an image with this post which is for a friend’s Maple Syrup bottles…. the font is garamond light 18 and is lead which is mounted in the chase along with the “wood block” created with the 3d printer… that should give you and idea of detail.
the other two plates are font - larger plate is devangari 18pt and the smaller is helvetica 16pt.

Some of the elements are dropping which is irritating and I’m investigating ….. this 3d printer is 3 years old now…. they are vastly improved… and cheaper

image: Photo on 2015-03-16 at 6.16 PM #2.jpg

Photo on 2015-03-16 at 6.16 PM #2.jpg

image: Photo on 2015-03-16 at 6.16 PM.jpg

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Photo on 2015-03-16 at 6.15 PM.jpg

If you search 3dprinter in the discussions on briar press I did a post last year with the method I use to take the 3d printed artwork …….also my printer is a C&P pilot circa 1888 and Makerbot 2012 - two state of the art technologies for their day.

I use inkscape to create the art and upload that to tinkercad (free) to generate the CAD file…… its very easy which is good since I’m rubbage at 3d design.

i’ll certainly look at the posts. the concept seems promising.

It looks like creating the file is a bit more involved that laser-ing since it’s a 3d CAD…… but not so much so that it would be a problem.

I wonder if the fine details can be achived by a finer rendering in the software? or if it’s caused by the limits of the 3d printer nozzle?


Have a look…. I create the artwork in Inkscape, upload it to tinkercad….I take the millimetre sizing in Inkscape and apply it to tinkercad make that artwork 4.5 mm high and then put a rectangular plate below it 2mm high. I print that. I use double sided tape to stick the printed plate to a block of wood and then sand it down to type high. My sand paper is taped onto a thick piece of glass. I’m doing a little badge for testing tonight so I’ll take some photos along the way and post them