Having talked shop with quite a few people at ISS Long Beach I have detected quite a bit of wishful thinking going on out there about screens.
With some shops there seems to be a bit of a move away from Newman Roller Frames and in my opinion most of that thinking is not thorough thinking.
You can’t get rid of your retensionable screens and get rigid frames and think everything is going to be rosy. This is naive thinking at best.
You can theoretically print shirts with any screen at any tension, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be wasting enormous amounts of time and money if you are not using good screens. You don’t need 60 newtons on your screens, but if the tension is uneven or below 15 newtons you are going to start to have problems.
There are only three options regarding screens if you want to do even decent printing:
Option 1: Buy Newman Roller Frames and monitor the tension and retension as necessary. Get some training on it. It is not rocket science but you do have to know what you are doing. Get the proper tools and if you are serious you will need a restretching table from Newman.
Option 2: Buy rigid frames from a good quality manufacturer like GSF. These frames will perform as well as the Newmans probably, but only for a limited time. You must monitor tension and send them back to GSF to be retensioned. This takes discipline as particularly on the low mesh they will not rip for a long time, but they will not print worth a damn after awhile. Most people can’t stand to rip off the mesh when it still looks good. Don’t be that person. You need more screens than you need (so to speak) and you need to send them back or you are going to be a lousy printer.
Option 3: Same as Option 2 with rigid frames, but buy a good stretcher and restretch your rigid screens yourself. All that money you think you are saving not buying Newmans will partly go to buying a good (expensive) stretcher. It has to be a good stretcher or you will have a million problems with the crappy screens you will be making otherwise. Don’t buy a crappy stretcher or else you are way better off sending the screens back or better off with Newmans. GSF screens with Saati mesh and a Saati stretcher is our recommendation.
I talked to many people that did not have one of these options as a plan. I heard lots of vague ideas of moving to rigid frames without it really being thought through. Hey, it is called “screen” printing and you better have good screens or it will be called crappy printing.
So in the end what do I recommend?
Option one is the approach we have had at Mirror Image and we print fast and we win awards. This approach is a good viable approach. In past years many shops made the move to Newmans and improved their quality greatly. Don’t go backwards and go away from this idea unless you have another equally good plan. With Newmans, you can always have a set of good screens if you put a little work into it. If you have rigid frames, you may get stuck with not enough good screens to print difficult jobs and then you are screwed.
Tom uses Option 2 at his shop Motion Textile and it works as he prints fast and he does some great work. If you don’t have discipline or don’t have enough good workers or you are too busy, then go with option two and buy rigid frames and send them back to be restretched when they lose tension.