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How to choose the perfect manual screen printing press

Female worker printing on t-shirt in workshop

There are at least three types of manual screen printing press. Let us help you choose the one that best suits your workshop.

  • In this article:
  • Three types of manual printing presses
  • Starting out with a single-colour press
  • Printing on posters and paper: the vacuum table
  • Multi-colour screen printing: the indispensable carousel

Printing presses, also called printing stations, are an essential piece of equipment for any screenprinting workshop.
Choosing the ideal press for a particular workshop depends largely on what needs to be printed on: T-shirts, art posters, merchandising products or promotional items. Many printing presses are very versatile, making it possible to easily print on a variety of objects. However, it’s well worth looking at the subject in some detail in order to understand which one is best to choose.

First of all, printing presses can be separated into two broad groups: manual and automatic.

In this article we’ll focus on manual screen-printing presses, undoubtedly the most affordable, and also the most convenient: they take up less space, don’t require electricity (in most cases, as we’ll see), and are a great option for anyone who’s just starting out in screen printing.

Three types of manual printing presses

In reality, there’s actually a fourth option, the simplest and cheapest: to use hinge clamps.
Hinge clamps are the most basic option there is for a screen printing press, making it possible to start screen printing with a financial outlay of less than € 20.

They are incredibly simple, and we usually recommend them for schools, or for those who are looking to take their first steps into the world of screen-printing: secure them to a solid wooden board, check that they’re well aligned with respect to each other, insert the frame and tighten the wing screws (note: it can be either a wooden or iron frame, but it must have flat edges, otherwise the screws can’t be tightened properly), and you’re ready to print on T-shirts, posters (they’re very suitable for posters and paper in general) or shopping bags.
The wooden board can be positioned anywhere, on solid supports or on a table. Moving it around is very easy.

Starting out with a single-colour press

For those looking to print with more precision and more professionally, the manual, single-colour solution is the perfect entry level printing press. It’s also a perfectly suitable option for completing an already established workshop. It’s a very versatile printing press that’s suitable for printing on T-shirts, shopping bags (fabric), posters and cardboard.

CPL Fabbrika’s technical department has designed and developed the Silver StartUp. The print table is easily interchangeable, just a few simple steps and print tables of different sizes can be installed, making it possible to print on T-shirts, shopping bags and paper sheets of varying dimensions.

In addition, the height of the clamp that holds the frame in place can be adjusted: it can be raised or lowered as required to print on objects of different sizes. This printing press is very easy to use, it’s easy to accommodate and operate in the workshop, and most importantly, it’s sturdy: it’s entirely made of steel and is sufficiently weighty to remain stable during printing.

Printing on posters and paper: the vacuum table

Another type of manual screen printing press is that which is equipped with a vacuum table.
What’s it for? It’s used for paper, posters and sheets in general. The upper section of the press is similar to a standard manual printing press: the metal arms that hold the frame in place make it possible to raise and lower the frame.

The difference between this and a traditional manual press is that under the print table there’s a fan that draws in air, this helps the sheet or cardboard to remain still and adhere to the printing surface. The air is drawn through a series of micro-holes and the fan automatically switches off when the screen is lifted. This facilitates swapping the printed sheet for a new one when necessary.

This is a more advanced printing press and does, in fact, require electricity to run. It is therefore less versatile, but the benefit is that it enables quicker, more precise printing on paper, cardboard and posters.

Multi-colour screen printing: the indispensable carousel

The carousel is the go-to choice for many screen printers, especially when the workshop is starting to grow and there’s a need to produce more professional prints with greater speed.

The Silver 1.4 Spider model created by CPL Fabbrika is the evolution of the Silver Start Up printing press (made of stainless steel, versatile, sturdy and not too expensive, costing around € 1,000).

A screen printing carousel enables multi-colour printing: the simpler models just have one print table (station) and a series of arms that hold the frame in place, normally four.
Screen printing carousels are used for printing on T-shirts (and any other type of clothing), posters and bags/shopping bags.
Why do you need four screens on the same printing machine? As you know, screen printing is based on a very simple rule: one screen, one colour. If your design has two colours, you need two screens. For three colours, you need three screens, and so on.

Tip >>> when creating your design, always take into consideration the material you intend to print on: if it’s a particular colour (for example, a black T-shirt), you should plan your design in a way that uses and incorporates that colour, so you need one less frame.

Therefore, when you need to print with multiple colours, there might be an additional issue to resolve: calibrating the colours/screens. Indeed, the colours need to perfectly overlap – or adjoin – and this result can be achieved either by using an entry level single-colour press and following a particular series of steps – but which will slow the printing times down – or by using a machine that’s capable of accommodating multiple screens simultaneously.

In so doing, the item you’re printing on (T-shirt, poster, etc.) will remain on the press, while the screens rotate (hence why it’s called a carousel) to be positioned in a way that enables the printing to proceed.

  • Usually, there are two different types of carousel:
  • tabletop screen-printing carousels, which are cheaper and easy to move around (the Silver 1.4 Spider is a tabletop carousel, for example)
  • carousels with legs and wheels, which are usually heavier and are suitable for larger workshops.

In addition, there are also “modular” screen printing carousels, such as the American Vastex: with this kind of carousel you can start by purchasing just one or two arms for printing with one or two colours, then over time – as your needs change and your workshop grows – you can add further arms without needing to replace the “heart” of the carousel. This is a particularly versatile solution that allows you to make the optimum use of your budget.

Another useful tip: think carefully about the sturdiness and weight of the printing press. A printing press should be reasonably heavy, it shouldn’t move or slide around the table while printing.

  • So, to conclude, here’s a summary of the different types of manual screen printing press:
  • single-colour manual press
  • single-colour manual press with vacuum table
  • screen printing carousel for two or more colours.

On our site
you can find a wide selection of the highest quality
screen printing presses available on the market today.

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