stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter - WarmGlass.com

stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

This is the main board for discussing general techniques, tools, and processes for fusing, slumping, and related kiln-forming activities.

Moderators: Tony Smith, Brad Walker

Post Reply
seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Sun Feb 12, 2017 1:43 am

Hi all,

I am twisting myself into knots trying to decide which way to go to make sandblasting resist.

Photoresist UV system:

Pros: much cheaper to start with. Letralite kit cost (Australia) about $ 750. Might need a dryer one day, around $ 800+. Can do halftone printing (though this does not seem to be part of my intended uses at present).
Cons: high cost of consumables, the UV resist. Plus, a nagging feeling that I don't like the process. Having to be careful about UV light sensitivity of the resist, the washing and the drying.
Keep trying to tell myself that I will eventually get to like it. But at present (and for another 2 years or so), I don't have the space to do the washing inside, in the comfort of my studio. Winter (with its bad weather) is when I develop new ideas and work processes. Not the ideal time to have to go outside to wash resist. I am concerned that if the process becomes a pain in my present situation, I just won't do it.

Graphtec vinyl cutter, model CE6000-60 24"

Pros: I like the process, I am looking forward to it, unlike with the photoresist system. It is something I can do in my studio, neat and tidy. No washing, no drying. Consumables are cheap, sandblast resist and transfer tape.
Have done extensive research on this plotter. Seems to be of very good quality. It has all the facilities that seem to be necessary, including tangential emulation. Made in Japan. Have considered equivalent Roland cutter - same price here - but it does not have tangential emulation, and is made in China. This is not always a negative, but we can't deny our experience with other tools and equipment, it has rarely been satisfactory.
Cons: expensive initial investment. $ 2500 in Australia.

I can afford it this year, and I think I can get my money back over a couple of years with the addition of a small line of sandblasted items to my business. It will always be only a side line.

My thought is that if for any reason halftone printing becomes important in the future, I still might be able to afford the Letralite at a later date. But to get together the money for the Graphtec cutter is a different proposition.

Have looked at forums where people make a living from sandblasting (mostly monument carving). Many list the equipment they have, most seems to use vinyl most of the time, and photoresist sometimes.

I just don't want to buy a system that is totally antiquated. In some areas photoresist seems to have taken completely over, but I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the initial cost of the vinyl cutters.

I talked to an Australian business who sells the photoresist consumables and equipment, but they also do a lot of sandblasting work on awards, bottles, etc. They tell me they only use photoresist for sandblasting. They have a cutter, but is only used for vinyl signs. It has confused me, because I think that keeping down the cost of consumables would be a smart thing to do in a business.

They tell me it is because of the quality and precision of the photoresist compared with the vinyl resist. But they don't sell vinyl cutters, so their comments might not be completely neutral.

I don't have any possibility to compare quality of results between the two, this is why I am finding it so difficult to decide.

If any of you has had any personal experience in using both systems, I'd be very very grateful for your input.

With best wishes, seachange

Brad Walker
Site Admin
Posts: 1356
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2003 9:33 pm
Location: North Carolina, USA
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Brad Walker » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:09 am

Are you wanting to blast photo realistic images or items that are more like a silhouette?

I have both systems, but use the letralite for more photo realistic items and the vinyl cutter for more basic items.

An inexpensive vinyl cutter can be had for about $300 in the US. They aren't as fast, but work perfectly well.

Tony Smith
Posts: 1037
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2003 5:59 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Tony Smith » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:51 am

I have both and there are pros and cons to each.

The photo resist process is best when there is complex artwork with fine lines that would be time consuming or challenging to weed in vinyl, or, as you point out, when doing halftones. Halftones bring their own challenges as you must use a pressure washer to wash out the resist. Also, while the Letralite works well for fine lines, it isn't the best exposure tool for exposing halftones as the UV light source is a fluorescent tube and not a a single point, so the halftone dots end up diffused or blurred which makes washout problematic. I have a vacuum frame and a metal arc lamp to give cleaner results. It's an industrial piece of equipment used in the printing industry for exposing offset printing plates, and you may be able to source it locally as many printing businesses have gone digital. Look for a Nuarc 26-1 exposure unit at a used printing equipment shop. https://www.wirebids.com/lots/view/nuar ... -unit/4440

I have a Vinyl Express cutter that I bought from Sign Warehouse 15 years ago, and it's a workhorse. I run the lowest cost, 3 mil, 25" sign vinyl through it because the low cost vinyl has the weakest adhesive and is easy to remove after blasting. The 3 mil vinyl works well with light blasting and even blasting flashed glass, but won't hold up to a deep carve. The plotter will handle 25 mil thick Hartco vinyl for a deep carve https://www.signwarehouse.com/shop/merc ... T-425-S-25 by changing to a 60° blade. As I mentioned earlier, fine lines can be a challenge with vinyl and, depending on your weeding skill, your linework can be distorted during the weeding process. (Weeding is the process of removing material between lines, exposing the areas to be blasted). Imagine trying to remove the material making up a small "e" and leaving the hole (called a "counter") intact. That can be a real challenge, so you will develop techniques for weeding that work for you.

