By Mark Clewell
Senior Sales Technician
Vastex International Inc.
An automatic screen printing press may out-produce a manual press many times over, but it does not eliminate the need for one, even in high volume shops. Here's why:
1. Print Smaller Jobs
Manual presses can be more economical to operate when printing smaller runs. They can be set up faster than an automatic, and free it up for larger production runs. Setting up a large automatic press for 50 to 100 shirts isn't cost effective. Manual presses can produce a quality print more efficiently for smaller orders. Or, if the manual press is an "all-heads-down" model, two or more smaller jobs can be completed simultaneously, limited only by the combined number of garment colors and the number of print heads.
2. Print Atypical Jobs
Manual presses can be used for printing atypical projects like umbrellas, hats, pant legs, or pocket tees. They offer greater control than automatic presses when printing over a seam or on a shirt with buttons. Whereas an automatic press performs the same stroke with the same pressure repeatedly, a manual press operator can readily adjust the length and pressure of a stroke to accommodate zippers, seams, or umbrella frames.
3. Proof Jobs Prior to Automatic Set-up
Another use of a manual press is "proofing" a job before doing large production runs on an automatic press. An operator can "strike off" a sample garment to send to the client for approval. Once approved, the shop can then set up the production run on the automatic, and check output against the manual proof, avoiding a costly, large-scale remake.
4. Add production capacity
A manual press can be utilized for additional production capability when meeting a tight deadline. Printers can add an operator to load and unload the press while another operator prints.
Printers can additionally speed up production by adding an automated flash cure unit, which rotates the heater over the printed garment when the operator presses a foot pedal, and rotates it away from the garment after a user-adjusted dwell time, eliminating the need for him/her to manually rotate the heater and visually monitor each flash cure cycle to prevent over- or under-flashing.
The number of jobs a manual press is capable of printing can also be increased dramatically by adding a Pin Registration System, which enables anyone to locate positives onto the screens off-press. This allows the press operator to locate each screen of a multi-color job on press in register in only 2-1/2 minutes, enabling him/her to continue printing profitable work almost non-stop instead of shutting down for long periods to register screens on press by trial and error.
5. Train Operators
Perhaps the most important reason to keep a manual press in a shop running automatics is to train operators, specifically regarding squeegee pressures, angles and speeds relative to different garment types. Only by honing screen printing techniques manually, can operators can truly understand precisely what automatics should be programmed to replicate, dramatically reducing set-up times, make-ready and rejects. You've got to walk before you run!