Intaglio Printing on a 3D Printed Press

Erin Riley and I decided in March that we wanted to collaborate on an art project. We narrowed it to a printing project and were excited when Christopher Sweeney pointed us to Martin Schneider's Open Press Project and his superbly designed STLs for 3D printing a small printing press for intaglio printing. 

I 3D printed the press at home on a Makerbot Replicator with white and red ABS. The bed was printed at work on an Ultimaker 2 Extended in HDPE. 

Additionally, I purchased a vintage steel printing plate of a dahlia that fit the press' bed perfectly. Erin and I intended to play with designing our own plates, too. Before I arrived she created a laser-etched acrylic plate.

Erin cut felt blankets for the press.

She also cut paper and laid out the rest of our supplies.

Our first prints were in a rich red color.

We managed to get good pressure on the steel plate.

We experienced quite a bit of slippage of the felt on the bed so we put carpet tape on the bed and affixed the felt.

We ran both designs again in dark blue ink. 

Erin suspects the laser settings were not optimal for intaglio but will continue to experiment.

The higher contrast ink produced a beautiful print with the dahlia plate.

Next, we tried etching copper to create a plate. Erin cut a vinyl stencil of a TurtleArt design she programmed previously.

We tried etching it with salt water and both 6 and 9 volts. We did not get the results we wanted, but fun science!

Erin plans to research how to get better results with the copper and the aluminum. She tried sanding a second piece of copper lightly with steel wool before applying the vinyl stencil. We may have been rushing the process but did not get a deep enough etch.

Erin had a piece of aluminum that was etched prior to today, so we tried it as well.

Erin made a quick return to the acrylic laser etched plate. She added some hand etching to the design. With some adjustments to the laser cutting we believe this combination of precision and hand etched designs is quite interesting and promising as an area to explore.


As always, I learn so much each time I am graced with the opportunity to work with Erin. The Open Press is a promising platform that could scale to a workshop or class project. We both look forward to continuing to play with plate making and to perhaps see what our students can do with the tool as well.