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Screen-Preparation Heroes

(October 2007) posted on Tue Oct 02, 2007

Screen prep is often a thankless job. This month, Roberts addresses the importance of the screenmaking department and sets the stage for a series of columns in which he'll discuss ways to improve quality and efficiency in this critical area.

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By Gordon Roberts

OK, let’s have a few minutes of respectful reflection for our comrades who have gone before us—the brave souls we have buried in the dark, dank, and yellow-lit bone yard in the back of our shops—the area we often refer to as the screen-prep area. You know who I’m talking about. They are the people who you summon to the press to yell at when the emulsion breaks down. You curse them as you climb up under the screen to fix some missed touchup, and you want to strangle them when they expose your last screen of the day backwards.

You don’t like the way they tape your screens, and they never seem to get all the ink off the frame when they reclaim. You swear that the mesh counts they are giving you are wrong. Every once in a while you borrow a tension meter, put it on a screen, and let out a triumphant “Aha!” to prove to your boss that it’s not your fault that the job won’t print. “The screen isn’t tensioned correctly. The film is not placed correctly. The screen ripped because it’s not blocked out correctly. It had better be fixed by the time I get back from break.... What’s that? You can’t quit now! Who’s going to expose screens!?” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I would like to state something for the record, and I’m willing to pound my fist onto the desk of anyone in this business who dares to disagree with me. I believe that there is no more skilled and difficult job in the print shop than screen preparation, and the people that do it deserve a lot more respect than I ever see them getting. I would hope that at least a few of them might see this article and gain some spiritual sustenance from it, but I doubt it. They don’t have time to spend relaxing between the pages of this learned magazine while they sip coffee in the break room. Most likely, they are outside grabbing a cigarette to calm their nerves and trying to figure out how they will solve the logistical problems that they consistently deal with every day.


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