Getting from computer screen to printing screen proved to be harder than it first looked.
The arguments against adopting the technology ran the gamut, and McCue thought he had foolproof responses to every one of them:
We can’t give up our film. How will we register on our presses?
Er. Why don’t you just print one color off the screen and line everything up to that print?
Oh, no. That takes too much time. Plus, the line structure is so pixelated.
OK, here’s the deal: Print the same image on the ScreenJet, and print it on your film; make the screens; print shirts with them; and try to tell the difference between the two.
Well, for that price, I could buy an automatic press. A press makes me money.
Well, wait a minute. You have to make screens to put on that press.
Yes, but that only takes a few minutes.
McCue laughs again and cites these conversations as the reason he has no hair today. “No one ever realized how long it took them to make screens,” he says. “Follow a film positive through your shop: The film came out on a roll, and you’d run over and cut it up. And then you never trusted the image header, so you had to find a light table and check that they all registered. Then you’d have to get a really big, custom envelope; write the job number on there; and take them to the screenroom. Then the screen operator takes them out – and he doesn’t trust the films, either, so he gets his light table…” You get the picture. McCue would spell it out, time and time again, on sales calls and in seminars; he even built an ROI calculator that would show, more often than not, that printers could recoup their costs in a year or less. A few in the audience would nod their heads. The rest “looked at me like I was crazy.”
A ScreenJet demonstration at a tradeshow in the early ‘90s. Courtesy of Richard Greaves.
There were early adopters: Stahls’ Transfer Express, Adidas, others. “There were pockets of people,” says McCue, “that went that way and never looked back. But it didn’t sell as quickly as I thought it would.”
Eventually, Gerber sold the patent to Lüscher Technologies, a Swiss company that was making large-format computer-to-screen systems, and stopped making the ScreenJet altogether.
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