Wicked Tip – Comparing Curing Technologies

Top Tip to Save Money

Low volume production can double up two process on one piece of equipment. A flash dryer or a hand curer can be used for drying between colours AND curing.

It can be difficult deciding what equipment to buy for flash drying and curing your prints. We know that your budget can also dictate what type of curing equipment you have. So to help you decide, we put together a quick guide to what works and what doesn’t when flash drying and curing your prints.

Starting at the top is the lowest cost option right through to the higher end of heat presses and tunnel dryers. Although the entry level range for these machines can be extremely cost effective.

Curing Technologies

Creating a screen using traditional exposure methods

Where does exposure fit in the screen printing process?

What emulsion should I use?

How long can I keep emulsion?

How do you get rid of pin holes?

How long should I dry my screen?

Main banner

Let’s go back to basics. Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced into the mesh openings of the mesh by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke.

Emulsion is the means of making impermeable substance. Light sensitive, thick liquid which coats the screen. When the screen is exposed the emulsion hardens and unexposed areas drop out to leave the stencil.

So you have your positive artwork

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Now this process is one of the most tricky in screen printing and needs to be done thoroughly and carefully. Never skip on any step especially drying.

The first step is to degrease your screen

It is very important to degrease the screen prior to coating the screen with emulsion and exposing the artwork. A screen that is not degreased will have problems exposing and increase the chance of pinholes, the emulsion will not adhere to the screen properly and might washout before the image can be seen. The emulsion could also not wash out at all. Make sure you let it dry thoroughly before you coat it with emulsion.

Choosing your emulsion

There are many emulsions on the market and every printer will have their preferred type and brand. Some emulsions come pre sensitised and ready for use and some will need mixing. Our emulsion is a 2 part emulsion, its comes with sensitizer.

Shelf life is different depending on when the sensitizer is added . Separately both parts can last from 12-24 months. Once mixed the emulsion lasts 6-8 weeks (its life can be prolonged slightly if it is stored in a cold place, like the fridge).
Always make sure you have chosen the right emulsion if you are using Plastisol inks / Solvent inks you need a Solvent resistant emulsion like Ulano Proclaim or if you are using Waterbased inks you need a water resistant emulsion like Ulano 925wr. We also sell Autosol emulsion, which is a good dual purpose emulsion, it can be used with both waterbased and solvent inks.

Location

Make sure you are doing all parts of the emulsion and exposure process in a light safe environment with NO outside or bright light. This includes mixing your emulsion, coating your screens, drying screens, exposure, and washout (as soon as screen is exposed as long as you wash it out straight away this is not a problem)..

A costing trough is the best way to get an even coverage of emulsion. Always check to make sure the coating trough has a straight edge and no damage otherwise you will get poor coverage and you can snag the mesh.

Here are a few things to watch out for if your images are not washing out correctly:
That you are not coating your emulsion too thick. One coat both sides should do it, with a nice even spread. There are sometimes where you may need some extra coats e.g. printing transfers and printing white onto a dark garment but you will need to adjust the exposure time.

Coating Your Screen

Coating Your Screen

That your film positive is very opaque and dark. If you hold it up to a light and can see through it, you need to double print your film to achieve a more opaque image.
That there is positive contact between your screen mesh and your positive film. If the film is not pressed completely against your mesh then you will get light reflection between your positive and your screen which will result in a blurry and not clear image. That’s why the glass is so important.
That you are exposing your screen for the correct amount of time, which will depend on the exposure system you are using. If you are unclear on exposure times please feel free to ask us. The simple run of thumb is – if the emulsions washes off too easily and you start to lose the stencil then the screen is underexposed and if after prolonged washing the stencil does not come through they you are likely to have overexposed the screen.
After you coat your screen, you want it to be COMPLETELY dry  before you expose the screen.

