To better understand how a computer-to-screen (CTS) imaging system could benefit a screen printing company, we asked Marco Zablockij, digital products manager at The M&R Companies, to answer some questions about the latest CTS technology
How long have you been working in the M&R digital department?
I started as a digital technician with M&R in 2007. Over the next 12 years, I worked with hundreds of companies installing products and training teams to best utilise our equipment.
What are the advantages of using a CTS system versus traditional film?
The main advantage is the savings of not using film, a film printer, inks, etc. One of the largest costs using film that is hard to realise is the time employees spend handling, storing, locating and simply managing film overall. That amount of time turned into pounds spent over the course of a year adds up fast. Another advantage is the I-Image’s production speed – it can make a screen faster than a standard film printer. It also has faster exposure time. Since you are not exposing through glass, the need for a vacuum is eliminated. If you have a CTS system with onboard exposure, like the I-Image STE 1, production rates improve even more due to less screen handling. A CTS system also produces a better quality stencil with higher detail than using traditional film due to no light undercutting the smaller dots.
Another benefit of an M&R CTS system extends to the production floor by utilising Tri-Sync. All M&R CTS systems have the patented Tri-Sync system built in. Using the same three screen location points as the Tri-Sync pallet assures that every screen is in the same spot when loaded into the I-Image, so each separation will image in the same position, every time. When screens are registered to the Tri-Sync pallet on press, each screen will register in the exact same spot. This dramatically reduces set-up time down to minutes, no matter how complex the job.
How should a company prepare for a new CTS system?
A proper working environment is crucial. UV light exposes coated screens, so the I-Image must be placed in a UV light-free environment. The next biggest factors are humidity and temperature. Humidity should be kept between 40%-80% with a room temperature that does not exceed 85°F (29.5°C). A shop should also plan for changes in its workflow. With traditional film, the typical production bottleneck is in the screen room. When using a CTS system, screens are imaged, developed and on press so much faster than film that the art department has a hard time producing proofed art fast enough.
How many screens can a single operator produce on a CTS system?
It depends on multiple variables, including the machine, the operator’s experience level and the shop environment. The smaller I-Image S can produce about 125 screens in an eight-hour shift. The bigger I-Image ST and STE can produce from 150 up to 450 screens a shift. Our new CTS system – the I-Image KX – can produce 500 screens in a shift with a standard 22”x31” screen size.
What is new about the I-Image KX?
The I-Image KX can image screens up to 33”x48”, and it boasts some of the fastest printing and exposure times of any CTS system available. The single, larger print head can hold fine detail up to 100lpi, and the optional UV LED bar can quickly expose a screen immediately after printing. This method saves energy and runs much cooler than other exposure methods. As with all of our CTS systems, the I-Image KX is 100% compatible with the Tri-Sync registration system. Also, our I-Images can be ordered with adapter kits to make them compatible with other press brands that do not use standard U-clamp screen holders. These CTS systems feature the fastest and most efficient screen making process – with high-detail imaging – all in one machine!