ECI Screenprint's world is populated by technical schematics, precision machinery, and demanding applications. But as you'll discover, it's the human element that ultimately allows this industrial-printing specialist to grow and explore new technologies.
“We have standard flatbed screen-printing equipment. The only difference is we’ve tightened the tolerances. We’ve got heavy duty vacuum beds on them, pin registration, screen registration, so we go from screenmaking where screens are exposed and registered right to the press with very little setup adjustment,” Cook says.
Some pieces of equipment are designed with ECI’s input and custom-made to ECI’s specifications. One example is a large-format, high-speed, precision laser cutter that features video/optical registration and reads fiducial targets with a tolerance of ±0.002 in. (Figure 1). ECI uses the system in the processing of membrane-switch materials—rubber, Mylar, pressure-sensitive adhesives, and Lexan, for example—and related parts, such as gaskets, shims, insulators, and shields.
Digital imaging also is a part of ECI’s services. The company uses a Mimaki UJF-605CII flatbed inkjet printer for prototyping, short runs of labels and graphic overlays, and other projects. It prints a flexible ink from 3M that’s formulated for membrane switches and industrial graphics. Cook says ECI puts the Mimaki to use every day and is honing what he describes as the crossover point from screen to digital.
“There is a definite crossover,” he explains. “There are times when it’s surprising how efficient screen printing is compared to digital. The digital press speed is much slower than screen printing, but you can lay down more colors at once. We find our best solutions for digital involve a lot of multicolor work. A two- or three-color product usually wins out in screen printing. As soon as we hit 200 pieces, it outperforms digital. Digital, on the other hand, really excels at lower volumes because you have less make-ready and setup.”
ECI takes certain jobs to its screen presses, regardless of run size. The company is UL-recognized and is listed for a variety of components. Cook says orders that come in with UL requirements are always screen printed due to strict performance needs and substrate conformance used in the UL-recognized portfolio.
The shop floor is organized in a modular configuration. ECI’s staff, which includes approximately 20 people, moves particular pieces of production and finishing equipment as needed to maximize the efficiency when working on a job. Machines also can be arranged in such a way that enables one skilled operator to manage the entire production process.
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