Exposing the image

Exposing Your Screen

Exposing Your Screen

To transfer your image onto your screen you will need to use an exposure unit. There are many different exposure unit set ups on the market and each has a different light source. Each having different light sources. UV, halide and halogen are very popular in the UK. Our Wicked exposure lamp has a 1000 watt halogen light source and is provided will all waterbased and Plastisol kits.

We also sell Actinic and Metal Halide exposure units which are able to expose quicker (typical exposure time is 2 minutes for an Actinic unit and 16 minutes for the lamp depending on size of the screen) than the cheaper lamp solution. Some units include built in drying cabinets making the whole process a lot faster.

A very large part of your decision if you are new to screen printing will be your budget and space. Exposure units vary dramatically in price. The WPS Lamp is small and compact,

After exposing and rinsing out your exposure, you want your screen to thoroughly dry (and ideally harden your screen, by exposing it to the sun or your exposure unit) before inking and printing. This process is often called double baking.

Before inking you need to use blocking tape (can use brown tape or professional blocking tape) to cover up areas on the screen not covered by the emulsion. Also fix any pinholes either using blocking tape or using screen filler which is a liquid emulsion, make sure you choose the right one as there are different versions for solvent and water resistant stencils.

Now you are ready to print

Registering Your Print

Registering Your Print

When you get bigger there are other options like the Revolutionary Riso QS200 Designed for the Professional Printer which prints directly from your computer onto a screen. Then the whole process takes under 5 minutes!

Reclaiming Screens – Ghosting

Have you got trouble with ghosting?

Does your screen look like this?

10609197_10152179703245146_1114505582_n

David Hand had an old screen and was so impressed with the results he sent before and after pictures. He told us “Hi. I just wanted to say the products I used to reclaim this screen were excellent. That pattern had been on there for six/seven years. Great stuff!

This is the photo he sent us of the finished results

10609197_10152179703250146_603833304_n

Haze Paste remover is a great solution if you have any ghosting left on your screen which is common when using waterbased inks as they dye the mesh.  Our range includes the premium MacDermid Autohaze will deals with the most stubborn stains. There is a reason why we select our products because we want you to get the same kind of results. We have been very impressed by this product which is why we are authorised distributors.  Haze Paste. on the Wicked Print Stuff website

Which entry-level flatbed printer is best for your business?

Nessan Cleary explores the wide choice of entry-level flatbed digital printers, with moving heads, high quality and varied prices.

Hybrids generally offer better flexibility when printing to roll-fed media, though many of the flatbeds offer an optional roll feeder so the choice largely depends on the sort of work that you think you’ll have to handle.

Prices vary hugely at this level, from €70,000 to €150,000, as does productivity. That said, few of these machines are really fast enough to compete on price against the bigger flatbeds so the ability to handle a wide range of different substrates is important.

via Which entry-level flatbed printer is best for your business?.

Creating a screen using traditional exposure methods

Where does exposure fit in the screen printing process?

What emulsion should I use?

How long can I keep emulsion?

How do you get rid of pin holes?

How long should I dry my screen?

 

Let’s go back to basics. Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced into the mesh openings of the mesh by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke.

Emulsion is the means of making impermeable substance. Light sensitive, thick liquid which coats the screen. When the screen is exposed the emulsion hardens and unexposed areas drop out to leave the stencil.

So you have your positive artwork

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Now this process is one of the most tricky in screen printing and needs to be done thoroughly and carefully. Never skip on any step especially drying.

The first step is to degrease your screen

It is very important to degrease the screen prior to coating the screen with emulsion and exposing the artwork. A screen that is not degreased will have problems exposing and increase the chance of pinholes, the emulsion will not adhere to the screen properly and might washout before the image can be seen. The emulsion could also not wash out at all. Make sure you let it dry thoroughly before you coat it with emulsion.

Choosing your emulsion

There are many emulsions on the market and every printer will have their preferred type and brand. Some emulsions come pre sensitised and ready for use and some will need mixing. Our emulsion is a 2 part emulsion, its comes with sensitizer.

