It’s all very well reading about the different computer-to-screen (CTS) systems on offer, but what’s it like to actually use them? Four screen printers discuss the pros and cons of their CTS systems

Tim working on the i-Image ST

When did you get the i- Image ST?
We’ve had it three years. It was the first thing we bought – we only set up three years ago. We have never done the traditional way of films and vacuum exposure boxes, we only do direct-to-screen with LED exposure here.

Why did you go the CTS route rather than the more traditional film route?
Space. It fits lovely into a corner of the room, whereas with the traditional way of doing it you need a big vacuum box and things like that.

Why did you choose the i-Image ST in particular?
We started off as an internal print shop. The owner has been in the manufacturing game for 30 years – he knew the i-Image worked and he wanted the best. Dave Roper always says that we’ve got the most efficient screen department he knows for a print shop of our size.

What are the best things about the i-Image?
The speed, and the accuracy. You can’t have a bad day on it. If you put a film on wonky, then it’s going to go on the screen wonky. With the i-Image, the image is always in the correct position. Its consistency is the main thing, and the fact that you can probably jump on and make a screen after about an hour or so of learning it. It’s quite easy.

How long does it take to make a screen?
It prints the image on the screen in around 30 seconds.

Is there anything you’d like to see in an upgrade?
No, I can’t think of anything. The service from Dave is great as well, it’s 24 hours.

What would you say to other printers thinking of getting a CTS system?
Do it!

The i-Image ST

Tim Miller, production manager at Refuel Apparel

Artie with the Spyder II

How long have you had the Spyder II?
We’ve had it for nearly two years, with it being on trial for about a year

Why did you choose it over the other models you trialled?
The other two didn’t do what they said on the tin: The Spyder does what it should be doing, it works well.

Is there anything you’d change about it?
If I could bring the unit cost down…!

Is it paying for itself though?
Yes. We’ve not measured it, but it is a self-financing project because to produce a screen the old conventional film way, you’re looking at it costing you between £1.50 to £2.00 for the film. With the Spyder, you’re looking at a screen that’s going to cost you between 17 and 18 pence, depending on how many you do. It’s a big difference.

What are the main advantages?
It saves money, it saves time, it gives consistency, it improves quality – it’s a much better way of working.

How fast is it?
I think the record is about 130 screens in one day. That was one person.

Any other benefits?
Their aftercare service is very, very good, their availability to answer questions, and their confidence to give it to us for a year to trial.

What would you say to other printers thinking of getting a CTS system?
Well, people have already bought it that have seen it here.

The Spyder II

Artie Pallari, managing director, Fanela

Mooch screen operative Ian Guest with the FreeStyler

When did you get the FreeStyler?
We’ve had it around two months now.

Why did you get it?
We do a lot of band and film T-shirts, using a lot of halftone work and a lot of 10-, 12-colour simulated process work. We’ve got the usual inkjet film system, but I didn’t feel we were getting the quality that we needed. The FreeStyler is an ideal way of dipping the toe into the water without too much investment.

How is it working out?
It’s absolutely amazing. The amount of dots that we hold now compared to what we used to – it’s probably 30% more. You get undercutting from film, with the light going under, and you lose quite a few of the dots, whereas the FreeStyler just holds everything.

Does it save time?
No. It takes around 10 minutes per screen, but I’ve been talking to Mark [Evans, of Exile Technologies] and they’re now working on another setting that will keep the quality but speed up the print process.

Are there any other advantages?
With the traditional method, you’ve got thousands and thousands of piece of films lying about, so you’re going to save on storage with this.

What would you say to other printers thinking of getting a CTS system?
If they want to do quality tonal work, simulated process work, the FreeStyler is absolutely brilliant. And the other good thing about it is it also doubles as a direct-to-garment printer. For any small to medium shop wanting to get into high end printing, I would recommend it.


Jules Nicholas, director at Mooch Transfer & Screen Printers

Jordan puts the QS200 through its paces

When did you get the Goccopro?
Six months ago: we started with the 100, then traded that in for the larger QS200 and we’ve not looked back since.

Why did you get it?
We have a DTG background and were new to screen printing: we wanted a clean environment and to use as few chemicals as possible.

How are you finding it?
It’s so quick and easy to use! You can go from design to printing in under 10 minutes, and print four or five different jobs in an hour. It’s ideal for anyone wanting to get into screen printing, unless they’re doing a lot of multicolour work. For one, two, three, four… spot colours it’s fantastic.

Is there anything you’d change?
A wider range of mesh: we use 70T and 120T and we want to print transfers, but our ink supplier has advised us that 70T mesh isn’t really coarse enough.

Would you recommend it to other print shops?
No, because then they’d have the same advantage as us!

Goccopro QS200

Nick Collinson, managing director at Bang Tidy Clothing