Prices of vinyl cutters have dropped significantly over the past few years as the sign industry has moved away from cut vinyl and toward wide-format printers, so what I bought for $1500 USD 15 years ago can now be bought for half that. https://www.signwarehouse.com/c/vinyl-express-r-series. Since the sign industry is moving away from cut vinyl, you may be able to find a sign shop locally that doesn't use their cutter any more and will part with it for pennies on the dollar. The software will be the issue as companies charge a small fortune for what should be simple vector translation software. Fortunately, a new plotter always comes with basic software allowing you to translate Corel or Adobe Illustrator files to the plotter. The included software also has basic illustration and typography capabilities with multiple fonts.

(Edit) You also asked why a business might use photo resist vs vinyl and the answer is time. Weeding is labor intensive. If you're doing multiples, photo resist is more cost effective as it can produce 100 sandblast ready stencils in the time it takes to plot and weed half a dozen vinyl stencils. This is especially important in the award industry where the basic design is the same and only the name changes.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Tony Smith
Posts: 1037
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2003 5:59 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Tony Smith » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:57 am

One more point about halftones... if you decide that halftones aren't going to be a regular product, you can always outsource the photo resist. Rayzist will make halftone photo resist for customers... just upload a file and you're off to the races. It's not cheap, but it's very high quality and you don't need the equipment. https://www.rayzist.com/store/Photoresi ... ervice.php

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Rick Wilton
Posts: 273
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 8:18 pm
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Rick Wilton » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:49 pm

I have both the photoresist and vinyl cutter.

I bought this cutter from ebay for less than $400.00 and it works really well for what it is.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-24-Redsail- ... Sw1vlUzBfS

It is obviously NOT the top of the line machine but has worked really well for me for the last 4-5 years. I only use it a couple times a month as the photoresist is the preferred route for most of my work.

If you are an actual sign shop running everyday you'll wear out this thing quickly I'd imagine.
Rick Wilton

seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:29 am

Brad Walker wrote:Are you wanting to blast photo realistic images or items that are more like a silhouette?

I have both systems, but use the letralite for more photo realistic items and the vinyl cutter for more basic items.

An inexpensive vinyl cutter can be had for about $300 in the US. They aren't as fast, but work perfectly well.


Hi Brad
thank you for your reply. The intention is to work with silhouettes and letters.

I will check into other brands, perhaps the Graphtec is going overboard, specially since my drawing abilities are limited.

Best regards, Carmen

seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:00 am

Hi Tony,

many thanks for your extensive reply, it has clarified many issues and doubts I still had. One was about the Letralite - my searches on the internet indicated it is not that easy to get fault free results. Even so the seller is telling me it is practically child's play. But I remembered reading somewhere about vacuum boxes and different lamps.

With your explanation I have for the first time a clearer picture of the advantages and limitations of each system. And why they use photoresist for the awards, that had me baffled :?

I have tried, on and off, to find used vinyl cutters. Often the problem has been distance (owners not wanting to ship). Or software issues. Or brands that are no longer imported and there are no parts for them. I tend to be careful when buying equipment, trying not to buy future headaches along with it. Often the ones for sale have been printer/plotters, very expensive, even when used.

Prices in Australia are always higher than in US. Overseas freight is an added cost. And now our dollar is pretty low, I have to pay AU $ 1.30 for each US $, give or take a few cents. I also suspect that because of Australia being a relatively small market, the importers mostly can't get really good quantity discounts.

The Graphtec comes with a plug in for Adobe Illustrator, which fortunately still works with older software. I am still using Win XP and AI CS4 - haven't found compelling reasons to upgrade either, though I know the time will eventually come.

Many thanks for mentioning the 3mil vinyl, was at a loss regarding what to use. Will be doing only surface blasting, mostly removing areas of irid. I think weeding won't be a stumbling stone, like to do fine work with my hands.

