Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies
- Easier stencil production for screen printers.
- Improve production times
- Improve screen quality
Over the last few years various new pieces of equipment have come into the marketplace promising a revolution in stencil production. We thought we would take time out and look at the different technologies, consider the promises made and give a view about how they work, the pros and the cons, and if these technologies would suit your business.
We are going to look at the
- Digital Screen Makers (DSM) from RISO
- Goccopro 100
- Goccpro QS200
- Direct to Screen or Computer to Screen (DTS or CTS) Systems –
- Exile FREEStyler
- Exile Spyder II system.
There are plenty of other DTS or CTS systems but we are focussing on the most popular in the UK.
The fundamental difference between DSM and DTS (sorry about the use of abbreviations!) is that DSM uses a silicon coated mesh (RISO refer to the Mesh as Media), the DSM machines have a thermal print head which burns off the silicon film leaving the stencil. The DTS systems print directly to a photo sensitive emulsion standard screen printing screen using ink jet or wax head technologies. Hope you are keeping up at the back!
|Digital Screen Makers (RISO Goccopro 100 / QS200)
||Direct to Screen (CTS) (Exile FREEStyler / SPYDER II)
|Creates the stencil without the traditional process of using of screen degreasing, photo sensitive emulsion, dark room, film positives and washout. Simplifying and giving a clean process (which is a big Pro)
Good for quick turnaround low volume printing. Ideal for printers with no previous screen printing experience.
Work like a computer printer so relatively easy to install and implement. It does not need a RIP.
Lower foot print – they do not take much space.
You do not need a huge stock of frames.
|Use proprietary mesh which is expensive and limited in options (currently 4 mesh counts available equivalent to 80T / 72T (Goccopro 100 only) / 48T and 28T). Need to budget £7.00 – £15 per screen not including stretching cost.
Mesh is not as robust as traditional mesh so print runs are limited for 400 or so prints before the mesh starts to break down. Some printers use silicon oil or a mesh hardener to extend life.
Limited stencil versatility e.g. printing plastisol transfer is very tricky as you can’t do much about stencil depth.
Mesh not suited for all solvent inks
After you have printed 9 times out of 10 the mesh goes in the bin. There are some techniques to keep prints but don’t bank on it.
Machines are not maintenance free, thermal heads do need to be kept clean.
Thermal approach is simple and effective however ash can get left in the stencil reducing ink opacity. The remedy is to use a mesh cleaner.
||Ideal for established printers looking to increase throughput and productivity. Targeted at printers using 20 – 30 screens per day. Uses the traditional approach using photo sensitive emulsion, exposing and wash out.
Replaces the need for film positive printing (especially when using inkjet printers) which can be expensive, slow and error prone.
Aids registration as units normally have standard automatic printing registration methods e.g. MHM pin system / M & R Triloc
Produces very high quality stencils which would be very difficult to achieve using traditional film positive process. Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 to 110 lpi depending on the system
Takes advantage of current assets e.g. exposure units, screen printing frames and washout. Existing printers may find this technology easier to embed.
Works with all inks and mesh types.
|Initial purchase price for the bigger units is very high so making DTS cost prohibitive to smaller or mid-market printers.
DTS requires consumables so there is an ongoing running cost Typically ranging from 0.25p to 0.70p depending on chosen system.
More evolution than revolution.
Some DTS systems use inkjet technology which generally speaking does not give the same level of quality of a wax ink based system used in higher end systems
How does it work? Similar to a computer printer, you load the Goccopro 100 with a roll of mesh, you then output the artwork directly to the Goccopro 100 which creates the stencil and automatic cuts the mesh. Take the mesh and stretch it on to a quick stretch frame (there are some different frame options some very innovative), register on your carousel and print. When you have finished you discard the mesh and start again.
Source: RISO website
What is good about it? Compact, quick, easy to use, the quickest way I have ever made a stencil – 5 minutes in total. Ideal for point of sale applications and very quick, simple, ideal low volume work.
What is not so good about it? Small print width (11.69” wide and up to 31.5” long), only useful for single colour jobs or lose aligned multi-colour work (this is the drawback of having to stretch the screen after the Goccopro 100 creates the stencil). It has limited mesh counts. Printing onto dark garments using the quick stretch screen is challenging, as classic ‘print / flash / print’ steps to build up the ink deposit to be opaque enough is difficult, some of the more robust stretch screens could give a better result – you might need to use a discharge ink. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.
