Silk screening is the process of creating prints on a wide variety of materials such as ceramic, paper, wood, glass, fabric, etc. It is better known as silk printing or serigraphy. It can be applied to flat as well as cylindrical surfaces.
Silk screening is commercially popular as it is cheap, easy, and gives high-quality print. T-shirts with silk screened prints are much in demand. This technique is quite easy to learn and many people pursue it as a hobby.
Different Types of Silk Screening Machines
Manual silk screen machines are the least expensive of all silk screening machines. The printing press of such machines are usually made of steel and are powder coated for durability.
Most manual screen machines are capable of printing on flat surfaces only. All the processes, from loading and unloading of fabric to pulling the squeegee across the screen has to be done manually.
The semi-automatic machines are less labor intensive and more productive than the manual ones. They work, to a great extent, automatically. Generally, the screens are fixed pneumatically. Some silk printing steps like, transportation of the fabric to the printing area is fully automated.
Some work like loading and unloading of the printable object has to be done manually. The semi-automatic silk screen machines run on electricity and they can be used for printing on a wide variety of materials and objects. These machines are also capable of printing multicolored prints.
As the name suggests, the entire process of silk screening, from printing to the actual operation of the machine is fully automated in an automatic silk screening machine. Such machines run on hydraulics and electric servos and they have advanced control systems.
These machines have a higher production rate and they also produce very high quality prints. These types of machines are best suited for people who want to start their own printing business.
The Silk Screening Process
Silk screening follows a simple technique. A very fine mesh of silk, nylon, or polyester is stretched on a frame. The frame is usually made of wood or aluminum. A negative design is created on the screen by using photographic methods. Holes are cut at the places where color is to be filled.
Nowadays, ultraviolet light is used to create the holes. Photosensitive screens are used for screen printing. A light-sensitive emulsion or film covers the mesh. The emulsion, when dry, jams the holes in the mesh. The film positive (of the desired image) and the mesh are sandwiched together.
The combination is then exposed to ultraviolet light. This is accomplished by using a device known as a print-down frame. Then, a jet of water cleans the screen. So any light emulsion not hardened by the ultraviolet light gets washed away. A stencil corresponding to the image supplied on the screen is formed.
The frame is pressed on the object to be printed. The ink is rolled on or sponged so that it flows to the object. The ink is filled from the lightest color first to the darkest last. Many printers use a squeegee to press the ink on the printed product. A stencil made of plastic or paper can be used as a reusable screen.
DIY enthusiasts and hobbyists prefer to own their personal silk screen printing machine. Depending on your needs and your budget, you can either buy a brand new machine or go for a pre-owned one.
You can get the required information on sale of such machines on websites, magazines, and in the classifieds in local newspapers. In fact, it would be even more economical if you build one yourself.
Silk screening is easy to do, and gives excellent results, when done well. It also requires very less equipment. Except for light-sensitive emulsions needed to make the screens, all other equipment is quite inexpensive. Silk screen printing is also an excellent idea for a starting a business.