Author Topic: Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.  (Read 1944 times)

Offline Dottonedan

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Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.
« on: December 19, 2022, 01:03:09 PM »


I posted this somewhere else but I thought it could be good here as well.



RE: General CTS information.




There has been a lot of marketing talk with the words "no consumables” on the laser LTS.  From a marketing position, that's true technically by definition. Loosely, lasers can be considered a consumable, but not in the same way of course. (We are not replacing lasers "frequently, such as every month by definition) but also technically, you use a component up, and you replace it. Technically you are doing the same thing as what we call a consumable. It just takes much longer. 4-6 years depending on how it’s used.

Ink and wax are consumables by definition...and even print heads can be considered consumables. Looking at ink, We measure an inks life span as (800 prints-1200 prints) in a liters life span? I donno the real "averages" really, but let's call that the inks “use”, till it runs out/empty, and we replace it with another. That’s the more widely known “consumable”.


To say something has no consumables…for ever, is not accurate because an item like a laser does have a life and does get used up. It's not like a nut or a bolt. To me, using the concept of "no consumables" is nothing more than a sales tool and not tangible. To really do our (due diligence), we need more information than what is marketed on the surface, so you get a better, more accurate picture for a real comparison.



Many have with the assumption that I personally have a love for I-Image and against anything else. As I mentioned in the past, I just know a lot more about the I-Image than many others because I’ve worked there and have installed them. I love the idea and results of laser. I love the them (once calibrated) with the extreme detail you can get from those. And that there means everything to me if I were purchasing.


I don’t know what the cost of wax is per bar/case, but let’s compare the cost of inks “usage/consumables” or wax for that matter…with the life span of laser.
Since we are looking at lasers (in the category of consumables) lets also look at the cost of replacing the full set of LED lights on the I-Image STElll. I am getting that cost and will update that here later.





A liter of wet ink may cost $90-&110? And with that, you may get 1000 prints from that (on average)? Not exactly, give and take print size. Doing 100 screens a day, x 20 days in a month, = 2000 screens. If a liter does 1000 screens, we can assume we have used 2 liters in a month. Let’s say that liter is $110.00 per. So that’s $220 per month. 24 liters in a year. That’s $2640 per year in ink. Let’s x that by 5 to compare time frames.

Let’s use the 5 year span (roughly) 10k hrs of the laser). Not literally of course. The life may be 4.75 years for one laser strip. Another strip might last 5.75 years. In general, we can assume that somewhere along the lines of being at the 5 year mark, we may need or should replace all lasers. The word on the street is that replacing all lasers is in the 30k+ range. Not sure if this # does or does not include the labor to do so.

Now let’s look at print head replacement cost of wet ink machines.
I’m not sure what the average cost is now for a print head. $1300-$1600? Let’s use $1450.00
The life span of a print head for wet ink can typically be 3-6 years safely speaking. Lets take the extreme case scenario of the top of the line I-Image STE lll that exposes on the machine. This would be the one that competes most with a dual screen laser.

For this machine, it uses up to 3 print heads. So that cost of $1450.00 would be x 3 ($4350.00) + labor and travel expenses. Let’s say that’s another $1500.00 so total head replacement might be $5850.00 for all three heads. That may be a low estimate depending on multiple things like air fare at the time, ect. Let’s round that off on the high end and say that the 3 head replacement might actually be closer to $6000.00 rounded off.

Being that these prints heads can last 3-6 or more years, typically, with some reports of only 1 year….and some reports of as much as 8 years, we can land somewhere in the middle and use 5 years for the comparison…but give or take. So we combine the total ink cost over 5 years ($13,200.00) with the total head replacement cost of a 3 head machine) $6000.00 and we get a rough number of $19,200.00 over the 5 years for ink and head consumables for wet ink machines. This is also “pretty close” to what it is for wax machines as well.
So if my “rough numbers” are close, it seems that wet ink and wax ink would actually have far less consumable cost than a laser.
Laser replacements after 5 years. $30k +
Vrs Wet ink and wax roughly $19,200.00 over 5 years.

