Glowforge for making pad printing cliches?



Hello, all. I am one of those pre-Oct 25, 2015 purchasers, but this is my first post here. One of my other hobbies is screen printing. Lately, someone approached me about a project for which screen printing isn’t ideal, and I started looking for other ways to do it. Pad printing (the technique used for printing on things like pens) looks like it would fit the bill, but I don’t have equipment for that - especially for making the cliches (the metal plates that hold the ink/pattern that is transferred to the pad). Photo etching those plates looks like the biggest barrier to entry, given the nasty chemicals involved. So, I started wondering about laser etching the cliches, since I will, some day, have a laser cutter/etcher. I found that there are vendors who sell plates specifically designed to be laser etched (source below), and am wondering if anyone else here has any experience using a laser cutter as part of the pad printing process. It’s a long shot, but I know there are a lot of creative polymaths here.

Here’s the source I mentioned above:

Pad Printing Plates

Those look like a cool product!
Reading the specs there I don’t see why a Glowforge would not be compatible.
I wonder if they do samples?


Looks like they do: I will contact them and see how I fare. If I get some, the challenge will be putting them somewhere where I’ll be able to find them when the Glowforge arrives. :slight_smile:


The “12 watt or lower” recommendation is interesting.


“Cliche”? No kidding. Learn something new every day here. Seems possible from a materials standpoint.

By the way, glad you posted @wfredette!


Thanks, @marmak3261!

The company I posted above is pretty quick to respond: "Unfortunately that laser is too powerful. Our lasers are 10W or less which is ideal for plate making. If you can cancel your laser order and would like to discuss one of our lasers I would be happy to discuss or send you a price quote for one of our lasers which package our laser plates perfectly. "

Don’t think I’ll be cancelling my Glowforge, but it does raise the question, can the output of the laser be modulated in some way? From looking at some of the projects beta testers have posted, I assume it’s not always blasting away at full force.


Cutting depends on both power and speed, but fwiw I’ve read posts talking about 1% power, which would be 0.4W if the power level controls were linear. It might require a fair amount of experimentation to get the effect right…


As @paulw points out you can absolutely reduce the power output. I am very interested in these for running on my wife’s letterpress. Regardless of their attempts at upselling it is probably worth an experiment.


you can control the output yes but as i understand it it’s not quite linear. co2 laser tubes will only fire at a certain minimum power percentage; unless the glowforge is substantially different, it’s probably the same way.

that means that 10% will be one-tenth of the way between that mandatory minimum and the max power output.


I wrote back telling them that I think I can modulate the power enough to be in the neighborhood of what they recommend. We’ll see what they say…


@chadmart1076 can I use these to make plates?


Given what we’ve learned so far, I wouldn’t bet on that, for better or worse. )% will be no beam and 100% will be full beam (for some value of “full”, apparently, that’s derated to kinda-sorta maximize useful tube life), but the linearity of the steps in between, who knows.


i’d be pretty surprised if the scale, when setting it manually, isn’t linear. otherwise it would be impossible to predict how higher ratings would react.


I am on a bus so can’t find it right now but somewhere there is a post from @dan specifically discussing the nonlinear nature of beam effects. Not sure if that directly correlates to beam STRENGTH but he indicated they have to do lots of fancy calculations.


40w modulated to 10w average power output might give different results than a 10w laser in some materials due to the method of modulation (is it high frequency pulses?).


I screen print as well and would love to be able to pad print. If you find out any more info about their lasers or the glowforges ability to make these plates please share!


I really don’t know. Everyone here but @dan is just guessing (educated guesses but guesses all the same). Is the power output linear? Is a modulated beam similar to a lower powered tube? Can increasing the speed and decreasing the power make it work? What about if we just use a very light grayscale image?

The best thing would be to just try it!


I was curious about this process, and this nudged me. Just requested samples, and will report back when I receive them.


@tim, when I got back to them about being able to dial down the Glowforge, they agreed to send me some samples but asked a lot of intimidating questions like my “shipping number” and what kind of pad printer I have, how the plates are punched, etc. I don’t actually have any equipment, as I was planning on DIY experimenting, so I kind of sheepishly didn’t respond. Do you have any pseudo information I could give them based on your equipment so that I sound like I know what I’m talking about? :slight_smile:


Ha! I have the same exact equipment as you! (Maybe I shouldn’t tell them that you sent me?..) I only have some rough information on what a good cliche should look like, so my reporting back probably won’t do much good, either. But, I am very interested in the process and am eager to see if lasering is a good option.