There are a lot of options when it comes to buying a screen printing press. Before you even purchase a press, you have to consider versatility, budget, production volume, and so many other factors. One small component of screen printing presses that often gets overlooked is micro registration. Even if you’re taking micros into account, which do you go with? Are XY or XYZ micros better to have on a press? Let’s talk about why micro registration is important and the differences between XY and XYZ micros so you can make the best choice for your shop.
WHAT ARE MICROS?
Micro registration is a fancy term that isn’t all that complicated. Micros are knobs on the printhead that allow you to move a screen vertically and horizontally without loosening the screen clamp. If a screen is off by a hair, you can make the smallest adjustments with the twist of a knob. Micros make it much easier to register screens, streamlining the pre-production process.
Some presses don’t have micros on the printheads. If you’re brand new to screen printing, starting off with a press that doesn’t have micros is fine because you’re learning the craft. Once printers have honed in their skills and start doing multi-color prints, upgrading to a press with micros makes a big difference in efficiency.
Let’s say you’re setting up for a three-color job with a white underbase. Without micros, you would have to manually slide the screen back and forth across the platen until it’s lined up with the other colors. If you don’t have micro registration, this process can take a while.
HOW MICROS HELP
Some presses are equipped with XY micros. You won’t need to manually slide the screen around once you’ve got it centered and clamped down. All you need to do is turn the X or Y micro registration knobs to get your print perfectly in line. Here’s a diagram to help you out:
Before adjusting registration in the print head you must first loosen the micro lock-down levers (2). To adjust front-to-back (Y-axis) use the turnbuckle knobs on the sides of the print head assembly (1). To adjust registration side-to-side (X-axis), use the long knob on the side of the assembly (4). To get back to “zero” use the pointer on the top of the print head assembly and line up with the center of the hole (3).
But wait, there’s an option for even more precision and production speed. Let’s talk about the Z micro.
WHY DO I WANT A Z MICRO?
A Z micro raises the off-contact of individual printheads. The Z micro helps a lot when you’re switching from different substrates in the same job. Presses like the Riley Hopkins 300 come with Z micros. This addition to the XY micro may not seem like a big deal, but it can have a huge impact on your production speed.
Let’s say you have a job that calls for hoodies and T-shirts with the same design. On a press without a Z axis micro, you’d have to place shims of equal thickness on each of the “Do Not Touch” off-contact bolts. The shims will manually raise the screen up to adjust for the extra height that a hoodie has versus a T-shirt. However, if the shims aren’t the same height between print heads, your off-contact will be inconsistent. This can make your prints fall out of register, and no one likes that.
With a Z micro, all you have to do is twist the knob to raise your screens to the height you’ll need. You won’t have to worry about re-registering every screen again.
WHAT IS A TILT MICRO?
A tilt micro is not actually a micro, though it’s commonly referred to as one because it’s another way to make a small adjustment to your screen while the screen is clamped into the printhead.
Tilt micros, found on both the Riley Hopkins 250 and 300 presses, help to tilt the front of the screen (closest to the printer) upwards. This way, when you pull a squeegee the front will have as much off-contact as the back. All screens are a little different, and a tilt level will help bring each screen parallel to the platen. Tilt levers are similar to Z micros, because they both control the off-contact of the printhead. With a Z micro, though, it’s a lot easier to switch between garments without losing registration.
Micro registration makes a huge difference when it comes to on-press setup. Knowing what type of jobs you’ll be printing—both the amount of colors and the amount of prints for the job—will help you out when choosing the press with the right micro registration for your shop.