Note: I’m most assuredly incorrect on exact numbers. That’s why I used vague numbers but very close non the less and the end result is that wet ink and wax ink are both far less when you actually look at it from the 5 year perspective and inevitably replacing all lasers at some point within that 5 year range.
This should obviously put a different perspective on this laser/no consumables thing being used as a marketing point with an exclamation point…But it would have came out soon enough.

To add to this, is the resale value of that Laser machine 5-6 years down the road when there is newer more efficient laser or some other technology out there that you would rather get than to replace all lasers. We must decide, do we kick out the 30K ourselves to make it sellable and how much will that resale value be? Do we sell it for much less now ...because someone will have to pay the 30+K to replace the lasers?

Still, with all of that being said, my preference between the laser, wax and wet ink would be the laser. For me, it’s not about the production, or the consumables. It’s what I would want for the best possible use of the high end detail/dots I could get from my 65 LPI halftone.

With that above, comes another small hiccup. You have to get special attention, additional work done to the basic install of a laser. As it is, with a standard install, you get a standard or “default” ability to do halftone. That’s not good enough for most sim process printers. Great for 45lpi and spot colors but not that great for high end. For high end, you have to have additional attention and adjustments to the machine that is in included in the install. The good thing is that it may not cost you extra. I’m not sure on that. If everyone is going to require the better calibrations to the machine to get better halftone results, it may cost more. They would have to hire more people just to do calibrations. Right now, I think it can be done at no additional cost….but you have to request it and it’s not immediate. You get in line. When they go through this, it’s not immediate. There are about 2-4 steps to dial it in best that can take over a week to complete. And they are limited on the people that are capable of doing that. So there's that also.

Again, I’m all for getting a laser (for me) if the owner of our shop gave me the green light. It may not be the best fit at the moment for everyone.
Artist & Sim Process separator, Co owner of The Shirt Board, Past M&R Digital tech installer for I-Image machines. Over 28 yrs in the apparel industry. Apparel sales, http://www.designsbydottone.com  e-mail art@designsbydottone.com 615-821-7850


Offline CBCB

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Re: Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2022, 08:34:55 AM »
Have heard several people say they can’t full expose a screen the first shot. Which is very interesting to me. Post-exposure is expensive.

Offline Dottonedan

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Re: Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2022, 02:38:23 PM »
Apparently, it’s similar to needing different exposure times for different mesh, I’m getting that there are different “settings” on a laser that needs to be used for each mesh maybe...and certainly for more detail. Being that I don’t have one of these, I’m only going by 2nd hand info from my separation customers and combining that with the information I’m getting from SAATI...


So far, some of my customers have had challenges doing their typical work. I have a few Laser customers that are not having any issues at all, but they also explained that they were a bit more savvy to make their adjustments on their own (with the aid of SAATI) right away. Some of these shops don’t even know that it’s their new laser machine that is causing their production problems. They may think it’s the printing on press, their mesh or the separations or the art that was provided.


For example, Doing sim process, in some cases, a customer is losing dots under as much as 20% halftones on a 305 mesh at 65lpi. This is way out of line. That’s not to say it can’t do them.  It’s just that at install, they don’t calibrate on site for anything outside the default. This default, to me seems very low quality. I don’t know if ALL installs are done with the same DEFAULT settings or if the install process is sort of “random. I would think that one default install would be the same across the board...but again, I don’t have one and have not been at an install as of yet.


They install, and use a default from the factory (this is typical for CTS machines), but I had never imagined for a laser to lack this much from a laser?  We imagine that since it’s “laser”, It’s perfect...or installed perfectly.  If you want better, you have to ask/require this additional step and get in line as there seems to be only one or two people able to do them.


Again, this is the same for Wax and Wet ink also. M&R provides saved settings done by others.  Douthit installs saved settings done by others. None of these LTS or CTS machines offers this service at install for your specific shops halftone needs.


Not every Tech knows or understands what you need on each mesh to calibrate a machine for better halftones. You get that from someone who’s been in screen printing, or the art department that knows and understands screen making and halftone screens. Techs know machines for the most part. It’s rare that you find an Install Tech that knows all of these other areas of the screen printing industry.


