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Critical Success Factors for the Screen Making Department

(May 2014) posted on Mon May 05, 2014

These five key process areas present opportunities to reduce the price of raw materials and more.

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By Mike Ruff

Work backwards in the selection process. Start with the print result you have in mind and think about the characteristics of producing a successful product at the desired production speed. Make checklists like the one in Figure 1 to help you identify the CSFs that apply to the frame you select. Do you typically do very long runs? Are registration tolerances tight? Do you reclaim screens or inventory them for periods of time to handle re-orders? These are just some of the factors that will be affected by your choice of frame.

The mistake I see most often is choosing frames based on price, not on desired results. You may decide that a lower-cost frame is best for you, or you may find that a more expensive frame provides a lower cost by reducing rejects and press downtime. Look at the frames you’re using now and see whether they positively or negatively affect the CSFs you identify.

Mesh selection is a CSF in any screen department, one of the most important decisions you can make. Unfortunately, the price of the mesh is mistaken for the cost more often than not. Take textile printing. “How much does it cost?” is the most common question a garment printer will ask their mesh salesperson. Yet if you choose the wrong mesh for the white screen because of price, you may have to do two to three print strokes to get the result you need and the production speed of all your other colors will suffer. In graphics printing, the wrong mesh will cost you color accuracy and repeatability. In industrial printing, it will probably cost you a client. So does a less expensive mesh cost any of these companies less? Not really.

One of the most knowledgeable people I know on the subject of mesh selection is Dan Gilsdorf of Sefar Americas, a member of the Academy of Screen and Digital Print Technology (ASDPT). I asked him what advice he would give someone on choosing the proper mesh, and he said “The first questions would be what product they are printing, what type of inks they are using, and other details like physical size, resolution, stretching equipment, and print quality requirement.” Notice that he didn’t ask me my price range.


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