March '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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78 | PRINTWEAR M A RC H 20 1 5 Computer-to- Screen Systems THE NEW MODEL IN SCREEN MAKING B Y L O N W I N T E R S A s screen printers have adopted digital printing, it's given them insight into the possibilities of process measurement and con- trol. Digital technologies first entered the screen printing process via the computer for art and separations, replacing process cam- eras as well as hand-cut and rub-on films. Ultimately this has changed the way we make film positives. Screen printing has seen a dramatic technology shift in its prepress with the advancement and acceptability of the computer-to-screen system. CTS is the new model—the digital means of creating imagery directly on the screen, streamlin- ing workflow and improving output. As average order sizes have dropped, it has become more important than ever to work as efficiently and productively as possible, especially in prepress. TYPES There are four primary CTS systems used: thermal, inkjet, digital light processing, and laser. Thermal transfer technology uses heating elements in a print head to activate masking material, which is transferred from the ribbon to the coated screen. That being said, thermal ribbon technology has lost momentum and will most likely be unavail- able moving forward. The most widely used system, especially for our industry, is traditional inkjet, wa- ter-based ink, or wax, which is printed di- rectly onto a coated screen. Wax systems use water-soluble wax blocks. The wax blocks are heated, melted, and then jetted onto a coated screen to solidify. Because the ink or wax is water based, environmental con- ditions play a role. Temperatures and hu- midity levels need to be controlled in the imaging area. Imaging speed and resolution vary based on the selected configuration and number of nozzles or print heads. REGISTRATION AND SETUP A CTS system eliminates the need to use tape measures and T-squares to position film on the screen. Most CTS systems include a built-in registration system or one can be

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