Preparing to Imprint
The logo imprinting process begins with making a cliché. Also known as stereo plates, these thin metal sheets were once widely employed in the publishing industry.
The artwork to be printed is submitted as a .jpg file. These high-resolution images can then be resized and touched up to match the physical constraints of the hook and loop items that will eventually feature them.
After the artwork is resized, the client gets a chance to approve it. Although this process is usually fairly straightforward, the dimensions of the final product may necessitate a change in the way the logo is oriented or displayed.
The final preparatory stage is actually making the stereo plate. A positive film copy of the approved image is printed onto a transparency sheet; this blocks the areas that are to be printed. After being coated in an etching chemical that responds to light, the plate is exposed while the transparency rests between it and the light source.
The areas that were left bare on the transparency allow light to pass through to the metal plate. As a result, an exact negative image replica is born in the form of a cliché.
A completed cliché can be used to create tens of thousands of impressions. After being placed into a special high-volume printer, a metal cup full of ink is inverted onto the image plate. Because this cup has a magnetic lip, it creates a perfect seal. It can subsequently be moved back and forth to fill the empty spaces on the cliché, which correspond to the logo artwork, with a thin layer of ink.
Of course, the printer and magnetic cup aren't the only special components in this process. The ink itself is formulated to become sticky upon contact with air. When a smooth silicone transfer pad presses down briefly and rises again, the ink comes with it, leaving a clean cliché in its wake ready for more printing.
As the cup reloads the cliché with ink for the next copy, the silicone pad presses its own pigment down onto the hook and loop material, where it dries in milliseconds. Then, the material is cut to the desired shape even as the process repeats itself and more copies are made. Although the procedure seems complex, automation and specialized machinery ensure that thousands of perfectly identical copies can be produced in rapid order.