Monday, February 24, 2020

Set-n-Go. Go where? No, go faster.

Every manufacturer of printing equipment touts a pre-registration system.  This is not one of those "do you want fries with this" kind of items.  It is a serious tool and we think that it is a necessary piece of equipment whether you are printing manually or on an automatic.  Old school printers and many do-it-yourselfers will say that this is unnecessary because they are so fast in set up, but experts disagree.  These systems have gotten so elaborate that you can purchase printers to put the art exactly on a screen so that press registration upon set up is perfect.  These high end systems would not be developed if they did not have major benefits that offset the costs.  They will cut your screen set up time on a multi-color job down to 5 minutes.

Time is money

Speed and accuracy, my friend.  Speed and accuracy.  Hypothetically, if artwork were always placed in the exact same spot.  If screens were loaded into the press in the exact same spot.  If artists registered the art to the final garment each time.  Then job set up would be so perfect that press adjustments would not happen.  Imagine the speed.
  • Little to no micro or macro adjustment of the press
  • no platen adjustment
  • no checking of the artwork location on the garment and adjusting to fit
  • straight prints all the time without hassle
Yes, some of you will say that you never do any of these things.  Seriously, we know you do.  That is why we put all of these adjustments on a press.  However, we know that all of these adjustments will cause set up for every multi-color job to be a minimum of 15 minutes.  

How does it help?

By starting back at the art department, a set of predefined art locations will cause the artwork to land on the correct location on each garment without adjusting the platen or the garment upon load.  

If the Horizon line of your artwork represents the collar of the garment, the the artist has a good starting point of knowing where to place the art.  General rule is that there is a 3" gap between the collar and the top of the art.  Also, if the Horizon line is also the top edge of the platen on the press, then you can say that all garments load so that the collar just falls off the platen.  If the artist and the printer match, then the operator only needs to load the screens a to the preset stops and the platen will not need adjustment.  This is the same for all art locations.  Preset the location of the pocket or the back print and allow the collar to always just fall off the shirt board.  This simple rule of preregistration systems saves time on every job.  No more guessing of platen location.  No testing of shirt load location.  No wondering this run will match the previous run of the same job.

How do you get the screens exposed correctly.  

Let's think through the next steps of the process.  The artwork comes from the art room with horizon lines and registration marks on each film.  The platens are fixed in location.  Now if every screen is burned using a fixture that matches a fixture on press, then set up is a breeze.  And by fixture, we do not mean a t-square.  We are looking to speed things up, not slow them down.

The screens go on a jig, the art matches the jig.  Process the screens and then load them against the jig that is on the press.  Sounds clean and simple, right?  Ok, let's slow this down and list this out.  The artwork is set against a standard registration template so that template should be affixed to the screen box.  In some systems, there are pins that the artwork sits on.  In some, the fixtures are on the exposure glass.  In ours, the template is adhered to the yellow box.  The screen seats agains the guide pins and then the art is taped on while matching the template.

Once the screen has been processed, the screen is set into the press against a guide pin bracket.  This bracket flips down so that it stays on the press but is out of the way of the operator.  Check out this video for a quick "how it's done".

Yes there will be some short term time spent on learning new steps.  However, if the press set up time drops to under 5 minutes, then the value of the system is justified.  The faster we move a job through the shop the higher the profits.