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Screen-Preparation Heroes

(October 2007) posted on Tue Oct 02, 2007

Screen prep is often a thankless job. This month, Roberts addresses the importance of the screenmaking department and sets the stage for a series of columns in which he'll discuss ways to improve quality and efficiency in this critical area.

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By Gordon Roberts

Let’s take a quick look at what the screen-prep folks do. They badger the art department to get the film in time. Once they have the film, they use their loupes and thoroughly inspect the film, often returning it to the graphics professional to repair something that was overlooked, causing them to begin to get behind schedule. Then they select the screen that will be used for the job. Bear in mind that the screen had to be stretched, hardened off, and brought up to tension, and then roughed up, degreased, coated, dried, and thoroughly inspected again to ensure that it’s as close to perfect as they can possibly make it. Remember, a lot of this is happening in lighting conditions that would make the average person see double.

Next, they select the correct exposure, which they have previously calculated, taking into account the age of the exposure light source and the lack of accuracy that the UV counter on the exposure frame almost invariably has. They carefully clean the glass, knowing that the effort will greatly reduce dust pinholes, but it won’t eradicate them. Next, they lift the screen onto the glass, making sure that they don’t scratch it. They engage the vacuum frame and cross their fingers, hoping that the repairs they had to make to the rubber blanket will hold and the vacuum will draw down correctly. If it does, they have a few moments of peace while the exposure unit does its work.

This is usually the time when the screen-prep people are dragged out to the press to hear about their shoddy work and how it has caused the loss of valuable production time. They know exactly why these things happen, and often they know that there is little that they could have done to prevent the problems. They also have learned that it takes a lot more time out of their day to explain the reasons for the problems, so they apologize and go back to making screens. They wash out the screen thoroughly, vacuum off the excess water, and place the screen in a drying cabinet.


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