Will follow your very good suggestion to outsource the photoresist for halftones if it ever comes up. The company selling the letralite in Australia offers this service also.

After all this great information I will have some "cooling down" time. Don't need to spend the money till close to the end of the financial year (June 30th here).

In the meantime will learn more about drawing in Illustrator. My knowledge of AI is very superficial.

I do have two more questions:

Transfer paper: Which would you recommend for my use? There seem to be lots of different ones.

Converting photos to vector images - eliminating the background and cleaning the image: in your experience, is this done better (or easier) in Photoshop or in Illustrator? Photoshop CS4 does not have the Live Trace facility. Have seen some web tutorials on how to do it, with a bit more work.

Many thanks again, I really appreciate your time and care in helping me.

With best wishes, seachange
Last edited by seachange on Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:17 am

Rick Wilton wrote:I have both the photoresist and vinyl cutter.

I bought this cutter from ebay for less than $400.00 and it works really well for what it is.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-24-Redsail- ... Sw1vlUzBfS

It is obviously NOT the top of the line machine but has worked really well for me for the last 4-5 years. I only use it a couple times a month as the photoresist is the preferred route for most of my work.

If you are an actual sign shop running everyday you'll wear out this thing quickly I'd imagine.


Hi Rick

Many thanks, your answer and Brad's inspired me to keep looking at second hand equipment before investing in the Graphtec.

As I mention in the reply to Tony, many brands - both in new and second hand equipment- are not as available here as in the US, and prices are quite a bit higher.

But I will look some more. All the comments have helped me to decide that a cutter will be right for me, a big step forward.

Thank you again.

With best wishes, seachange

Tony Smith
Posts: 1037
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2003 5:59 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Tony Smith » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:00 am

Seachange,

I agree that photoresist is child's play. But it has some detractors that you're already aware of.

I haven't found any benefit to using clear transfer tape. I have 6", 12" and 24" rolls of plain old transfer tape (picture light weight masking tape) on the racks and use whichever is closest in size to the project at hand. The 24" can be hard to handle, so I only use it when I have an extra set of hands.

Here's the way the process works - after cutting the stencil, you weed the vinyl, then apply transfer tape over the entire surface of the vinyl. This is best done as a single piece of transfer tape. Working from one end, you squeegee the tape down to ensure good adhesion to the surface with minimal bubbles. Trim one edge of the vinyl/tape layup and tape it to the project with a single piece of masking tape to create a hinge. Flip the ensemble back and peel the backing off the vinyl by pulling the backing off at a sharp angle. Then flip the ensemble back over holding it off the surface of the glass and starting at the hinge, squeegee the vinyl down to the glass a little at a time parallel to the hinge until the entire ensemble is stuck to the glass. Now, the transfer tape is peeled away at a sharp angle.

This is where the discussion of a high tack transfer tape comes in... the transfer tape adhesive needs to be stronger than the adhesion of the vinyl to the backing sheet, which is very light, but not stronger than the adhesion of the vinyl to the glass. If you're not good about squeegeeing the transfer tape to the vinyl, you might benefit from having a high tack transfer tape... but then you risk peeling your small vinyl bits off the glass when you remove the transfer tape.

If you have really small pieces, I find it's easier to attach the unweeded vinyl to the glass, then weed it on the glass. This keeps the small bits from distorting or pulling off while you're weeding.

I use CS2 on my Windows 7 machine. If you want to make vector linework of images, Live Trace is the only way to go. You can play with bit depth in photoshop, but AI is so much better.

Let me know as other questions arise.

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Rick Wilton
Posts: 273
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 8:18 pm
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Rick Wilton » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:01 pm

I have used a letralite photoresist system for over 20 years now and find it works amazing well for my needs. I don't usually do halftones however. I print my artwork onto ikonics UV II vellum with a hp laser printer and expose away. They say that printing onto the clear acetate gives better results but I absolutely despise inkjet printers and refuse to use them at all costs. The vellum is cheaper, easier to use and gives sufficient results for the work we do. This is generally small glass pieces for etching of logos and names for corporate awards that we've made. For the larger pieces and glass signs we use the cheap vinyl cutter.
Rick Wilton

Kevin Midgley
Posts: 713
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2003 11:36 am
Location: Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Kevin Midgley » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:04 pm

HP laserjet onto two sheets of acetate works well. Just register them correctly!

