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Technology Focus

Self-Leveling Combination Foil Stamping and Embossing Makeready

by Jim Kingsby

February-March, 2006
Working with a combination (foil and embossing) job can add additional makeready and become a burden for the operator if proper makeready procedures are not used. There is now a simple, and very effective, way of decreasing combination makeready time by as much as 50 percent. Through the use a .015 tuff embossing film and a piece of cover stock, a combination makeready should not take much more time than a straightforward flat stamp makeready, although it may run at slightly slower speeds than a flat stamping job. Let us explore the steps involved in setting up this makeready process and discuss how it works.

Proper Tools
Before starting the combination makeready, the operator must be prepared with the following list of necessary items:

  1. One sheet of .015 tuff embossing film
  2. One sheet of 5mil polyester film
  3. One sheet of 80-100lb cover stock
  4. Elmers® glue or glue stick
  5. Several sheets of 20lb bond paper for packing under the platen plate
  6. A roll of clear scotch tape and a roll of masking tape
  7. Pyrometer (for trouble shooting)
  8. Heat tape and ¼” die foam
  9. A foil roll cut to match the size of the image
  10. Combo die and counter
  11. DuPlo Flo double-sided tape

Procedures to Begin Self-leveling Makeready
The first step in creating a self-leveling combination makeready is to remove the honeycomb chase from the press and set the heat at 230 to 250 degrees F. Then, mount the sheet that will be foil stamped to the honeycomb in its correct position, centering it left to right or at the proper distance to the front lays. Using a film positive or negative, position the combination die in its correct position and fasten it to the honeycomb chase (see Figure 1). Once this is complete, return the chase to the machine and allow time for heat stabilization.

Figure 1

To provide the combination set-up with its ‘self-leveling’ qualities, a cushion must be added to the counter as it impacts the metal die during the impression cycle. To accomplish this, mount a sheet of 5mil polyester film on the platen of the press to match the position of the die and simply tape it in position with masking tape. Next, slide the sheet of .015 tuff embossing film under the 5mil polyester film and tape it to the platen press (see Figure 2). Once this is complete, the operator should mount the double-sided tape to the counter and insert the registration pins to secure the counter to the die. Transfer the counter to the polyester film (attached to the platen) and remove the registration pins. Note: the above information is based on working with a clamshell style press. This makeready also is recommended for larger platen presses. However, taping down the polyester film on the platen is not always a feasible option. In those cases, the .015 tuff film can be placed underneath the platen plate.

Figure 2

The second step in creating the self-leveling makeready is to select a sheet of smooth 80lb to 100lb cover stock and glue it directly on top of the counter with Elmers® glue or a regular glue stick. Perform several impressions of the image on this sheet without the foil. Then, moisten the cover stock with a spray bottle and perform several more impressions (see Figure 3). The sheet can now be positioned by covering the counter image with the 5mil polyester film and then make an impression on the film. The next step is to slide the actual stamped sample of the job under the film and line it up to the image on the polyester film. This will provide perfect position of the makeready sheet to the combination die.

Figure 3

Through the combination of utilizing the .015 tuff film under the polyester film base or platen plate and securing the cover stock to the counter, this combination makeready can save hours of makeready time trying to get the foil to lay in all of the areas of the image. The tuff film and the stock covering the counter provides just the correct amount of “give” and suspension to help the image level out and make spot makeready an unnecessary evil (at least, most of the time).

Creating a Spot Sheet for the Makeready
Although the self-leveling combination makeready should eliminate much of the spot makeready needed on a combination set-up, it is still good practice to set up a spot sheet for a few low areas that might need to be built up. The makeready set-up previously described provides an excellent base to enable the operator to create a spot makeready sheet. To accomplish this, begin by using a piece of 80lb cover stock as the spot makeready sheet. Make sure it is large enough to extend from the bottom of the counter to the top of the platen plate, with an additional ¼” lip to hold the spot sheet in the correct position. Mark the left edge with a marker or a piece of masking tape. This also is a good time to mount the foil roll through the press. The next step is to start the press and do a test stamp onto the spot makeready sheet (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Once this is complete, place the spot makeready sheet under the platen plate. Next, take a sheet of the actual stock being used for the job and perform a first stamp. If any spots remain where the hot stamping foil is not covering on the image, it is recommended to level these areas with a simple piece of Scotch™ tape. Using Scotch tape for spot makeready works well because you can actually see the area you need to build up under the clear tape. This can be extremely important if there is fine type involved and you are trying to build-up a specific letter. Although the self-leveling makeready should significantly decrease or even eliminate having to build up the image or low spots, there may be one or two areas that might need some attention. This is the reason a spot makeready sheet is still important.

Once the image is checked and the foil is covering correctly, the combination job should be ready to run. Of course, the operator needs to keep an eye on the job and stop to make any further spot makeready adjustments during the run. However, by utilizing the tuff film and cover stock on the counter to self-level the makeready, the time for spot makeready and other adjustments should be extremely minimal.

Jim Kingsby is the Technical Service Manager for ITW Foilmark. He can be reached at jim.kingsby@itwfoilmark.com or call (816) 564-3527.