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What is the best automatic press to buy?

Answer

It depends on what you want to print and how much work you have. However, in general you want a press that sets up fast and doesn't stop. Many folks look at the cycle time, but, unless it is only used for huge runs of simple prints, how fast the press goes is not nearly as important as how quickly you can set up jobs and how easy it is to keep them running.

These factors indicate a fast setup:

  • A solid registration system
  • Quick platen change
  • Screens held rigidly in place
  • Platens that stay level and are parallel to each other
  • Quick, easy-to-use, solid micro-registration
  • Good control of off-contact
  • Solid, repeatable adjustment system for angle and pressure of squeegees and flood bars
  • Strong, steady print stroke, even with thicker inks

For a press that won't stop, look for the following:

  • Screens that, once in register, don't move
  • A good repair record, particularly with the main drive system and computer (it’s possible to work around a print station needing repair, but not if the whole machine stops)
  • Platens that are solid and are all the same, flat and parallel and stay that way even with production use
  • Platens that can withstand normal flashing temperatures without changing

Consider that cycle speed is overrated—what matters is how many shirts can print in a shift. When setting up and taking down jobs on press and when stopped during a run, you are printing zero shirts per hour. That will bring your average shirts per hour down pretty fast.

“Bells and whistles” are also overrated. Look for a machine that runs well all day, not one that provides some esoteric information or makes some rarely needed adjustments. Consider that these are also just one more thing that can go wrong on the press.

Mirror Image Inc., Inkkitchen.com