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Magnify Your Process to Multiply the Results

(December 2009) posted on Tue Nov 24, 2009

Using a loupe to check for errors makes for a good method of identifying flaws and making improvements in the printing process.

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By Thomas Trimingham

There is hardly a step in the screen printing process that can’t be improved after a review under magnification. That’s because looking at film, mesh, screen, emulsion, or print under magnification will make little flaws just jump out. For some reason, using a loupe is looked upon as extreme in screen printing, as if using one signified an excessively nitpicky printer. This couldn’t be further from the truth, because a printer who regularly checks processes and prints under magnification will be able to correct numerous problems that are hard to detect.

Important issues to remember when reviewing your process under magnification are: Have a clear concept of what you are looking for; know how to adjust or improve what you have; and identify what the effects will be from changes that are made. It doesn’t make sense to do a close examination of an exposed screen unless you already know what a high-quality screen should look like. Understanding what you are looking for requires some education and trouble shooting, but the rewards of learning how to manage your printing stages on a small scale will pay back in a multitude of ways. Increasing reproduction accuracy, lowering print setup costs, and smoothing out printing runs are just a few possible advantages. The attention to detail is particularly beneficial to printers who want to move up a level in printing difficulty and start to handle more difficult images, higher dpi halftones, and higher mesh-count printing.

The easiest way to start with a focused review of the printing process is to work from the beginning and then move through reproduction stages, ending at the final print. During each stage, the magnified image can be reviewed for areas to be dealt with, as well as items that work well. In some cases it will become apparent that an entire process needs to be changed and new equipment or methods are the right answer. Even if that happens, and it isn’t possible to change the equipment immediately, it is always better to know what the variables are and what is causing the trouble. Then plan for a time in the near future when it will be fixed eventually.


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