Shelf life is different depending on when the sensitizer is added . Separately both parts can last from 12-24 months. Once mixed the emulsion lasts 6-8 weeks (its life can be prolonged slightly if it is stored in a cold place, like the fridge).
Always make sure you have chosen the right emulsion if you are using Plastisol inks / Solvent inks you need a Solvent resistant emulsion like Ulano Proclaim or if you are using Waterbased inks you need a water resistant emulsion like Ulano 925wr. We also sell Autosol emulsion, which is a good dual purpose emulsion, it can be used with both waterbased and solvent inks.

Location

Make sure you are doing all parts of the emulsion and exposure process in a light safe environment with NO outside or bright light. This includes mixing your emulsion, coating your screens, drying screens, exposure, and washout (as soon as screen is exposed as long as you wash it out straight away this is not a problem)..

A costing trough is the best way to get an even coverage of emulsion. Always check to make sure the coating trough has a straight edge and no damage otherwise you will get poor coverage and you can snag the mesh.

Here are a few things to watch out for if your images are not washing out correctly:
That you are not coating your emulsion too thick. One coat both sides should do it, with a nice even spread. There are sometimes where you may need some extra coats e.g. printing transfers and printing white onto a dark garment but you will need to adjust the exposure time.

Coating Your Screen

Coating Your Screen

That your film positive is very opaque and dark. If you hold it up to a light and can see through it, you need to double print your film to achieve a more opaque image.
That there is positive contact between your screen mesh and your positive film. If the film is not pressed completely against your mesh then you will get light reflection between your positive and your screen which will result in a blurry and not clear image. That’s why the glass is so important.
That you are exposing your screen for the correct amount of time, which will depend on the exposure system you are using. If you are unclear on exposure times please feel free to ask us. The simple run of thumb is – if the emulsions washes off too easily and you start to lose the stencil then the screen is underexposed and if after prolonged washing the stencil does not come through they you are likely to have overexposed the screen.
After you coat your screen, you want it to be COMPLETELY dry  before you expose the screen.

Exposing the image

Exposing Your Screen

Exposing Your Screen

To transfer your image onto your screen you will need to use an exposure unit. There are many different exposure unit set ups on the market and each has a different light source. Each having different light sources. UV, halide and halogen are very popular in the UK. Our Wicked exposure lamp has a 1000 watt halogen light source and is provided will all waterbased and Plastisol kits.

We also sell Actinic and Metal Halide exposure units which are able to expose quicker (typical exposure time is 2 minutes for an Actinic unit and 16 minutes for the lamp depending on size of the screen) than the cheaper lamp solution. Some units include built in drying cabinets making the whole process a lot faster.

A very large part of your decision if you are new to screen printing will be your budget and space. Exposure units vary dramatically in price. The WPS Lamp is small and compact,

After exposing and rinsing out your exposure, you want your screen to thoroughly dry (and ideally harden your screen, by exposing it to the sun or your exposure unit) before inking and printing. This process is often called double baking.

Before inking you need to use blocking tape (can use brown tape or professional blocking tape) to cover up areas on the screen not covered by the emulsion. Also fix any pinholes either using blocking tape or using screen filler which is a liquid emulsion, make sure you choose the right one as there are different versions for solvent and water resistant stencils.

Now you are ready to print

Registering Your Print

Registering Your Print

When you get bigger there are other options like the Revolutionary Riso QS200 Designed for the Professional Printer which prints directly from your computer onto a screen. Then the whole process takes under 5 minutes!

High Build Stencils – How to guide

How to Create High build stencils

Illustrated Step by Step Guide

Looking to give your designs the edge with a 3D raised look or wanting to add some texture to your designs?  High build stencils are also used extensively when printing circuit boards, applying varnishes to give a raised feel and for applications such as non-slip socks.  Then you will need know how to create a high build stencil.

