Introduction: A Look at the Commercial Screen Printing Process

About: Kitronik creates high-quality products and resources for education and makers.
We've just sent our new e-textiles cat kit to the screen printers, and were delighted when they said we could come and follow one through the process.

This is the start to finish process of our cat being printed

Step 1: The Stencil

The first stage is to make the stencil. This stencil has holes that allow paint to pass through the areas that we want to print. The completed stencil for the cat is shown in Image 1.

Step 2: Fit the Stencil

The second step is to fit the stencil to the screen printing machine. Once fitted the squeegee blade is then fitted as shown in Image 2.

Step 3: Prepare the Felt

A piece of feIt can then be presented to the back of the machine. It is first placed on a board that automatically moves across and under the stencil (Image 3).  It then rises to make a firm connection against the back of the stencil.

Once the felt is presented to the back of the stencil the machine looks like Image 4.

Step 4: Apply the Paint

The squeegee blade then passes over the stencil and forces the paint through the areas of the stencil that we want to print.  (Image 5).

Step 5: Remove the Felt

Once printed the material is automatically removed from the back of the stencil so that the pieces of felt can be removed from the machine.  (Image 6).

The cat design uses only one colour (white). If more than one colour was used in the design additional stencils would be used for each colour. The piece of felt would rotate around and be presented to each stencil in turn until all the colours have been printed.

Step 6: Drying

The next step is to dry (cure) the ink.

This is done by using a special oven.

The material is placed on a conveyor (Image 7) which passes the material through the oven (Image 8).  The oven heats the paint to a temperature that causes it to dry before coming out the other side (Image 9).

Step 7: The Completed Cat

Once the material has passed through the oven the ink will be dry and the screen printing process is complete.