Buttercup
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Buttercup » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:40 pm

Seachange,

I've noticed the reference to 3 mil vinyl and wonder if that shouldn't be .003 mil ? 3 mil is pretty close to 1/8" which would be around the thickness of Buttercut which I don't think you want.....or is that .003 of an inch? Confusing terminology! 3 M's site also refers to .004 and 4 mil in the same breath.

The product I've used for years is made by 3M. The label on the roll says it's .004 x 27" x 50 yds white flex vinyl. In the past I think I've also used .003 mil. If I intend to do a deep carving I double or triple it. That's just a thought if you order it without seeing it. You may be surprised at what you get!

Jen

Tod
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2006 5:47 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Tod » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:19 pm

.1 millimeter (or millimeter?) is about .004 inch.
I know many folks don't like Wiki, but here's a pretty good definition of "mil" from them:

A thousandth of an inch is a derived unit of length in an inch-based system of units. Equal to 0.001 inches, it is normally referred to as a thou /ˈθaʊ/, a thousandth, or (particularly in the United States) a mil.

The plural of thou is also thou (thus one hundredth of an inch is "10 thou"), while the plural of mil is mils (thus "10 mils"). The words are shortened forms of the English and Latin words for "thousand" (mille). The US Customary mil can be confused with the millimetre, which is the standard meaning for "mil" or "mils" (plural) in British English and European engineering circles. This can cause problems with spoken dimensions or with those who are not familiar with alternative uses of the term.
please visit Beall Glass Studio on Face Book

Buttercup
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Buttercup » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:46 am

Thanks, Tod.

I brought it up because Seachange resides in a part of the Commonwealth that is doggedly metric, nary an inch in sight, and I thought confusion might be possible. I'm not sure what would be used to describe the material here as it's probably imported. I'm still using a roll I brought from North America, complete with label.

I'm quite happy to take information from Wiki and hadn't realized a mil could be anything other than a millimetre. Thanks for that.

So long as thou (you) art not confused by the two, or if two of you are confused would that be 'youse' :? ?

Rick Wilton
Posts: 273
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 8:18 pm
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Rick Wilton » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:44 pm

I used a product called "paint mask" (made by AVERY there are other brands also) it is used as a temporary masking for painting cars, signs etc (go figure) it is low tack and incredibly tough for pretty deep carving into glass. It is much easier to use than sandblast masks like "buttercut" It is easier to aquire and cheaper.
Rick Wilton

Buttercup
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Buttercup » Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:12 pm

Oh yeah...whatever you do don't use destructible vinyl. When you go to weed it or remove it at the end of the job it will come off in tiny little fragments about 1/16" across. This is because it's made for price tags to deter people from trying to peel off and swap labels on items.

The supplier accidentally shipped me a roll of that once which I applied and transferred the very intricate artwork (of course it wouldn't have been simple). Weeding in stages and cleaning up after took hours longer than it should have if the right product had been used. Be warned! Jen

Buttercup
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Buttercup » Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:31 pm

Rick, soon I'll be looking for some more masking as my roll is running low. I went to the Avery site here and this is what they have in that category:

http://www.gamart.com.au/AslanMaskingFilms.aspx

Is one of these the product you use, please? Thanks Jen

seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:24 am

Hi Tony

Many thanks for explaining the process for applying the vinyl to the glass in detail.

I have two questions at present:

I assume that weeding directly on to the glass is done by applying masking tape to the whole vinyl, removing the vinyl substrate, applying vinyl to glass, removing transfer tape. Now weeding can start.
Is this correct?

I am curious as to why is this not done every time, instead of only when one has lots of small pieces to weed? :-k

I'll keep learning what I can get done in AI and come back with some more questions in the near future.

Many thanks again, with best regards, seachange

seachange
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:19 am

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby seachange » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:32 am

Buttercup wrote:So long as thou (you) art not confused by the two, or if two of you are confused would that be 'youse' :? ?


Hi Buttercup,

That is very funny :lol:

I had to check the mil/millimeters issue when talking to the Graphtec people. They sounded a bit alarmed when I said I was intending to cut 3mil, interpreting it as 3 millimeters.

Fortunately I had the computer on, so could check it fast and sound very smart 8)

Cheers, Carmen

Buttercup
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: stencils for sanblasting - photoresist or vinyl cutter

Postby Buttercup » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:49 am

Carmen, will PM you later. Jen


Post Reply

Return to “Techniques and Tools”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 64 guests

Warm Glass

2575 Old Glory Road, Suite 700
Suite 700
Clemmons, NC 27012
Phone: (336) 712 8003
Email: wg@warmglass.com