Two Important Questions for Purchasing Direct-to-Screen Equipment

Philip Wanzong is the product manager for EXILE Technologies, a manufacturer of pre-press equipment, including thermal imagesetters and direct-to-screen devices. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 25 years, beginning as a typesetter and film stripper in the offset printing industry, and continuing on to be in involved in flexography, newspaper, and screen print. 
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If you’re shopping for direct-to-screen equipment, after you’ve surveyed what’s out there, you’ll want to ask a couple of key questions about the models you’re considering. In addition to broader considerations like technical support offered by the manufacturer and the software that drives the system, keep these two important questions in mind:

Does it support your press registration system? Most direct-to-screen units are pre-configured to support the common three-point corner system. However, there are several other registration systems in the market. You will want to be sure there is a clamping system available for the direct-to-screen equipment that supports your press. After all, the real advantage of a direct-to-screen system is labor savings on press setup. The less time spent registering a job, the more time that press is running and making money.

Is the quality good enough? Quality is a very general term, and ultimately has little to do with the resolution of the device. With direct-to-screen, ink density can be a big contributor. If the ink is not dense enough, you will lose fine detail and small halftone dots on exposure. Ask the supplier what the D-Max measurement is for the ink. Although it will vary based on the amount of ink deposit set down, it should provide 3.5 UV D-Max or better for proper exposure. Another quality factor can come from emulsion compatibility. Some types of ink will soak and spread into certain emulsions and pool up on others, creating varying dot sizes and detail. Humidity and temperature, or using a screen that hasn’t dried completely, can also cause unpredictable prints with certain ink types.