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The Realities of Implementing Computer-to-Screen Imaging

(September 2006) posted on Sun Sep 10, 2006

Coudray reveals his own experiences with a CTS system, and how he restructured his garment-pritning business around the technology.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Fourteen years have passed since the Agfa purchase, and we're again faced with the challenge of justifying the purchase of radically new and expensive prepress equipment in order to capitalize on changing market demands. I could make a successful argument for the enabling aspect of the purchase of CTS equipment, but this time we'd be radically changing the entire way we handle information—and we would be doing it faster than ever.

The physical installation of the CTS device was no big deal. We built a new area for it adjacent to our current screenmaking area. The machine basically plugged in and was ready to go. The layout was different from our traditional screen room. Everything was closer together and much, much tighter (Figure 1). We designed the setup so one operator could image as many as 50 screens per hour (Figure 2). We achieved this level of productivity by balancing the capacities of each step of the process.

Each of our stencils takes roughly one minute to image (Figure 3). We expose stencils (30-40 sec with 5-kW metal-halide lamps and dual-cure emulsions) at the same time the next job is on the CTS system. Exposed screens go directly into a soak tank and are quickly followed with a high-pressure wash (10-15 sec). All of this works beautifully, and the equipment has consistently exceeded my expectations. We reduced the total time per finished screen from 38 minutes to less than six minutes. But that does not mean all is well.

Imaging and washout have been pretty much flawless, but other steps in the process have not been as easy to control—all of which relate to the pure digital workflow we now use. We no longer generate film, so the bulky job tickets we once used have been reduced to just the production-order information and print specifications. If we were to implement a documented digital workflow, we could eliminate this step as well.


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