Almost every facet of a manual press is as important to productivity and print quality as the next. Consider the features and functions described here when shopping for a new manual press.
Platen-plane adjustment Most manual presses do not have this feature—the presses are supposedly designed to make such adjustments unnecessary. But the truth is platen plane shifts as a press starts to wear from daily use. This may not be an issue for those who print athletic wear, because critical registration isn’t involved with those graphics, but it can have a major influence on close-tolerance graphics, such as butt-registered artwork or process-color designs.
Because most printers who attempt close-tolerance work use highly tensioned screens, any variation in platen plane can have negative effects in the form of film-thickness inconsistencies, registration shifts, and undesirable dot gain. In addition to eliminating these negatives, the adjustable platen plane also allows for increased accuracy in setting off-contact, which must be very consistent when printing close-tolerance graphics.
Frame-clamp format Rear frame clamping and side frame clamping are the two primary formats. The concern is the press’s capacity for maintaining screen stability once the frame is locked into place. The last thing any printer wants is screen movement once the press is dialed in.
Presses that are designed with rear clamp mounts work well for trapped artwork and athletic types of printing. Although you can achieve tight registration with a rear-clamp manual press, you are more likely to experience registration shifts than you would with a press that is manufactured with side clamps. Side-clamp presses allow for greater stability because the frames are fixed to the press with two clamps as opposed to just a single, rear-mount clamp.
Most rear-clamp manual presses can be modified to accept side clamps with attachments either available through the manufacturer or a third-party accessory supplier. Side-clamp presses are preferable for close-tolerance printing and allow for the additional stability needed for such applications.
Garment-loading clearance Many first-time press buyers fail to consider this important aspect of press design. Garment-loading clearance refers to the workable area you have to load the garment onto the platen. Some presses have large platen-mounting devices beneath the platens that can take up valuable space needed to allow smaller-sized garments to stretch easily onto the platen. Youth platens help, as do elongated youth platens, which allow you to load the garment away from the platen mount. When you’re looking at a potential press, consider the area underneath the platen in the context of printing of youth garments. If it appears to be an issue, ask the manufacturer for some options.
Platen construction Wood and aluminum are the most common materials used for platens on manual presses. The ideal platen is one that is very resistant to solvents and heat. Formica-topped, wooden platens work well as long as you don’t leave them under flash units for extended periods of time. Excessive heat can melt Formica and cause it to catch fire. Aluminum platens won’t melt or ignite under flash units, but they can warp over time. In either case, you would need to replace the platens—a proposition that can quickly become quite costly. Here again, you should get the opinions of other printers to see what has worked best for them in the past.
Conducting the proper research and knowing what you need in a manual garment screen-printing press can make all the difference in terms of increasing productivity, reducing waste, and growing the profitability of your facility.
A.W.T. World Trade Inc.
Anatol Equipment Manufacturing Co
Brown Mfg. Group
Lawson Screen & Digital Products Inc
Printa Systems, Inc
Ranar Mfg. Co. Inc.
Riley Hopkins Screen Printing Machinery LLC
Vastex Int’l Inc
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