For M&R, the techs can now provide you with maybe as many as 10 optional saved settings that will provide a range of better halftones (better than their old 80/20 default curve) and you sort of “pick one” that you like after you test them. This testing may take 3-5 screens for a few hrs or half day of testing. But even M&R only started doing this while I was there and made them aware of the need to provide additional adjusted halftone curves. For me, at my installs, I tested and adjusted while there. But not every tech does this or knows WHY you need options. And even the ONE saved (calibrated using a densitometer) being the best case scenario...is not going to be 100% accurate for each shop).  This is the original idea as to why M&R chose NOT to offer this. It doesn’t work for every shop the same way, so why bother...and leave it up to the shop to make any halftone adjustments. But lets face it, a large portion of the industry has never truly calibrated their previous output device and have 0 knowledge of how to do that.
So ...we end up buying a 30-120k device that doesn’t really work 100% like we need it to.


One setting is not universal for wax and wet ink. Somehow, it may be the same for the laser machine.  and it’s ok, I guess that there needs to be additional work done with additional time invested. It’s industry wide. But to me, the real kicker is, they don’t tell you this up front when you are buying it.


The calibrations does seem more difficult with laser.  More like a few days/steps and testing or sending the results back to SAATI and they review and log in and adjust the machine...and you do another test...and mail th back in..and it gets fine tuned. This is probably why they don’t just install it calibrated with all levels.  Could be time consuming.


In my mind, they should do this at the factory before install, as part of the deal. Maybe they would have to add on another $1000.00 or more? It sounds like there would need to be several saved calibrations that one needs to “switch the laser power to” for each calibrated LPI and/or mesh.   They could do a 45lpi calibrated and on various mesh. Then a 55lpi, calibrated on various mesh and so on.  All done and saved on the laser machine for install.  If someone were to need it tweaked even further, to their shops specific way of printing, then that’s where the additional work would come in.


On the surface, it seems to make sense but we don’t really know all of the challenges that SAATI has to go through to do that. I’m not knocking on them. It’s sort of an inconvenient truth.
Artist & Sim Process separator, Co owner of The Shirt Board, Past M&R Digital tech installer for I-Image machines. Over 28 yrs in the apparel industry. Apparel sales, http://www.designsbydottone.com  e-mail art@designsbydottone.com 615-821-7850

Offline zanegun08

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Re: Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2022, 03:20:37 PM »
In my mind, they should do this at the factory before install, as part of the deal. Maybe they would have to add on another $1000.00 or more?

I agree with this, it's weird to me to spend such a large amount of money, they install the machine, and then go good luck!  It's the disconnect of installers not being end users and they should have more training on the overall process to better achieve their role.

They could just do it as an upsell, to schedule time with their installer and a higher level person that could help calibrate remotely with a lower level installer.

I think the nuance of printing halftones is more complex than just software can accommodate though, you have to take into account EOM, Thread Diameter, Flood Bar and Squeegee settings, pressure, squeegee sharpness, ink viscosity, and substrate it is being printed on to achieve a "perfect linearization".

Basically you can't fix an analog issue digitally as there are too many variables, however I think the MFG's could get you closer to the baseline than is currently done, and it could be an upsell.

---

On another note, I can't seem to find it anymore but there is a European company, not CST that makes a semi automated laser exposure unit that you could load up to 10 screens in, and walk away from, and it would image them and spray them out with ready to print screens at the end of the machine.   It looked like an auto reclaimer, but was an auto exposure, anyone remember who makes that?

In the same video it also had cool frames that were angled metal on the inside so that when you washed out your screen it didn't spray back in your face like a square frame does, and the water ran off it better in the wash out or reclaim process.

Couldn't seem to find it on Youtube as it's been a while since I saw it and hard to find European equipment on google / YouTube it seems.

Was a lot cooler and light years ahead of the stateside laser to screen but it was also a lot of money!

Offline CBCB

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Re: Laser To Screen and cost comparisons to think on.
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2022, 04:44:13 PM »
You’re not achieving optimal result through any computer to screen system, film wax or laser, without calibration.

With the variables involved, I can totally see why they would consider it a waste of time to do it anywhere but on site, with real production screens. So I wouldn’t knock it for that reason.