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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

Print speed depends on the number of inkjet heads in the machine, so take this into account when considering a purchase. Speeds are constantly improving, but currently a water-based masked system can print a 14 x 16-inch image in under 60 seconds. You’ll also want to consider your annual film and labor costs associated with filing, finding, taping, positioning, and measuring film, because all that essentially goes away once you put a CTS system in place.

Maskless systems use light to expose the negative areas of the stencil, leaving the positive areas unexposed, to be washed out during stencil development. The units use either LED or DMD (digital micromirror device) technology; both have a maximum resolution of 2540 dpi. So, why consider a maskless unit? They really only have one consumable: the light source. With masked systems, there’s the cost of the ink or wax, but also the expense to replace the printhead, which can be thousands of dollars. Masked systems are priced far lower than maskless system, however, so it’s yet to be determined which technology will reign. I believe both platforms will see marked improvements over the next decade, and that could bring immediate and long-term return on your investment.

Table 1 Typical cost savings from CTS screen making.

Many believe the cost of adopting CTS technology is prohibitive; however, once you account for the labor and cost of generating new pieces of film, it’s easy to see the return. Even if your costs were just half of those projected in Table 1 (above), the return on investment for a $70,000 CTS system could be four years or less. And that only covers the direct cost savings. When you think about the time saved registering screens on press, the number of steps you cut out of the screen making process, and all of the hassles of working with film (let’s not even talk about the tape), you’ll see that this is one of the best investments a shop can make.

As you look at the various CTS options, which begin around $50,000, try to buy at a level you can grow into versus buying a model that only serves your current needs. You’ll appreciate the additional capacity of a more capable system as you grow.


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