Printing Season

What is the difference between manual and automatic printing?

Published 18 March 2020

As you are probably already well aware, in Printing Season we put mainly on silkscreen printing, as we believe it to be the best possible method of labelling clothing. Whether you order a printed t-shirt, cap or bag, you can be sure that the print will be practically indestructible. The final quality of your design does not only depend on the method itself, but also on the capabilities of the equipment that is used during the processing of your order. In our company we use the most modern automatic machines. Why automatic? This is what you will find out in today's post. So learn more about the differences between manual and automatic screen printing.

How does screen printing work?

In order to give you a good explanation of the significant differences between the two printing methods, you first need to understand how screen printing itself works. The basic element of screen printing are, as the name suggests, screens with small meshes which can create any design and then transfer it to the target material, e.g. a T-shirt or a cap. A stencil is placed on the screen and then the paint is squeezed through the mesh. In this way, excess paint is left on the stencil and the rest is applied to the material. In the case of a multi-coloured project, you need to have separate screens with a stencil through which you apply another paint of different colours. The result is a predefined pattern. This is, of course, a very simplified description, but don't worry - we are in charge of the technical details.

Screen printing is the most popular method of printing on clothing and has been used for many years for a variety of products. A print can be done not only on a T-shirt or bag, but also on posters, billboards, packaging, films, labels and other plastics. The material must be hard and durable enough so that it will not be damaged by the application of the paint. It really is a very versatile method, and thanks to its extreme durability so highly valued in many industries. Prints do not wash off and are resistant to water and detergents. With larger orders, this is a very economical method - the more, the cheaper principle works here, which you can read more about in our other post HERE.

You already know what screen printing is and what it can be used for. So learn basic differences between manual and automatic printing.

What is hand screen printing?

Let's start with manual screen printing. It is worth mentioning here that you can also make it at home. Then even nylon tights can serve you as a printing screen and you can start production of printed T-shirts at home. However, printing houses that print by hand, use manual screen printing carousels. Everything is then in the hands of the worker, who has to set each screen separately, apply the ink and manually squeeze it through the screen onto the printing material. The main disadvantage of manual printing is the rather low productivity - depending on the number of colours and complexity of the design, manual method can produce between 20 and 60 prints per hour. Another disadvantage is the physical workload of the printer, which is particularly burdensome for large projects e.j. billboards. The employee also needs to be very experienced so that prints come out equally well. Repeatability is not always possible here and individual projects may vary slightly. Hand screen printing will only work well for small runs, or for a single print on a test basis. It would take far too much time and effort to produce 1000 T-shirts.

Automatic screen printing

This is where automatic printing and fully automated machines come in. There is no need to manually setting screens, applying inks and squeezing them onto the product - it is all done by the machine. All you have to do is select the right settings on the screen, and the printer sets everything up and squeezes the ink onto the material through the press. A huge advantage, which is not possible with manual printing, is very high capacity - up to 700 units can be produced per hour. Another advantage is that it relieves the burden on the employee whose only task is to put on and take off shirts or other products and to set the printing parameters. Thanks to automatic screen printing carousels you don't have to worry about the repeatability of the print, because nothing will change during printing. Every design will look exact same, and precision is increased - you don't have to worry about that something comes out crooked.

As you can see, there are important differences between manual and automatic printing, which significantly affect the end result. Automatic printing is incomparably faster, more efficient and more convenient method, and is definitely cheaper. It is perfect for large print runs when you want precision and repeatability. In Printing Season we use this method because it is the best way to obtain the best results. So if you're planning on printing up to 5,000 T-shirts, don't worry - we can handle it.

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