The big brother to the Goccopro 100, but works slightly differently. You create a stretched screen first either using a quick stretch frames (there are many options out there) or a self-stretching screen like a Newman frame. You can glue the RISO mesh to a standard aluminium frame, but this is very tricky compared to re-stretching traditional mesh. You load the stretched frame on the bay, select print from your computer and the QS200 will create the stencil. You then register the screen on your carousel and print as per normal. When you have finished you discard the mesh.
Source: RISO website
What is good about it? Easy to use. Supports frames up to A2 size so works with 23 x 31” screen sizes, you can use it for multi-colour work, and you can use different frame types interchangeably. Good for low production printing. Quick, the fastest I have created an A4 sized stencil from start to finish is around 10 minutes (larger artwork will take longer) including stretching the screen. Ideal for point of sale applications, good low to medium production e.g. 20 – 400 prints. Typical profile would be a DTG or Vinyl / Laser Transfer printer wanting to increase margin, screen printing 50 T Shirts with the same design would be quicker, faster and more profitable than using other technologies.
What is not so good about it? Limited mesh counts, a busy printer will experience head alignment and cleaning issues – some dirt on the print head will ruin the stencil and waste mesh. You don’t achieve high tensions on self-stretch screens, up to 19 ncm (newtons per cm) (but ok for manual printing) if you are lucky compared to 25 ncm on a brand new stretched tradition frame, so you might have to adjust print technique. You would need to use a Newman style frame if using the machine on a fully automatic carousel and use tape to reinforce the mesh. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.
FREESTyler Direct to Screen
How does it work? You place an emulsion coated screen on the flat bed of the FREEStyler (it comes with various clamps that came be used to aid registration), you then control how the stencil is printed using RIP software that comes with the system. It replaces the Film Positive printing process, the FREEStyler uses inkjet technology to print the artwork directly on the screen with a quick drying ink which is water soluble. When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass on your exposure unit.
What is good about it? Designed for the small and midmarket with an appropriate pricing structure, supports frames up to 36” x 26”, (creates stunning stencils Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 lpi) which would be difficult to achieve accurately with film positives printed with an inkjet printer. Opens up a new host of opportunities for the small / midmarket printers creating 30-40 screens per day (probably will do a lot more than that but note that the consumable costs will mount up and the bigger systems might be better choice) likely to have an automatic carousel or a number of manual / semi-automatic carousels. Takes between 3 – 12 minutes to make a screen depending on what settings you are using. Uses a clamp system to enable quick accurate registration. Makes use of existing investments of screens and equipment.
What is not so good about it? There is an ongoing consumable cost for the ink (typical £0.70p per screen), it does not replace the process but complements it so not exactly revolutionary. It is a brand new system so it is a bit too early to know if there are drawbacks.
SPYDER II Direct to Screen
How does it work? Similar concept to the FREEStyler, you place a coated screen in the SPYDER. The stencil is printed using RIP software and uses prints wax ink which is water soluble. When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass. The system uses bi-drectional printing and is very fast – approx 1 minute to create the screen mask.
What is good about it? Its quick, creates stunning stencils (it has a 1200 dpi and supports up to 110 lpi). It is targeted and designed for large commercial printers with challenging requirements creating large numbers of screens on a daily basis typically might have 2 or more automatic machines. Ongoing consumable cost is low approx. £0.25p per screen.
What is not so good about it? Reassuringly expensive
They are a number of CTS / DTS systems in the market place e.g. M&R i-Image ST Computer to Screen Imaging System, CST GmbH (more high end solutions for industrial printers rather than the textile market) all of them having their own pros and cons but work on a similar concept. Some solutions have an integrated LED exposure unit which offers some advantages in optimising the process. However in some respects a CTS without exposure unit is a better solution as you would be able to produce screens faster if in a high production environment than with the integrated solution.
Digital Screen Makers and Direct to Screen systems are a very different proposition, it is a little like comparing apples and pears. The key thing is around being clear about your requirements and business objectives before making investments in either technologies. The Digital Screen Makers are niche products which for some printers will open up new opportunities e.g. a DTG printer wanting to provide limited screen printing options. Outside of that niche the traditional approach using a Direct to Screen technology might be the better bet as you will also gain from the versatility of the traditional process. You might actually have a need for both, using the more modern technology at a trade show or exhibition where turn round speeds are vital.
Please feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements and we can help you to find the right solution for your needs.