1 High Build Stencils

You have a couple of options, you can use direct emulsion and build up the coats or you can use a capillary film – which is a sheet already coated with an emulsion.  In this article we are using Chromaline Phat Film which is the quickest and easiest way to create the high build stencil.

Phat Film comes in various sizes giving a stencil depth from 100 – 700 microns,  in this article we are using 200 micron film,  to give you some comparison a 43T mesh screen with a coat on both squeegee and print side will give you stencil depth of around 25 microns.

So to get the same stencil depth as a 200 micron film, that works out that you would need at least 9 – 10 coats of emulsion which needs to be applied when the screen has dried, which equals lots of work and lots of time (over a day to prepare one screen!).  Also to get consistent coats is difficult and there is always a risk that another emulsion coat which be added to a coat which has not completely dried which reduces light sensitively and can lead to premature stencil failure.

2 High Build Stencils

How did we do it?

Step 1

We printed out our film positive as per normal, we are using  an Epson 1500W with Blacquer Ink – it is really important that the artwork is as dark as possible.  Hold your positive up to the light and if you can see the light through the artwork then print 2 copies out and stick them together with invisible tape.  TIP – you can print one of the copies out in Red, which is a colour which blocks UV light.   PHAT film is coated in a Photopolymer emulsion which is fast exposing but you need to be as accurate with exposure timings as much as possible.

3 High Build Stencils

Step 2

Degrease your screen as per normal using a degreaser and power hose.  In this article we are using a 32T screen.  It is best to use low mesh count screens when using high build stencils. Make sure your screen is completely free of grease and dirt.

4 High Build Stencils

Dry the screen.

Step 3

We use a standard dual cure emulsion to laminate the PHAT film onto the mesh.  We performed the steps in sub dued light.
Remove the cover sheet of the PHAT film.

5 High Build Stencils

Place the screen print side down onto the PHAT film, we are lucky enough to have a clean platen to rest on otherwise use a table (make sure the surface is clean and free of any dust).

6 High Build Stencils

Put some blocking tape squeegee side of the screen around the edges of the film.

7 High Build Stencils

 

We will need to laminate the PHAT film to the mesh using a dual cure emulsion, you can pretty much use any dual cure emulsion – in this article we are using Macdermid Autosol 5000 which was already sensitised and ready to go.   We poured a ridge of emulsion onto the taped area of the mesh.

9 High Build Stencils

We then used a squeegee (Medium 75 green are perfect for this) to cover the PHAT film. Use the same pressure as if you were flooding the screen.  You will likely have to coat 4 times using the squeegee – if you can hear the squeegee rub on the mesh it means you need more coats of emulsion.

10 High Build Stencils

Put any excess emulsion back in the pot.

11 High Build Stencils
Put the screen in your drying cabinet.  Make sure the emulsion is completely dry before moving to the next step.

Peel off the thicker release sheet (if the release sheet puts up some resistance then leave the screen to dry for a little longer) then try again.  After you have removed the sheet then put the screen back in the drying cabinet for 5 mins or so.

12 High Build Stencils

Step 4

Exposing the artwork
Align the film positive to the PHAT film

13 High Build Stencils

We then exposed the screen for 350 seconds, we are using a WPS Mini Exposure Unit (uses actinic tubes) with built in drying cabinet.  We are using a 200 micron film so you will need to adjust the timings of your exposure unit based on the bulb strength, type of bulb and thickness of the film.

14 High Build Stencils

Step 5

Washing out the Stencil
After the screen has completed the exposure time then we are ready to wash out the stencil.  The best way to do this is to prepare some hot water (hot bath temperature).  Use a sponge, dip it in the hot water and gently rub the stencil.  If you don’t use hot water you could spend 10 minutes or more trying to washout the stencil using the power hose by itself.

