High chances are you have come across a t-shirt with some excellent graphics drawn all over it. That should give you a brief idea of what screen printing is in a nutshell. Screen printing, also known as silk screening, refers to pushing paint or ink through a stencil and onto a canvas to form some graphic. The canvas or the material being worked on refers to a substrate. It can be plastic, paper, glass, wood, or even fabric. As long as the material can be laid horizontally, it is highly likely that it can be a suitable substrate. The most common substrates are t-shirts.
A screen printer is a device you can use to print various designs on your choice materials. You can come up with tapestries, posters, logos, and decals through the device, to mention a few. There are many types of screen printers. Based on their functionality, we can have the cylinder, flat-bed, and rotary. The rotary screen printing press works well in web-fed operations and requires high speed, such as newspaper printing. The cylinder screen printing press prints cylindrical substrates such as buckets and bottles. The flat-bed screen printing press is widely used in the toy manufacturing and textile industry. That is because it works very well on flat substrates.
The automatic presses are the fastest machines. They are the most effective for large-scale printing. That is because they can take advantage of the economies of scale. As the name suggests, the employees follow the entire printing process for the manual presses without any help.
In this article, you will get insights into, what determines the cost of a screen printer, factors to consider when coming up with the cost of a specific printing job, factors to consider when buying a printer, and the screen printing process.
What determines the cost of a screen printer?
Here are the factors that determine the cost of a screen printer.
- The number of print heads. For high-quality designs and high printing speed, a press uses several print heads to add ink to the substrate. The small nozzles in print heads jet the ink onto the material in tiny droplets, creating a high print resolution. The print heads are usually expensive, so the more a press has, the more expensive the machine will be.
- The electronics and ink supply technology. This applies to the automatic machines. For the prink heads to jet out the ink, there is a specific ink technology used. That ensures that only the right quality and amount of ink gets to the substrate. That is why automatic machines are the most expensive presses.
- The number of features the printer has. In the automatic presses, all the work is usually automated for you. For the manual press, you have to carry out the entire printing process by yourself. That makes the automatic machines more expensive. Various technology and hardware are more in comparison to those in the manual machines.
- The brand of the screen printer. The companies that have been in the industry for a long having more experience and can cater to the customers’ needs. Those that have a good reputation are known to manufacture high-quality printing machines consistently. That means that they will have more significant demand. That results in higher prices of their products.
The factors to consider when coming up with the price of a specific print job
Every printing job has its specifications. That means that the different projects differ in terms of cost. Many components go into the printing process. You, however, cannot factor in all of them when coming up with the charges for your customers. You, therefore, use the most significant expenses to come up with the cost and have a margin that ensures the business is making a profit. The factors include:
- The type of garment the client desires. Most printing companies have brands that they prefer to use for their printing services. Different kinds of brands offer different prices. The brands that have high quality and demand tend to be more expensive. Children’s clothes are also cheaper than adult’s clothes. The company, therefore, has to understand what the client needs to begin the printing process.
- The number of colors involved. During the printing process, you need to create a print screen for every color. Although you can reuse screens, their cost is still an overhead cost you must account for. You also have to look at time and labor. Every color in the design requires you to go through the entire process of adding emulsion, setting the image, as mentioned earlier.
- The size and number of impressions. If you are printing your substrate of 50 shirts on both sides, you will count your quantity as 100. We consider those 100 designs and not 50 designs for that reason. A larger quantity increases the total setup costs. However, the price of each shirt decreases. That is how the economies of scale work.
- The color of the garments or substrates. Underbase is necessary for a dark garment. The issue with an under base is that you may end up using about three colors. That means you will also involve more time to complete the printing of each garment.
- The location of the print. Printing in the middle of pockets and peripherals is usually a bit tricky and will cost the client some more money.
- Labor involved in the entire printing project. The automatic machines help make work easier and reduce labor costs; however, you will still need several employees. For the manual presses, you require skilled personnel, especially where the prints are in large quantities and complex. The same case applies to the semi-automatic presses; you require employees. The screen printing job is generally a labor-intensive task.
