There are some tasks for which a machine may truly be the best man for the job.
By Johnny Shell
Many small shops order pre-stretched frames from a supplier, but there’s nothing like being in control of your screens (especially the mesh tension) from the start. Manufacturers of stretching systems offer advanced options that automate virtually every step of the process. The operator programs the desired stretching parameters via touch-screen interface and can call up stored job settings whenever needed. Once the mesh is secured in the clamps, the stretcher automatically brings it to the precise tension specified in the program. Some stretchers include a perforated table with movable angular stops so that frames can be set at a specific angle to the mesh before stretching begins. On some units, tension is automatically measured in both warp and weft directions via a multifunctional head that may also include automatic gluing and LED curing. Some manufacturers offer a standalone gluing and curing system that can be added to existing stretching systems. The operator merely has to insert the frames and mesh, secure the mesh in the clamps, press “Start,” and cut the frames out at the end.
Coating machines are one of the best investments for any shop looking to automate. Their repeatability is +/- 1 micron, giving you the ability to achieve a consistent stencil thickness every time, which makes exposure calculation much more predictable and repeatable. You can produce the same stencil thickness across all mesh counts you use, further streamlining the exposure process.
Of course, realizing the full benefits of a coating machine depends on many factors, including the consistency of the mesh tension for a given mesh count and thread diameter from a specific manufacturer; emulsion viscosity and fill volume in the coating troughs; and exposure light source. If those remain consistent for a given mesh count and thread diameter, then automatic coating is a very beneficial way to automate your workflow.
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