15 High Build Stencils

16 High Build StencilsWhen the stencil is clear, use the power hose (or power washer on low pressure) to wash off any residue. Remove the blocking tape. Give the squeegee side a spray and start to remove the blocking tape, don’t be surprised to see some evidence of emulsion run off suggesting under exposure.  Don’t worry this is normal but make sure you give it a good enough wash squeegee side to make sure there is no emulsion residue in the Stencil.

17 High Build Stencils
The screen is now ready to go in the drying cabinet.  Don’t worry if you see any blisters around the edges of the film – this is because the light has not gone through the blocking tape.  If there is blistering across the film then the film is underexposed.

18 High Build Stencils

When the screen is completely dry we are now ready to apply blocking tape to uncovered areas of the screen.  As an option when you are laminate the PHAT film with emulsion you could cover up the rest of the screen – in this article we have used blocking tape.

19 High Build Stencils

Step 6

Printing
We are using WPS Premium Cotton White Ink and a 65 Blade (Red) Squeegee – softer the blade the better as we need to get plenty of ink to flood into the stencil.  We double flooded the stencil prior to printing.

20 High Build Stencils

To increase the opacity and depth of the print, we printed out the stencil – flash dried the ink and double flooded the stencil again and printed again. (AKA Print – Flash – Print)

21 High Build Stencils

Important – with a high build print, there is a lot of ink on the garment.  You will need to increase the curing time to ensure of the ink is completely cured.

22 High Build Stencils

What do you need to create a High Density Stencil?

We used the following equipment and consumables:-

WPS Degreaser

Epson 1500W using Blacquer High Density Black Ink

A4 Inkjet Positive Paper

Chromaline PHAT film 200 micron

Autosol 5000 Dual Cure Emulsion (laminate the film onto the mesh)]

Blocking tape

Aluminium Screen 23 x 31 32T Mesh

Squeegee Wood – Blade 75 Green

Squeegee Wood – Blade 65 Red

WPS Mini Exposure Unit with Integrated Drying Cabinet

WPS Premium Cotton White Plastisol Ink

KFIX hitak spray

WPS 6 colour 6 station carousel
We used a Hot Air Gun to touch try the ink instead of a flash dryer and we used a Heat Press for curing – if printing a production run we would use a tunnel dryer.

What is DTG Direct To Garment technology?

What is DTG?

Direct to GarmentDTG (Direct To Garment) is an exciting new technology in the garment decoration business. Very similar to an ink jet printer the garment is printed directly using specialist inks. There is a lot of development going on in this area.

 

Direct to garment printing, also known as DTG printing, digital direct to garment printing, digital apparel printing, and inkjet to garment printing, is a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. The two key requirements of a DTG printer are a transport mechanism for the garment and specialty inks (inkjet textile inks) that are applied to the textile directly and are absorbed by the fibres.

 

A primary advantage of DTG printing is the lack of set-up costs and instant turnaround time not associated with traditional garment printing methods such as screen printing. The comparative disadvantage of DTG is equipment maintenance and ink cost. Ink technology developments have significantly improved ink performance and lowered ink cost. Digital printing technologies are non-contact, meaning that media is printed on without hand contact, allowing for a more precise image. This prevents the image distortion that takes place in screen printing” from Wiki

 

There are several things you should bear in mind if you decide to invest in this area but one we can help you with is the need for a higher spec dryer at a very competitive price. This is because we manufacture our dryers ourselves so you are buying direct from the manufacturer.

 

The Panther 700L Texitunnel is based on the 700 dryer but with heating elements 50% longer making it about 60% faster than the 700 when in normal use :-

700L compact

DTG Tunnel Dryer

Highly efficient t-shirt dryer suitable for any medium size t-shirt printing company using Plastisol and waterbased printing inks.    Good for t-shirts, sweatshirts, working clothes, umbrellas and many more substrates. Ideal tunnel dryer for digital printers including popular DTG printers such as Resolute, Viper DTG, Anajet and Brother

  • Suitable for curing (plastisol inks)  up to 700 garments per hour
  • Suitable for curing air drying waterbased inks up to 700 garments per hour
  • Suitable for curing Digitally printers waterbased inks 100 (dark garments per hour, with heavy white) and 120 (light garments)
  • For heat cured water based inks 100 – 150 garments per hour

Option of a hot air circulation unit

Which dryer is suitable for my carousel and inks?

