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Screen-Printing Consideration

(April 2010) posted on Tue Mar 23, 2010

It’s time to reveal the whole creative process.

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By Andy MacDougall

I’m not certain whether you get the Discovery Channel on TV, but it is extremely popular at chez MacDougall. And I have to hand it to the programmers—I love the irony of “Destroyed in Seconds” following “How It’s Made,” which has got to be my second favorite show on TV—next to hockey, of course. It never fails to amaze me, as the camera follows products getting bent, punched, flattened, formed, or baked, how they always seem to gloss over the printing part, especially when the objects are screen printed. Why is that?

Granted, we occasionally catch a glimpse of a hockey stick or a container getting a quick swipe with the ol’ squeegee, but in reality, this hidden aspect of modern, precision screen printing is one of the main reasons why it continues to be so far off of the radar amongst the public, educators, and even many industrial and graphic designers who should know better. If you ask, most of them would likely profess only a layman’s knowledge of screen printing.

“Yeah, I did that in high school. You mean silk screening? Andy Warhol and T-shirts, right?”

High-speed automatic screen presses are foreign to most of these people, including the designers and many plant engineers, even though they have existed and evolved since the 1920s, just like other things in our society: airplanes, automobiles, telephones, etc. The public, and I would guess 98% of all teachers, think screen printing still begins and ends with a Speedball kit—or for those who watch the shopping channel at 2:00 a.m., the Yudu screen-printing machine.

Advancing screen printing’s image
We can’t really blame the producers of “How It’s Made” for not showing and publicizing the automated printing, because most of the manufacturers—who rightly look upon their hard-won print skills, applications, and customized machines as proprietary—don’t want to tip off their competition. And that’s too bad for us, because if we are ever going to advance screen printing beyond a craft in the eyes of the public, the education system, and the graphics industry, or up the standards for training in art classes across North America to create job-ready workers, or make it easy for local entrepreneurs to avail themselves of this production tool, then we need screen printing front and center.


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