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Using Quality Control to Manage Misprints

(August 2011) posted on Tue Aug 23, 2011

If high rates of seconds are increasing your costs and creating unwanted downtime, have a look at the quality control remedies Davis discusses for each stage of the garment-printing process.


By Rick Davis

Misprints—often called seconds—are a fact of life in screen printing. They’re even experienced by large, highly automated garment-printing facilities that use standardized operating procedures. However, while many shops throughout the industry are able to maintain a misprint factor near or below 3% (typically considered the industry norm), standardized operations typically enjoy misprint rates of 1% or less.

Regardless of the misprint level you face in your shop, it is still a good idea to conduct system-wide quality-control audits to determine which areas of the operation need improvement, what the specific defects are that lead to misprints, and what required procedures are needed to eliminate those issues in the future. This month, I’ll discuss how routine quality control can improve your shop—from prepress to finishing.

Artwork
No matter how proficient your employees are or how solid your workflow is, you’re bound to encounter a job run that challenges your normal printing parameters. When you suspect that the artwork is the culprit, it is best to have the artwork reviewed by the production management for guidance. They may know the best way to engineer the artwork for a productive printing run. Although many graphic artists resist seeking additional input on their handiwork, getting a second opinion is key should there be any doubt about the art.

The ways in which art is engineered may expose issues you have in press maintenance. Can the printing equipment hold the artwork’s required registration tolerance? If you properly maintain your equipment, the press should hold registration to ±0.001 in. Facilities that know their limitations may choose to compensate for press deficiencies by modifying the artwork with traps, spreads, and gaps. Although you can engineer the artwork to bypass certain press issues, the true solution in this case is to eliminate the variable through proper press maintenance.

Facilities that have art staff who understand how the artwork is separated and then reproduced on the press are able to print the difficult graphics on a regular basis with few problems. If the people in the art department have a solid grasp of the influence of mesh counts, inks, squeegees, and substrates, they’ll be able to prepare and separate graphics specifically for the garment screen-printing process.


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