To our seasoned printing audience, “What is a screen printer?” can essentially be answered in one sentence: “A screen printer presses ink through a mesh screen onto a substrate, except where a stencil keeps the ink from passing through.” And although that is correct, it’s not the whole picture — by a long shot. We think even an industry expert will benefit from pausing to revel in the details of this century-old printing technique.
As mentioned above, at its basic level, screen printing is a method that presses ink through a mesh screen onto a flat or round surface, except where an impermeable stencil keeps the ink from passing through. So, let’s break down the components of the actual screen printer:
The screen is made of fine mesh stretched over a frame. The mesh screen must be under tension in order to be effective. The mesh can be made of synthetic material, like nylon, and the frame can be made of various materials like aluminum or wood. And, although the screen itself is flat, a screen printer can actually print on flat and round objects.
The stencil is created in the negative image of the design, meaning the ink will transfer through the open spaces to the substrate. To create the stencil on the screen, an emulsion is applied to the entire screen. After it dries, the screen is exposed to UV-light through a film printed with the project’s design. The UV-light hardens the exposed areas of the emulsion and leaves the unexposed areas soft enough to wash away. These areas are washed, leaving exposed areas in the mesh for ink to pass through in the exact desired shape. This process is repeated for each color in the design.
Perhaps the most fascinating element of screen printing is the ink itself. While screen printing often brings to mind iconic pop art by the likes of Andy Warhol, it’s really so much more. With electrically functional or optical inks, a screen printer can actually create electrical devices on a substrate. Circuit board printing, printed electronics, medical devices, automotive components, and so much more.
Here at Diversified Printing Techniques, our screen printing machines can be utilized in the decoration of both round and flat products. With a large selection of screen printing supplies and screens, we offer printers small enough for advertising specialty work and large enough for printing control panels. With our expertise and screen printing machines, we can create screens customized to reflect your individual vision and goals for your final product. Diversified Printing Techniques has a screen printer for any project you might encounter, and we’d love to help make your vision a reality. Contact us today.