A Screen Printer’s Guide to Buying Your First Automatic
When you are a start-up screen-printing shop, there are a lot of different equipment choices. Some printers are on a shoestring budget and others want the best screen-printing machines. When you are a start-up screen printing shop, there are a lot of different equipment choices. No matter where you fall on the scale, many screen 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 manual t-shirt 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: How Many Color Stations Do I Need?
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. One of the biggest misconceptions with automatic presses is that bigger is better. However, a simple, small automatic will usually give you the best return on investment (ROI).
Since customers coming into a screen print shop often do not want to pay for screen/set-up fees, many shops print a limited number of colors. Most screen printing jobs are between 1 and 3 colors, so 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 a job is beyond what you can print on your Lawson automatic press, it is worth looking at whether you are really making sufficient profit from the job given the time and effort it takes to print.
The Right Automatic Press to Increase Your Workflow
A good indication that it may be time for an automatic is that you need to add a press to handle your increased workflow. Who wouldn’t love the ability to cut production time in half while also working less to print? It is an amazing feeling to fulfill a job that used to take all weekend in an hour or two. Adding an automatic press gives you the ability to print at least 4 times faster, making production runs easier. Suddenly, those 2 color jobs with a white underbase becomes stress-free.
Having the capacity to print big screen-printing jobs allows you to take on more jobs and clients, putting money in your pocket. An automatic t-shirt press provides more opportunities for new print jobs that were never before possible. A 1,000 piece job, with a 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 in order to to get your large job out on time. However, automatic screen printing 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 in which both your manual and automatic screen printing presses can produce more for you. A Lawson’s HD-Max or Proton would pair greatly to a Mini-Trooper or Trooper automatic. Your manual press operator can get out a smaller run, while the auto screen printing press prints a larger, or multi-color, silk screen printing job. Being able to have more t-shirts coming through your conveyor dryer tunnel means you are selling more.
You can also continue to use your manual press for graphic, ASI and unique screen-printing jobs. Using a manual press for these types of jobs provides more control over the print.
Choose an Automatic Screen-Printing Press with Easy Maintenance You Can Preform Yourself
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. Having a service tech come out every time something is broken gets 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. Additionally, remember that a big factor in the life of an automatic is keeping it clean. Spending just a few minutes a day wiping down your automatic press 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 choose to work with whomever gives you the best deal and makes you the most comfortable.
Hopefully this buyer’s guide to an automatic screen-printing machine helps you to find the right press for your shop. Remember, these key points:
A.) Bigger isn't always better.
B.) Get the right amount of colors for you (not what others say).
C.) Get something simple, safe and easy to use.