As a seasoned screen printer, I’ve been through the journey of transitioning from manual to automatic printing. And let me tell you, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just like your fingerprint is unique, every screen printing business has its own distinct challenges and goals. But there are some universal lessons I’ve learned along the way that can help guide you in making an informed choice.


When I first started out, we were working with a line table setup – 24 tables in a row, a dedicated team, and a focus on water-based inks. We didn’t even have a proper dryer back then! But as our business grew, we gradually upgraded to manual presses, and eventually, we had an eight-press operation humming along.

That’s when an opportunity came knocking: a client offered us a deal on a 10-color, 12-station automatic press in exchange for printing services. It seemed like a dream come true – reduced labor costs, increased production capacity, and a chance to take our business to the next level.

screen printing factory beginning manualcolor separation

But here’s the thing – investing in an automatic press isn’t just about the machine itself. You need to consider a whole host of factors to make sure it’s the right fit for your operation. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

First and foremost, you need to take a hard look at your facility. Is there enough space to accommodate the machine and all its ancillary equipment? In our case, we had columns throughout the building that made it a real challenge to find the right spot. And don’t forget about the noise level and maintenance requirements – these can’t be overlooked.

screen printing factory beginning manual printing printing

Then there’s the matter of your order mix. What’s the typical complexity of your jobs? How many colors do you usually work with? What about the dimensions of the designs you print? A 10-color behemoth might be overkill if most of your orders only require a few hues.

And let’s talk about ink. We were primarily using plastisol inks, but if you’re working with water-based formulas, you might need to consider specialized equipment like oval printing machines. Trust me, the type of ink you use can make a big difference in the type of automatic press you need.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was the importance of having the right team in place. When we first got our automatic machine, we were lucky enough to find a skilled printer who knew how to minimize setup times and keep things running smoothly. But when personal issues started impacting his attendance, it threw a real wrench in our operations.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have a well-trained, reliable staff ready to take on the challenges of an automatic press. And don’t underestimate the value of complementary equipment – things like high-quality exposure units, screens with the proper tension, and pre-registration systems can make all the difference in getting the most out of your investment.

At the end of the day, making the leap to an automatic screen printing machine is a big decision that requires careful consideration. You need to weigh the upfront costs against the potential ROI, anticipate bottlenecks and challenges, and have a solid plan in place for how the equipment will integrate into your existing workflow.

screen printing factory beginning manual printing inside

But if you do your due diligence – evaluating your order mix, assessing your facility limitations, investing in the right complementary equipment, and building a skilled team – an automatic press can be a game-changer for your business.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but with careful planning and a willingness to adapt and learn from the challenges, automating your screen printing operation can open up a world of opportunities for growth and success.

So if you’re considering making the jump to an automatic press, take it from someone who’s been there – it’s a journey worth taking, but one that requires a clear vision, a strategic approach, and a whole lot of perseverance. But if you’re up for the challenge, the rewards can be truly transformative.

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Over the decades, I've had the privilege of printing for a range of clients, from startups to recognized brands like:

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