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Using Prepress as a Foundation for Total Quality Management

(February 2003) posted on Mon Mar 03, 2003

Want to streamline the accuracy, efficiency, and profitability of the screen-printing process? Start by loading quality control into your prepress procedures in order to eliminate variables further downstream in production.

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By Mark A. Coudray

When the prepress department treats the whole digital prepress sequence like a control function, we can stabilize 13 key variables of print production:


1. Image alignment 2. Press setup time 3. Color development  4. Primary and secondary moiré acute 5. Trapping  6. Color shifting during the run 7. Dot gain 8. Consistency within the run  9. Ink-film thickness  10. Ink consumption  11. Total ink limit  12. Piling 13. Press speed


In order to reach the point where there is minimal operator intervention in the process, managers and planners must learn how to front-load the system for stability. Concentrating on the first 15% of the overall printing process largely neutralizes the press operator's role as a source of image quality adjustment.


This very important realization runs directly against the grain of how most press operators do their jobs. In the current state of the screen-printing industry, the majority of companies think of the press operator as the one who makes the jobs happen. The operators make all kinds of adjustments to get the image to the point where the customer is expecting it to be. The reality is that the press person should only be concentrating on image fit, ink-color density, and linear tone positioning. If prepress is handled correctly, these three functions will occur more or less automatically. As a result, we realize three benefits: printing becomes much more efficient, spoilage is reduced, and print quality increases.


Areas that we can affect


Careful attention to image construction, file preparation, film imaging, and screen imaging sets the foundation for a dramatic improvement of the overall printing experience. My approach has been to develop an equally careful understanding of each and every aspect of the production model. From this point, each type of on-press quality variation and failure is analyzed to determine if performance can be improved by changing the way prepress is handled.



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