Dye Sublimation Printing Vs Screen Printing – What’s the Difference?

The two styles of printing are markedly different. The similarities are that both are printed on substrates and both produce an image. Aside from that? Not so much.

Screen Printing

The screen-printing process uses a very labor intensive set up that you don’t have with dye sublimation printing.

I’ll walk you through the screen printing process as I know it quite intimately, since this is where I began my career in the graphics business.

Central to the screen printing process is the screen (duh, right?). The screen is still often called a silkscreen, although silk has not been used for many decades since the advent of nylon thread.

The Screen Mesh

There are many types of screen mesh, starting at around 100 threads per square inch and going up to several hundred threads per square inch. The more coarse mesh is becoming less common as it is used with oil-based enamel inks which have been replaced, by and large, with UV inks, which we run through a 220 mesh count as the ink particulates are much smaller than with the older solvent inks. MYTSHIRTKINGS

The screen mesh is typically stretched and glued to a wood or aluminum frame, or attached to expandable frames or roller frames. When stretching the mesh over a frame, we typically take the pounds per square inch (as shown on a “Newton Meter) up to 25 or 26, and let the fabric stretch out over-night.

By the time 16 to 24 hours have passed, the meter will show that the tension has dropped off to around 15 pounds per square inch, and we repeat the process, and the screens should have about the proper tension at around 20-22 lbs. per square inch tension, creating a taut screen that will deliver a good, clean print.

Once the screen is tensioned and attached to a frame, we typically use a fabric tape to tape around the edges of the frame, both inside and out. This is a semi-permanent solution to having ink leak out around the edges of the emulsion.

The Emulsion

Now the screen is ready for the photo sensitive emulsion, which is applied with a scoop coater, a variable length tray that emulsion is poured into. After applying the emulsion to the screen, we move the screen to a flat, curtained drying/storage cabinet, where it dries. Different systems of coated screen storage will dry the coated screens at different rates, but ours are usually ready to expose within a couple of hours unless we put a fan on them. mytshirtkings

Once the Screen is dry

Once the emulsion-coated screens are dry, we can now place the film on the print side of the screen, in reverse, tape it in place, and move it to a vacuum frame. The vacuum frame has a large piece of glass upon which the screen is placed, print side against the glass. A “blanket” is placed over the screen frame, and a vacuum motor engaged, and the screen is pressed tight against the glass.

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