Interview with Stephanie Ratliff - Xymox Screen Printing Supervisor
Briefly describe what the CST machine is and how it works.
CST is a high-end, direct-to-screen imaging technology that uses an LED light to expose the negative area of the stencil while leaving the positive areas unexposed. The positive area is the stencil or image we want to keep. Once the exposure process is complete then it goes through a rinse process which is using water to rinse the exposed or negative image out. After that, it goes through the air-drying process then blocking out where you don’t want inks transferring to the substrate but just only the image itself.
Why did Xymox make the switch to the CST machine?
With the CST machine, it gives us the ability to get a better line definition. It can be a slow process as far as shooting the screens depends on the layout. More importantly, the CST machine as the ability to maintain its stretch image +0.001/0.002 versus using the film where the image may have a stretch up to +0.009. Printing tolerance is +0.010, so its pretty significant from that aspect.
Although more precise, you said it can be a slow process, is it slower than the previous process of exposing film in the darkroom?
Yes, it is slower but the screen quality is considerably better, meaning we do not have to remake bad screens, as well as faster screen printing set-ups and reduced printing scrap which in turn saves time and money. However, the speed of the CST machine depends on the image size, if you have a solid image or window, ex. 4”x6”, to expose it will take up to or more than 40 minutes. Otherwise, the average run time is approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Again, it depends on the size of the image and how solid images or lines the stencil has.
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