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The Benefits of Screenroom Automation

(December/January 2016) posted on Tue Jan 17, 2017

There are some tasks for which a machine may truly be the best man for the job.

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By Johnny Shell

Computer-to-Screen (CTS) Imaging
Significant advancements have been made to CTS systems over the last five years and the technology is getting lots of attention. One of the immediate advantages with a CTS system is the streamlined workflow. There’s no finding, handling, or filing film; no measuring, positioning, or taping of film to the screen. (That’s right – no tape!) Registration is handled in the art department when the file is generated instead of on press. Art files are accessed (and possibly stored) on the CTS workstation, which is usually networked so that files can be sent effortlessly from the art department to the screen making area. The screen maker merely has to open the file and click “Print.” CTS technology will improve your productivity and yield, reduce waste and press downtime, and increase your quality. Plus, you’ll have some extra shop floor space because you won’t need an area to keep (or misfile) film.

CTS systems come in two flavors: masked (ink/wax) and maskless (light). Masked systems use inkjet technology to print either water-based ink or wax onto a coated screen rather than a piece of film. Their maximum resolution is 1200 dpi, which is capable of handling halftones up to 85 lines per inch. Once printed, the screen is exposed by placing it in front of an acceptable light source (such as metal halide or LED). There’s no need for glass that must be cleaned or time spent waiting for vacuum to be drawn because there isn’t a piece of film that must be sucked into close contact with the coated screen. Remember, time is money.

Most masked CTS units include a pre-registration system that place the screens at the same location inside the unit every time. As long as your art department is registering the art properly in the files, screen-to-screen registration will be nearly perfect. This leads to huge time savings during press setup. Some manufacturers have married CTS technology with onboard LED exposure, further streamlining the workflow by combining stencil imaging and exposure into one step.

CTS systems are one of the best investments a shop can make. They eliminate half of the steps in a typical film-based screen making workflow (A), even more when the CTS unit incorporates onboard screen exposure (B).

CTS systems are one of the best investments a shop can make.


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