- The mistakes or defects in the printing process. Each piece that spoils wastes your resources such as ink, time and other materials involved in the screen printing process. That definitely takes you a step back. Regardless of how good the printer machines are or how good the employees are at their job, spoilage should be a consideration in the overall costs.
The screen printing/ silk screening process
There is a lot that goes into screen printing and it is therefore important to have a high-level understanding of the steps involved.
- Coming up with the design.
The first order of business is usually planning. You come up with the right design. Without it you will end up misusing your resources. CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator are amongst the best vector design software in the market. They can help bring your client’s ideas to life. After coming up with the right design, you pick an image and try to get its highest resolution to come up with a vector file than you can use for the printing. After that you begin to separate the different colors and create a file for each.
- Printing the film.
A stencil will help you produce a screen print. To create a stencil, you need to make a film positive using the inkjet printer. What the printer does is that it lays black ink that is opaque on the film. The film allows UV light to reach the screen through the clear parts when there is exposure, but blocks the UV light in the printed parts. In other words, what you are doing is printing an image of the different colors on a film. You require a film for each color.
Nowadays there is software known as RIP. The software ensures that the inkjet printer produces high quality films.
- Burning the screens.
So after making the stencils, you take a screen and apply photo-reactive emulsion to it. Examples of emulsions include dual cure liquid and photopolymer. The emulsion usually reacts to UV light. For that reason, after coating the screen, place it in a dark place as you wait for it to dry.
When the emulsion dries, you place the printed film over the print screen and expose it to some UV light for about 20 minutes. That period of time may differ from one project to another. That is what it means to burn an image onto a screen.
Your kind of artwork and the ink used for each project are the factors to consider when buying an emulsion.
- Washing out the print screens.
You could use a hose pipe with a high water pressure to wash the screens. The film blocks out UV light from getting to the emulsion on the printed parts. The emulsion not covered hardens after exposure. So when you hit the screen with some water at a high pressure, it comes off easily, leaving us with an uncovered screen.
- Setting up the press.
This is the step most people think screen printing is all about. You secure the substrate and attach the screen print to the screen printer. The screen printer pours ink onto the mesh and the squeegee spreads it evenly on the material. Each color is pressed at its own time.
- Curing the shirt.
This involves using a flash cure unit or a tunnel dryer. That is for drying the ink and therefore curing the shirt to ensure the print lasts for a long time.
From that entire process, you can see that it would not be economical to cater for single items. In the screen printing industry, you have to make use of the economies of scale to maintain your profits.
Factors to consider when buying a screen printer
Here are the factors to consider when buying a screen printer.
- The consistency. Humans operate the manual presses meaning the products will not be as consistent as those printed using the automatic printers. Where you decide to buy a manual press, probably because the business is yet to grow or because of financial constraints, ensure that it has micro registration, easy to replace parts, very little depreciation and consistent print head or gate registration.
- Versatility. This refers to the number of colors the machine can print. The more colors the merrier. Think of the number of colors you would want to print in the future when you have more clients.
- The space in your print shop and portability. Ensure that you can work comfortably in the location you decide to put the machine at. As the business grows, you will require a bigger screen printer. So ensure that the small press you buy in the beginning can supplement it in the future.
- Durability of the machine. Avoid machines that have a bad reputation because high chances are they have poor quality and will disappoint you in the long run.
- Pallet or platen compatibility. There will be new releases of presses in the market with time. Ensure that you can still use the same kind of accessories and pallets in the future.
- The screen size options. This is vital if you will be scaling up fast. Ensure that your first press can accommodate larger print screen sizes.
It is always wise to think of the business’s future instead of the now when buying equipment. It becomes a huge asset for the company. Understand your business before buying any equipment or pricing the printing jobs. Know your fixed expenses and variable expenses. That will ensure that your business stays afloat. If, for example, the business is small, you could start with the manual press. However, if you consider scaling up shortly, go for the automatic machines.
With the combination of the proper procedures, experience, and the necessary equipment, you will have some perfect artwork. There has to be a minimum number of prints you can make in a project to ensure consistent profits and efficient use of the printing resources.