Plate Burners for Platinum printing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm looking at a used carbon arc plate burner, wanting to use it for platinum printing. Would carbon arc be an appropriate source of UV for Pt/Pd printing? Is it reliable? Would a carbon arc machine be likely to be very old, or is this pretty recent technology? Just want to make sure that I'll get what I'm looking for.

Thanks for your help,


-- Nathan Congdon (, March 21, 2001


Depends on what you mean by recent I guess. They've had one in the university art department for 11 years. Never used it - TOO Scary!

-- Sean yates (, March 21, 2001.


Carbon arc technology has been around for a very long time. It was used as the first electric lighting technology for towns in the 19th century.

Here's my concern about using a carbon arc plate burner: Can you get the rods and other accessories for it still? What do the rods and other items cost?

I built a fluorescent exposure unit for pt/pd last year. It wasn't too expensive, and there are places where you can get them commercially made. By a large margin, this is the most popular method for exposing pt/pd, and the lamps are inexpensive (relatively, compared to the special lamps required for mercury vapor, metal halide, or carbon arc plateburners.). The lamps will be available for decades to come, and are generally available by special order from any lighting or electrical outlet.

I can't comment on whether the carbon arc is appropriate for pt/pd since I have no first-hand experience with one of those.

If I came across a _very_ cheap NuArc metal halide plateburner, I might consider getting it, but I don't think they are any 'better' than the fluorescent units that are used by the majority of the pt/pd printers. They may be a bit 'faster' but they are not without their own set of problems.

You may want to look at the website for Edwards Engineering Products for some commercially available fluorescent options.

You may also want to go back through the archives of the alternative process newsgroup for a lot more information on this subject. I'm on the road (with the 7x17) so I can't give you the address for the archive, but I'm sure you can find it with a search on Google for 'platinum printing' or something like that.


-- Michael Mutmansky (, March 21, 2001.

nathan please contact sura at palladio. they make a nice uv unit. you will be happy with it. carbon arc is old world. i would rather have you use sunlight. rich

-- rich silha (, March 21, 2001.

We used a Nuarc platemaker way back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. They were used to expose aluminized lithographic printing plates for use on offset-litho printing presses. They did use carbon arc illumination. The aluminized plates were very slow, and they needed a ton of light for exposure.

I checked and Nuarc does have a website. They stock replacement lamps and bulbs. I know very little about platinum printing, so carbon arc illumination may or may not be feasable from what I can tell. But an older platemaker should provide plenty of illumination. It sounds like a good idea to me, since an older machine should probably go for next to nothing.

I would check about with local printers in your area. Good luck, and I commend you on your imaginative solutions.

-- Joseph Wasko (, March 21, 2001.

A carbon arc is a very ineffiecient way of generating UV. It throws out bags of heat and visible light and requires an extremely complicated control mechanism. Even if the cost of aquiring a carbon arc wasn't prohibitive, the electricity bill for running it would make anyone think twice.
Mercury vapour lamps are used almost exclusively for the production of UV these days.

Please aquaint yourself with the safety implications of powerful UV sources before doing anything with them.

-- Pete Andrews (, March 22, 2001.

I'll second the safety worries about a carbon arc plate burner. It's not *that* big a deal, but easily qualifies as 'too much hassle'.

Take a look at the flourescent tubes in a suitcase style units used to expose printed circuit boards prior to etching. They're fast, safe, sturdy and convenient. They also give predictable, repeatable exposures. They're not so expensive, and EE depts often have one lying about unused.

Otherwise, building one yourself is not such a bid deal. The alt-process list FAQ and archives are a good place to look for specific tube and/or lamp recommendations.

-- Struan Gray (, March 22, 2001.

Nathan, I don't do any platinum printing, so I can't give you much help there, but just to add to what Joseph is telling you about checking with printers, you might laso want to check with state & federal, maybe even university surplus stores. We had a NuArc plate burner in our old exhibits shop (we have a silkscreen operation) that we surplused a few years ago, it's probably still sitting at the surplus lot. I'm not an expert on the safety issue, but I seem to remember that they require some local ventilation as well. Check with your state gov't. Dept. of Admin. (whatever your area calls it) to see if they have a surplus store open to the public. We do here, but Federal is usually closed to the public. You can find some neat stuff occasionally at these places.

-- DK Thompson (, March 22, 2001.

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