The new stencil material consists of a very thin, semi-transparent parchment or mesh overlaid on one side with a heat-sensitive shiny coating. By the way, this shiny coating is what gets burned away in the thermal process on the printer. The shiny side also needs to go up against the glass for the best image quality. This is why we produce our stencils in a mirror image on the new equipment so that the etch will come out correctly. Coincidentally, the etch compound also works a lot better when applies to the non-shiny side. It flows out real even over the image. This stencil material is available in two styles; 1. The material, mounted on a blue backing and perforated with a label size of 3.25 inches X 1.5 inches (practical, usable width of 3 inches or slightly less). It looks very similar to the old blue stencils so we are calling it the “New Blue“. 2. We also provide this material, not on a backing, but in Rolls, with a material width of 2 inches.
Additional Stencil information plus Q and A here
Q. We used to have more stencil sizes, why just a few?
A. The new printing technology limits the width of the material to 4 inches (to go wider would mean a much more expensive printer).
Q. Why would I use a Roll of stencils versus the material on a backing called the “New Blue“?
A. We feel that most of our users will find the stencils on the backing, our “New Blue“, the most familiar and convenient. This size will accommodate a VIN (vehicle ID number) very nicely. Should your needs require a much longer or larger image then the 2 inch roll will work well by flipping the image 90 degrees to landscape mode through a few simple printer settings.
Q. A 2 inch wide roll seems way too small for my etching. How does that work?
A. Initially we tried printing stencils using 4 inch wide rolls. Because of the thinness of the material, we found that it often wrinkled going through the printer. Reducing the roll width to 2 inches eliminated the problem. We have found that by configuring the etched image in landscape mode (flipped 90 degrees) the 2 inch wide roll works very well.
Q. I understand that using the roll stencils I will need to cut the stencils apart with scissors. Can’t these new printers automatically cut the stencils?
A. Yes, many of the thermal printers have optional cutter features. In our testing, we have generally found that the cutters do not function well with thin material like our stencils. Also, these cutter options are usually expensive. We are continuing to test different brands and models of printers to find ones that offer the best combination of availability, simplicity, features, and price. Keep watching our website.
The New Printer
Previously, to prepare the blue paper stencils, a very old printer technology called “dot-matrix” was used. The continued demise of these printers in the marketplace has had a lot to do with the need to move beyond paper stencils. The material we are using today uses heat to create the stencil image rather than the “impact” of the tiny wires utilized by the old dot-matrix style printer.
The printer we use to prepare stencils with the new material is referred to as a Thermal Printer or Desktop Thermal Printer and a typical one is the size of an old-fashioned 2 slice toaster. You will find that they are most often utilized to print labels of various kinds so they are often referred to as label printers and there are many brands and variations available. Obviously, some are more suitable to our needs than others. In introducing the new stencil material, we have tested and will continue to test a wide variety of thermal printers. The printers we recommend and offer on this website, have been thoroughly tested, and we can offer our normal technical support.
More Printer information plus Q and A here
- The ability to do Direct Thermal printing. Most thermal printers offer Direct Thermal plus Thermal Transfer modes. The Thermal transfer mode requires a ribbon and the mechanism to mount it. For stencil production using our new material, we NEVER need Thermal Transfer mode. Finding a printer offering Direct Thermal only can save money, however be sure the DPI is at least 300 for the best image.
- A Dots per Inch (DPI) resolution of 300 or 304 DPI. We have found that the image quality produced by this resolution is markedly better than that produced by a lower cost 200 DPI printer for example.
- The ability to produce an etch in a Mirror Image on the stencil (that is, reversed or how the image would appear in a mirror). This is critical since we always burn the image into the shiny or coated side of the stencil material but we must also apply this shiny side to the glass for the optimum etch quality.
Q. I don’t want to buy a new thermal printer as I already have one in my office. Can I make it work?
A. Possibly, however, you should consider whether it offers the features listed above. Contact us with any questions you may have. We are not prepared to support any printer not listed on our webpage but may be able to offer advice.
The Installation Process
The installation process for the new stencil material is similar to the steps you are familiar with. You must prepare the stencils. Next, you must adhere them to the glass. Finally, you must apply the etching compound to perform the etch. Because the new material has no adhesive backing, the installation process is only slightly more complicated. View this video Click here to see our new system in action to see the installation steps using the new stencil material. Please contact us at 704 277-2018 if you have any further questions.