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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

He also didn’t ask me what mesh count I wanted. If I ask clients what mesh they want, they often say something like “380,” and I’ll answer “a 380 what?” The mesh count, or number of threads per inch, is only part of the mesh specification. Figure 2 shows three 380 meshes with different thread diameters that give dramatically different results. A 380/34 mesh is one of the worst meshes you can choose if you’re printing process color in medium to high halftone line counts, but for very low line counts, it’s a durable choice that will work fine. Over the past few years, improvements in polyester yarn have become a big deal, enabling manufacturers to offer you thinner and stronger mesh than ever before.

Don’t cut corners on the price of your mesh. Ask yourself the same questions Dan did when choosing your mesh and talk to people you trust. A mesh that meets your CSFs can add many dollars of profit to every job you print.

You also have hundreds of choices of stencil systems. Again, do not confuse price and cost. Calculate what you actually spend per screen on film or direct emulsion and you will have a number that is not your cost—it’s your price. Your cost must take into account labor in the screen department, production time saved by choosing a correct stencil system, and more. I talked to Geoff McCue of KIWO, another member of ASDPT, about emulsion choices and he said, “The most important metric to consider is the required image resolution on the print. After that, many other factors weigh in on calculating the most cost-effective product. Do you have a high-quality coating machine? What inks are you running, how are you reclaiming the screens, what inks are you using, etc. All of these factors should be considered.”

Notice that Geoff also started with the end result: “What is the required image resolution?” Any emulsion that doesn’t produce the quality you want or causes you to slow down or stop the press should not be used even if the price is low. The CSF of choosing a stencil system is the result you get on press.


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