When you are a start-up screen printing shop, there are a lot of different equipment choices. Some people are on a shoestring budget and others want the premier screen printing equipment. No matter which category you fall into, many screens printers start out with a manual screen printing press. This makes a lot of sense given the lower-price and (often times) smaller footprint of a manual press when compared to automatic alternatives. A solid manual press, such as the Lawson HD-Max, can last a life-time. In fact, some screen printers go years before getting their first automatic printing press. While a solid manual press still has a place in your shop, it may be time to add an automatic screen printing press. This article will provide guidance on what to look for in your first automatic and how to think about incorporating automatic screen printing into your shop.
How to Choose the Right Automatic Press
You want an automatic screen printing press that is easy to operate, set up, and maintain. Something that is not intimidating and is engineered for simplicity is the best way to go. One of the biggest misconceptions with automatic screen printing presses is that bigger is better. It is the simple, small automatic that gives you the best return on investment (ROI).
Since customers coming into your screen print shop often do not want to pay for screen/set-up fees, many shops print a limited number of colors. Since most screen printing jobs are between 1 and 3 colors, it does not make sense to invest the floor space and money into a big press that won’t be fully utilized.
An easy rule of thumb when trying to decide between how many colors and stations is to get an automatic t-shirt press that covers about 80% of your jobs. These will be your go-to jobs that will bring in money to your shop. The majority of printers can effectively use a 4 color Mini-Trooper automatic press that is only 8 feet in diameter. If something falls outside of what you can print on your Lawson automatic press, it is worth looking at whether you are really making sufficient profit from the job.
Increase Your Workflow
A good indication that it may be time for an automatic is simply you need to add a press to handle your increased workflow. What at one time induced dread of having to work a weekend to get shirts to a customer by Monday, can be handled with a small automatic. Who wouldn’t love the ability to cut production time in half while also working less to print. Adding an automatic press gives you the ability to print at least 4 times faster. This makes production runs easier. Suddenly, those 2 color jobs with a white underbase becomes stress-free.
Having the capacity to print big jobs allows you to take on more jobs and clients, which puts money in your pocket. An automatic screen print machine provides more opportunities for new print jobs never before possible. A 1,000 piece job, multi-color front and back would tie up a manual press for days. Not to mention make you exhausted. If a rush job walked through your door, you would have to turn it down to get your large order out on time. However, automatic presses let you work faster, with lower labor costs. You will also reduce printer fatigue and make sure you get quality prints no matter what time of day.
Keep Your Manual Press as a Compliment to Your New Automatic Screen Printing Press
Think about ways both your manual and automatic screen printing presses can produce more for you. Lawson’s HD-Max or Proton make a great compliment to a shiny new Mini-Trooper or Trooper automatic. Your manual press operator can get out a smaller run job, while the auto press prints a larger, or multi-color, silk screen printing job. Being able to have more t-shirts coming through your conveyor dryer means you are selling more.
Graphic, ASI, or a unique screen printing job can be done on your manual press. Sometimes you need to create a jig or modify a pallet to provide a stable printing surface. Using a manual press for this provides more control over the print.
How to Perform Maintenance on an Automatic Screen Printing Press
When shopping for a press, make sure you ask about maintenance. Part of getting a simple to use press is making sure you can fix it yourself. If you have to have a service tech come out all the time, that can get expensive. By comparison, all of Lawson’s automatic screen printing presses are designed so you can fix it yourself. You can be up and running quickly, without being at someone else’s mercy.
All of Lawson’s automatics have simple, easy to perform maintenance. The biggest factor is keeping it clean. Spending just a few minutes a day wiping down your automatic press from a day’s worth of Tex-Tite spray adhesive is worth it in the long run.
Financing and Paying for an Automatic Screen Printing Press
A lot of shops make a mistake of buying an automatic that is too big. A big press can take up a large amount of capital and can drag down profits. When looking to finance or buy an automatic press, consider the amount of colors you actually use.
You do have Financing options through leasing and loan options. Check out some financing options Lawson suggests here. There are also small business loans for screen printers. Talk to your local bank and financing companies. You should always go with whomever gives you the best deal and makes you the most comfortable.