Looking to Buy a Screen Printing Machine? Here are the Top 5 Buyer’s Mistakes

Automatic screen presses are the very backbone of any small screen printing shop.   Sure the initial investment may be a little higher than the traditional manual screen presses, but once word leaks out that you have an automatic press – many companies will be that much more inclined to reach an agreement with your company.  Getting the right printing press can make a huge difference in both the bottom line of the company and the efficiency of the company.  It pays to choose your press carefully.  Here are some of the most common mistakes when people buy them.

#1 – Do the Homework

The key factor in purchasing a screen printing machine is to understand what you will need from it.  If you are going to buy a screen printing machine and you do not have any idea of what you need that machine to do, you are going to end up costing yourself in the long run.

In terms of what you need it for consider the following things:

  • What is your budget?  Consider the cost for the labor, maintenance and the equipment – as well as the materials.
  • What is your existing type of operation and equipment?  Are you looking to upsize or are you tight on space and looking for a smaller machine that might be portable?  Is your business outgrowing your current needs?
  • How much space are you working with?  These screen printing machines come in small and large sizes.  What will fit in the space that is available to you?

Those are just a few things that need to be taken into consideration.

#2 – Invest In Training Before & After Purchasing the Screen Printing Machine

While it is true that you will be able to make money screen printing different things with your screen printing machine, making money doesn’t just start when you purchase the machine, you will need to take the time to learn how to use it properly before you will be able to make any money with it.

Therefore, you will want to invest in regular trainings on how to:

  • Install the equipment properly.
  • How to train your people to use it.
  • How to increase productivity with proper artwork preparation.
  • How to use the correct ink viscosity.
  • How to maintain the machine to keep it running smoothly

You will need to learn things like which mesh counts and inks to use in order for your equipment to operate efficiently.  There are many other aspects of it to learn as well.

#3 – Understand Your Target Market

The business of screen printing will be greatly impacted depending on your target demographics.

  • What kind of printing will my customers need?
  • How many colors will you typically use for a job?
  • Will you use specialty inks or be printing on darker materials?
  • How many items will be in a normal order with my target demographic?

Knowing the answer to these questions will determine not only the type of machine you need but also the size that will be required.

#4 – Know the Difference between Manual & Automatic Press

In general, the amount of items that you will be making in a typical order will have an impact on the type of machine that you will need.  If your orders tend to be small…say 50-100 items or less, then you might go with a manual press.  On the other hand, if you start out with a manual one without taking a typical order size into consideration then you might just be wasting that money and find yourself either lagging in production so having an automatic press would help financially.  If you want to know if you should automate, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you need to prepare yourself for a large order?  It only takes one customer to completely transform your business and an automatic press can help you with that.  It is recommended to get something in writing first before you make the initial investment.
  • Have you built a steady flow of solid business that give you 100’s or 1000’s of orders on a regular basis?

If these situations fit your business – then it’s time to purchase an automatic press.

The biggest mistake that you can make in buying a screen printing machine is not having a clear understanding of what your options are.  No matter what you need from a machine, you still need to look at things like:

  • How is the machine built?
  • Is it made from sheet metal or tubular steel?
  • How sturdy is it?
  • Will it hold up for what you need it to do?
  • Is there enough support for the components of the press such as the print stations?
  • Is it light enough that it is ergonomic and practical yet heavy enough to get the job done?

#5 – Know the Optional and Standard Features

  • Does it have an all heads down capability?  This feature will make it possible to print at all of the stations at the same time if that happens to be what you need it to do.  Is it a rotary load?  This is where there is only a single screen that is down at any given time.
  • What type of system is used for screen holding?  Does it have side or rear clamps?  Is there a choice?
  • Which registration systems are compatible?  Is it micro-registration compatible for jobs that require fine tuning?  How do the registration systems work?
  • Does the press you are looking at have an off contact that is adjustable?  With this feature the screen will only make contact with the material that is being printed as the ink is pressed through it by the squeegee.  This feature allows for the screen to pop back and allows for sharper print.
  • Is the angle of the screen something that is adjustable?  Being able to adjust the angle of the screen will allow you to compensate for frame weight as well as ensure that the screen is parallel with the printing pallet while not having an impact on the level of off contact.

If it there is any possibility at all, one of the very best ways to choose a new screen printing machine is by attending a trade show.  Doing this will allow you the opportunity to see each machine in action, do comparison shopping and even try the different models.  If you make a list of what your needs and preferences are beforehand you will be able to ask intelligent questions while you are at the show and these answers will be allow you to make a smart, informed decision in regards to purchasing your new screen printing machine.