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Making the Most of Pin Registration

(May 2003) posted on Tue Jun 03, 2003

Discover how to refine each step of the prepress workflow so you can realize the benefits of pin registration.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Few things improve the overall productivity and efficiency of a screen-printing operation better than a good pin-registration system. The advantages of such systems are consistent placement of all screens on press and a dramatic reduction in press-setup time. Yet I'm amazed by the number of printers who've attempted to implement pin registration and complain that it didn't work for them.


While it is true that a poorly implemented system will slow you down more than if you used a manual system, this doesn't have to be the case. You need only pay some basic attention to the progressive stages of prepress, and any reliable pin system will perform almost flawlessly. This month, I'll touch on the essential areas of pin registration that typically cause trouble.


Progressive prepress


The first step is creating artwork within one or more software applications. Working within a standardized system is important whether you use vector images, raster images, or composites of both. Here, it means you must place artwork into digital templates. Drawing programs, such as Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand, and page-layout programs, such as Quark XPress, support template creation and application. The key is to use the same template for all jobs, carefully positioning register and printers' marks in the same locations each time.


Adjust template size based on the size of the image, but locate the final printing image within the same digital-coordinate layout. This is very important, especially if your imaging device does not prepunch the final film.


There are several ways of precisely locating your image each and every time. The two most common are to use the digital coordinates provided by the info pallet as a reference or to use the auto-centering command within a predefined picture window. Your software documentation describes the exact steps you need to take to benefit from this very precise positioning approach.


Creating uniform digital registration marks is as important as using templates. I strongly suggest that you create marks with crosshair thickness of no more than 1/2 pt, which is about 0.007 in. Very thin marks aren't popular because they're easy to overexpose and, consequently, impossible to wash out. Thick marks may wash out more easily, but make accurate film positioning very difficult. Keeping the stroke thin ensures greater image accuracy later in the process.



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