Well-Executed Makeready Can Be a Game Changer

by Greg Faddis, direct sales professional, UEI® Group Companies

Improving the makeready component of a job can make a big impact to the bottom line. It is often an overlooked cost center that when materials, processes and tools are improved, profit is generated. From the obvious benefit of an excellent foil-stamped or embossed job to the efficiencies and cost savings generated, well-executed makeready can be a game changer.

There are so many variables in today’s foil stamping and embossing jobs that it’s important to have good makeready practices in place. It goes beyond understanding your equipment well, it now includes more options with paper, inks, coatings and complex design choices. Having the correct makeready products and knowledge are critical to having an effective makeready technique appropriate to the job.

The basic principles for a hot stamping job are heat, dwell and pressure. In most cases, a hot stamping job makeready set-up is with hard phenolic board or epoxy glass board and a spot sheet underneath utilizing makeready tapes.

For some jobs a traditional hot stamping makeready is the answer, but with more complex designs that include both fine-line detail and solid areas/panels together with reverse-out areas, additional techniques need to be added. To have foil cut cleanly around the images, a harder makeready surface is needed, but when you also need to foil stamp a solid area, consider adding a cushion makeready. If you find challenges with cleanly stamping the fine lines while keeping the reverse-out areas open, you may try combining both hard and cushion makeready techniques. This makeready technique starts with the traditional phenolic board or epoxy glass board but with Tough Film underneath. The Tough Film acts as a shock absorber to even out the overall pressure while providing an extra “cushion” in areas where it is needed.

Other aspects of foil stamping that may get overlooked include adjusting the heat and speed of the press. If open areas start to fill in with foil, start by turning down the press temperature, then try increasing the press speed. If you are not getting the foil coverage needed, then turn up the temperature of the press and if the foil still isn’t transferring as desired, slow down the press.

Embossing makeready

When embossing or debossing, the makeready technique choices increase depending on the application. First, the embossing or debossing job adds another element – the pre-cast counter. One of the best emboss/deboss makeready techniques is the floating counter makeready technique because it provides the most flexibility for the operator.

The floating counter makeready technique starts with a float sheet that is taped onto the platen press, which provides the floating aspect. Start with a thin sheet of paper underneath the makeready float sheet, as it will be used as the spot sheet. It is essential to have a spot sheet so you can apply the makeready tape to build up the weaker spots of the image. By taping the spot sheet to the platen (top only) it provides the press operator the ability to remove it for applying makeready tape while replacing it accurately underneath the float sheet.

After you have your makeready float sheet and spot sheet set, begin mounting the pre-cast counter. Apply a double-sided tape (e.g. DuploFLEX FOL) across the entire back of the pre-cast counter (don’t remove the tape backing until later). On a hard surface, and utilizing a tool called the counter pin extractor, place the white counter pins onto the Counter Pin Extractor’s positioning end and inset the pin into the holes in the pre-cast counter.

It is important to execute the preparation of the pre-cast counter on a hard, flat surface to keep the counter pins at a 90-degree angle, which is required to correctly position the pre-cast counter onto the engraved emboss/deboss die. Now, it is appropriate to carefully remove the double-sided tape backing.

After everything is in place, make an impression with your press to transfer the pre-cast counter onto the makeready float sheet. After the transfer, remove the counter pins, using the pointed end of the counter pin extractor.

With the counter and engraved die mounted to the press, it is recommended to “cap” your counters. There are a few choices for capping a counter, depending on the substrate and type of image you are embossing/debossing. The most common would be yellowboard or silver cover film.

Yellowboard is a good choice for both multi-level and single-level embossing/debossing jobs, as it works with a variety of substrates from heavy to light weight. You can also easily cut yellowboard to match the size of your pre-cast counter and apply masking tape to the edges (avoiding image area) to hold it onto the pre-cast counter. It is recommended to slightly moisten the yellowboard by using a spray bottle (apply two mist sprays) or a wet rag to rub over the top of the yellowboard.

With the yellowboard moistened, turn your press on impression and run for a few minutes without pulling any paper. As the press continues to hit on impression, the yellowboard will begin to take form and shape of the image from the pre-cast counter. This process also will help dry out the yellowboard, at which point you can proceed to pulling press sheets. Depending upon your first impressions, you can then apply makeready tape to your “spot” sheet.

In addition to embossing or debossing projects, the floating counter makeready technique also is used for combination foil stamping and embossing jobs. The makeready set-up is generally the same; however, one key difference is how to “cap” your pre-cast counter.

Combination engraved dies are embossing dies that have a foil cutting edge on the outside edges of the image. This edge allows the foil to “cut” away from the substrate while keeping the non-image area free of foil stamping. Foil stamping with a combination engraved die requires a thinner makeready product to “cap” the pre-cast counter.

A makeready product called DuraCover is a great place to start when capping your pre-cast counter for a combination job. DuraCover is applied, just as you would yellowboard, by cutting a piece equal to the size of your pre-cast counter and taping its edges to the pre-cast counter. After that, follow the necessary spot makeready steps as you normally would for a foil stamping and embossing job.

A second option, with combination engraved dies, is to use Silver Cover Film (instead of the DuraCover). Silver Cover Film has an adhesive backing, so the masking tape is not needed to apply it to the pre-cast counter. Both DuraCover and Silver Cover Film are great for helping to eliminate diecutting on the edges of the foil and embossed image, and they also assist in achieving embossing/debossing depth for better definition of the combination die image.

While there are certainly more techniques, the above seem to help solve many makeready needs. As our industry grows, technology changes and integrates with new and existing equipment. We must continue to educate ourselves with proper makeready techniques and craftsmanship that meet today’s needs.

UEI® Group – with a world headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas (US), has several companies and sales offices throughout the world specializing in foil stamping and embossing, including the US, Great Britain, Germany, and Denmark. UEI® Group also offers its products through market developers worldwide. UEI® Group’s leadership in providing quality products, innovative solutions and technologies has made it a market leader. Visit www.ueigroup.com for more information.