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Standardizing Separations

(October 2010) posted on Tue Sep 21, 2010

Steps a screen printer can take to standardize production to increase consistency so that time is saved and press set ups can go quickly

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By Thomas Trimingham

A conversation I had with a screen printing company owner stuck with me over the years. He said, “Newspapers are all printed using the same settings and processes. Why can’t we color separate T-shirts and get the same result every time?”

Although this might seem very obvious at first thought (we would all have to go around wearing newspaper clothing), it does bring up some background points that deserve continued consideration. If the whole process cannot be standardized due to the variables in art, shirts, and ink values, then what parts of the process can be made more consistent so that time is saved and press set ups go much faster?

Upon close inspection, there are parts of the separation process that can be standardized to a degree and particularly troublesome areas can become less of an issue or disappear altogether. Though the process will never reach the true consistency of newspaper printing, it can be possible to increase the success rate of separations and thereby increase the live production capacity of your equipment and inversely get rid of nagging downtime when separations don’t work.

The strange and somewhat maddening nature of screen printing often requires thinking out of the box when trying to develop systems that will work for a wide variety of art, printing styles, and different garments. With this alternative approach in gear, it is far easier to look at standardizing support functions and systems that surround separations first, prior to tackling the actual process itself. The reason for this is that a lot of the variables in screen printing are dictated by elements that happen before and after the actual separation is created. Pushing to control and define a standard for the outside processes first will yield enormous benefits to the attempts to control consistency on separations. A big side benefit of taking these steps is that they will also create highly profitable production and art department due to the greater productivity and consistency that will be realized overall.

To increase consistency and standardize the separation of designs, first create an inbound art checklist and prepping process. The next logical step is to control and set up standards in the ink and printing departments for inks and press settings. Once these are both done, then the final step is to create several recipes that work for quick, consistent separation processes.


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