Which dryer is suitable for my business?

It you have an automatic carousel printing water based inks then a small dryer is obviously not suitable but which dryer is the right one. This chart will guide you.

At Wicked Printing Stuff  we manufacture our own Panther dryers and these can be standard models or very client specific. For example a dryer suitable for DTG (Direct to Garment) printing needs a much longer tunnel. Our prices are very competitive because you are buying direct, ask us for a quote and be surprised.

Choosing a dryer

You can watch our dryers being made in this fun video.

All about discharge inks – Updated

How can I print light designs on a dark garment – All about discharge inks.

I want to print light on dark?

I want a soft touch?

What is a discharge ink?

Here at Wicked Printing Stuff we don’t expect you to know everything and we are happy to explain things. Have you checked out our FREE buyers guide there is lots in there for the Rookie, Intermediate and Professional. Please give us a ring and explain your problem and we will help out. Lastly there are our training courses, designed again for both rookie and advanced printers with basic training or advanced courses.

So back to the problem. You want to print a light colour on a dark garment and you want it to feel soft. Now plastisol inks wrap colour AROUND the threads but gives a rubbery feel (also referred to as hand) but is bright. So ideally you want a water based ink. For those of you that have tried this and I can hear you shouting at the back, but I have tried waterbased inks and I just can’t get a good opaque print, that’s why I use plastisol. Well that’s where the discharge inks come in!

Punk rockerFor the punk rockers out there, remember how you got that bright green hair, that is right you had to bleach out your own hair colour first so the back ground colour was white, only then the colour would take and be vibrant and striking. It is almost the same in screen printing but we use discharge inks that need curing. The discharge ink actually removes the dye.

First off you have to have the right garment fabric, it has to be 100% cotton and it has to be dyed with a dischargeable dye. So check with the manufacturer. If the garment is a mixture of cotton and polyester only the cotton will discharge. Now that might actually suit you but you would need to do a trial run to make sure you get the effect you want.

Discharge processSo having got the right garment now we need the right ink. There are a lot out there and some are more complicated to use than others.

Water based dischargeable inks are the easiest and most eco friendly ones to use. The process works during curing when the discharge removes the original dye and the ink gives the new colour. To do this you add activator to the ink which ensures you get an intense colour.

 

Fuji MagnaColours

We have now introduced two Water based Discharge Ink ranges the patented MagnaPrint® Discharge ULF Ultra range of inks which are Formaldehyde Free and Soil Association Approved and Oeko tex class 1 and class 2 approved. This is the only system which does not stipulate that the garment has to be washed prior to wearing and is low odour compared to over discharge systems. The second system is Sericol TexCharge the largest ink manufacturer, TexCharge is Soil Association approved and also includes a colour matching system.

We also offer MagnaPrint Plascharge additive which you mix 50 / 50 with a plastisol ink, so if you are a plastisol printer you can take advantage of discharge technology.

For the discharge process to work, you do need a tunnel dryer (the longer the better) – typically 90-120 seconds dwell time is needed for a good cure. You can also use a heat press which is great for low production. You also need well ventilated premises and printers should read the MSDS and be aware of any health and safety consideration.
We would be delighted to talk you through this if you have any questions, please contact us.

Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies

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.

DSM v DTS

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)
Pro Con Pro Con
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

 

 

 

Goccopro 100

GocoproHow 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.

 

DSM ProcessSource: 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.

Goccpro QS200

Goccopro QS200

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.

DSM process 2Source: 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

FreeStyler

 

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 ScreenSpider

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.

In conclusion

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.