Discover Copper Online

Winter 2004

Copper Dies Last Longest, Print Sharpest

The next time you study the label of a bottle of wine, note how sharply it's printed. That's because it was most likely printed with a copper die. Such dies have long been used by the printing industry, according to Steve Swindell of Revere Graphics Worldwide, Inc. This Plymouth, Massachusetts-based company is a global supplier of specially treated copper and other plates that are etched into dies with chemicals the company also supplies.

Premium copper plates are first pre-sensitized with an environmentally friendly photoresist to allow imaging of what's to be printed and then etched with chemicals in machines supplied by various manufacturers such as New England Graphic Equipment, New Milford, Connecticut. The process is similar to the way integrated circuits are created, but with much greater relief etching depths due to unique elements of the process.

A copper die created to print foil labels for wine bottles

To create the detailed effects seen in sports trading cards, wine and liquor labels and other consumer goods packaging, elaborate copper dies can be created, working in conjunction with female "counter dies" on press. This value-added process helps generate visually stunning graphics which assist many companies in creating powerful branding strategies for their products.

Copper dies are also preferred by those who print on foil because they offer higher heat transfer, helpful in creating sharper images, says Swindell. In addition to paper and foil, the plates are used to emboss and foil stamp on corrugated paperboard, plastic, leather, wood and other substrates.

Among metals used to create printing dies, silver-bearing copper provides the longest runs, according to Swindell. A "leaded machining brass" is also employed for milled dies and other milled products.

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