What Are Laser Plate-makers?

A Laser plate-maker etches a pad printing plate with an image to be printed on a garment. Laser plate-makers are essential in the tagless printing process for achieving high-quality prints. The plate itself plays a large role in the pad printing process. A plate holds the image to be printed. Etched ever so slightly, precision is key to achieving a detailed etch at the correct depth. Laser plate-making offers precision detail and repeatability other plate-making methods cannot match.

What is the tagless pad printing process?

The tagless pad printing process involves the use of 3 main components to achieve a print: the ink, pad, and plate. Each item has an impact on the final result, therefore it is critical to ensure they are all of the highest quality to get the best print possible.

A typical pad printing cycle goes as follows: the ink is poured into an ink cup and then placed onto an etched plate that holds an engraved image of the artwork. The ink cup slides over the etch and back again (doctoring) leaving only a small amount of ink in the etch of the plate. Next, a pad compresses over the etched image on the plate and picks up the ink (in the form of the image). The pad then slides over the garment and compresses again to release the ink and “print” the garment.

Learn More about Pad Printing

Plate-making methods

Photopolymer Plate-making

Photopolymer plate-making is the process in which photo-sensitive plate material is exposed under UV light to chemically etch a plate. The image to be etched is first printed on a film-positive and then exposed. The process requires multiple exposures as well as washing and drying the plate. Overall this is a labor driven process that requires precision to etch a plate correctly. Overall photopolymer plate-making can take 25 – 45 minutes per plate.

Find out how to make photopolymer plates

Laser Plate-making

Laser plate-making is the process in which a laser directly etches a plate. The artwork is provided by a computer graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator. A typical plate will etch an image in 5-7 minutes. The process is completely repeatable and artwork can change-over on the fly. All lasers are not created equal. There are 3 types: diode, CO2, and fiber. Each has its own unique benefits and properties.

Learn more about photopolymer & laser plates

Type of Lasers


A fiber laser-platemaker is more powerful than other laser types. The laser itself has a smaller dot size, capable of etching fine lines and detail. A fiber laser is capable of etching steel plates. Steel plates typically last longer than other plate materials.


A CO2 laser is capable of etching a wide variety of plate materials. Perfect for any print shop. A CO2 laser is less powerful and slower than a fiber laser, yet it is more cost-effective. A CO2 laser excels at etching bold images and logos.


A diode laser is not widely used in laser plate-making because it lacks power and speed. However, what the diode laser lacks, it makes up in overall cost. A diode laser is considerably less than both the CO2 and fiber models. The perfect entry-level machine.

Check out our selection of laser plate-makers, and as always, contact us if you have any questions!