There is a transfer paper that will do this with laser printing. One
prints the design in reverse (mirror image). The paper and design is
then placed against the clean metal surface. An iron is then applied,
which melts the wax and transfers the toner to the metal. One can
make photo-etch this way too, as the toner is etch resistant. This
method will NOT make as fine a line, nor detail, as the photo process,
but is fine for somewhat larger detail. The stuff is called Pulsar
Toner Transfer System.
Here are two photos of ink jet printing I did on plastic sheets.
Notice on the first one that the printing is backwards. This is because
you have to add a spray of white paint over the printed image to kill
the transparency. You then see the image through the plastic. For a
correct image you have to print a reversed image.
I put the crease at the top so you can see it is plastic.
The second photo was printed in reverse and shows the level of detail
you can get this way.
I have a cheap Canon BJC-3000 printer with a setting for thicker paper,
but I taped plastic to the printer paper and ran it through using the
regular setting with no problems. I know that many printers allow you to
direct feed a flat sheet from the back.
I printed on the plastic by first coating it with Elmer's Washable
School Glue Gel. You can find it anywhere school supplies are sold. A
small bottle is about $1.25. Put some in a dish and stir water into it
until it is foamy, actually frothy. Brush it on the plastic and it will
smooth out to an even, crystal clear layer.
I haven't tried this on smooth, shiney metal so I can't say for sure how
the Elmer's will stick to it, but I did run into a couple types of
plastic that I first had to buff with fine steelwool. I would try that
on the metal.
Keep in mind that ink jet ink and the Elmer's are subject to water
damage. If your printed image is going to be handled, I think it would
be best to give it a spray of Krylon clear, or Minwax Polycrylic, or
Future if you can spray it, or maybe a dull coat spray.
I have never done anything involving photo etch, so I don't know if this
will work for what you want.
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