A Beginner’s Guide to Buying an Automatic Screen Printing Press
Upgrading from a manual to an automatic screen printing press is a big decision. Here are some factors to consider!
While it is an investment, upgrading to an automatic can allow you to take on bigger jobs and save you from having to turn down jobs that either can’t be handled on your manual press or can’t be accommodated while you have all hands on deck to turn out a big press run. A good automatic screen printing press also lays down a quality print for hours on end, something that might be challenging to an employee who’s been pulling the squeegee for several hours.
Ultimately, an automatic press allows you to grow your business. You can take on more large orders and turn them around faster. With less time devoted to press operation, you can focus on marketing your business and attracting new clients.
Anatol’s ROI Calculator can help illustrate the value
of switching from a manual to automatic press.
If you’re ready to shop for an automatic screen printing press, you might find yourself overwhelmed with options. As you begin to shop and narrow down your choices, there are a few main considerations to keep in mind.
First, you need to determine what press configuration you’d like. How many colors would you like to be able to print on a given run, and how many stations do you need? You likely have a good idea of the configuration you’d like based on your current printing capabilities and customer demand. As you consider color capabilities and stations, keep in mind that on certain jobs, a flash cure unit or a white underbase screen might take up a station, reducing your color capacity. If you’re able to, you might want to buy one step up from the configuration you think you need; the cost difference might be minor but a slightly larger press configuration will allow you shop to grow into your press over time. A smaller press might have you feeling like your shop has outgrown its capabilities within a few years.
Of course, another consideration that directly correlates with your press configuration is size. Your press has to fit within the floorplan of your shop, with room for your employees to operate the press and maneuver around. Measure out the footprint of the press you’re considering and add two to three feet around the press to allow for operation and maintenance. Make sure you factor in the need for any support equipment, such as an air compressor and chiller, as well as any other new equipment you might need when you upgrade your press.
Pneumatic or All-Electric?
Automatic screen printing presses have long been powered by compressed air, but the newer generation of presses has gone all-electric. You’ll have to determine whether a pneumatic or an all-electric press is right for your shop. An all-electric press can help you fit a larger press configuration into a smaller shop space because it doesn’t come with the need for an air compressor and chiller. Electric presses also bring less maintenance because you don’t have to worry about problems with the compressor or air lines interfering with operation.
From one model of automatic press to another, the special features are what largely set different machines apart. You’ll have to determine if you want an automatic with basic controls or if you prefer the precision of high-tech computerized controls. Screen clamps, off-contact controls, squeegee setup, step-back capabilities, safety features, pallet leveling systems and lubricating systems, among other things, are all features you’ll have to compare and consider as you shop.
Your focus might be on upgrading your shop with an automatic press, but you might have to upgrade additional equipment to ensure that the rest of your shop is ready for the demand of an automatic press. Is your exposure unit the right size for the larger screens most automatic presses use? Is your dryer system large enough to accommodate the increased production level? You won’t benefit from the production capabilities of an automatic press if your dryer can’t keep pace.
As you shop, you also will have to be sure that your shop will accommodate the demands of an automatic press. That might mean upgrading from the one-phase electric system that most homes and businesses have to a three-phase system. If you choose a pneumatic press, you’ll need room to run air lines and electric hookups for your compressor. When you narrow down your press options to a few finalists, you’ll want to ask what hookups you need in your shop to power the press.
When shopping for their first automatic press, many screen printers are met with sticker shock. There’s a wide price range for automatic screen printing presses, and a large press can be expensive. Fortunately, most businesses can find financing for their presses, whether it’s a loan or leasing. To determine what you can afford, figure out what monthly lease or loan payments would be and what your production and per item profit would have to be to make that worthwhile. Generally, the higher volume capabilities of an automatic press make it easy to earn the profit necessary to afford the machine.
It will take some research and shopping around to determine which automatic screen printing press is right for your shop. Your efforts and investment will be rewarded with increased production capabilities that allow you to grow your business.
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