What You Need to Know Before Getting an Automatic Screen Printing Machine

What You Need to Know Before Getting An Automatic Screen Printing Machine

Investing in an automatic screen printing machine is a big, but worthwhile investment. It is the easiest and most effective way to increase your printing capacities.

Using a manual screen printer can be limiting, especially when you are bombarded with dozens of orders from your customers. You will be overwhelmed, and your productivity will be significantly reduced. 

So, if you have been considering buying an automatic screen printing press, you might be making the right decision. 

In this article, we will be discussing why you need an automatic screen printing machine and what you need to know before getting one.

What Is An Automatic Screen Printing Machine?

A squeegee pushing black ink on an automatic screen printing machine.

Unlike a manual screen printer, an automatic screen printing machine operates an automatic press. 

It can make as many as 5000 prints in 8 hours, while a manual screen printer can only produce about 500.

Also, it ensures consistency and uniformity across your prints. 

Many screen printing businesses use the automatic screen printing machine to automate their procedures. They also benefit from the printer’s speed, consistency, reduced labor costs, and reduced wear and tear. 

What Are The Benefits Of Automatic Screen Printing Machines?

A t-shirt is on a pallet of an automatic screen printing machine and is moving between stations.

Speed and Increased Productivity

Speed is a significant reason many apparel decorating companies invest in automatic screen printing machines. They can work more in less time. So it becomes easier to handle large orders or tight deadlines. With automatic screen printing, you can perform prints faster on more garments, and as a result, you can print designs with more colors. Suppose you want to print about 600 pieces of T-shirts – both the front and back in six colors. You would need more than 16 hours to achieve that with a manual printer. However, with an automatic printer, you would need just 2.5 hours. Automatic printers can produce 400 to 800 prints per hour.


 It is not easy to produce uniform prints with manual printing machines. But, this is not so with automatic screen printers. The machine pushes/pulls the squeegee for you so that the same amount of pressure is used to apply ink to the apparel at the same angle. They offer you total control over the machine’s pressure, speed, and angle. So, every print will be identical.

Reduced Stress

Unlike the manual printer, the only activities you need to do to set up the automatic printer are to press a few buttons, set up the squeegees, ink, and screen, and load and unload the garments. You don’t have to go through the stress of pulling and pushing squeegees. As a result, you are prone to less pain or body aches. Aside from that, it also offers flexibility. Perhaps you forgot to purchase garments, or they’re coming in later than expected. You don’t have to stress about that as an automatic can still help you get orders out quickly.

Reduced Labor and Labor Costs

With automatic screen printers, the increased efficiency means you do not need to hire as many people for your printing services. Similarly, you do not have to stop printing due to one reason or the other. For example, your employee might call in sick or needs to take a leave. If you’re operating manuals only, you might need to hire a replacement to actually press the prints. But, if you’re operating an automatic and an employee can’t make it, as long as there’s someone to set up the print run and load and unload garments, you can still get prints out as you don’t need someone there pushing/pulling the squeegee.

Signs That You Need An Automatic Screen Printing Machine

A person putting tape onto a pallet of a screen printing press.

If you are experiencing any of the following, it is high time you got an automatic screen printing press: 

  • You’re getting more (new or existing) customers asking for bigger jobs with more printed garments and colors that you have to turn down. 
  • You or your employees are working too much and are on the way to burnout or start getting injuries from pushing and pulling the squeegee. 
  • You have tight deadlines you need to meet. 
  • Your manual printer cannot keep up with the designs or art you want to print. 
  • You need more time to invest in areas that can grow your business. 

What Do You Need Before You Get An Automatic Screen Printing Machine?

Man taking his gloves off in front of an automatic screen printing press.

For those of you considering getting an automatic printing machine for your business, here are a few things to consider first.


An automatic screen printing machine requires a lot of power. So, you need to make the necessary preparations for that before you decide to get one. It would be best to consider whether your building has a three-phase power supply. Else, you need to get one. You also need the service of an electrician to check if your building is capable of handling the increased power load. The press, flashers, and dryers need 220 Volts.


Despite being automated, someone needs to operate the machine. And, such a person must have the technical know-how to go about it. For example, they should know how to print wet on wet. Wet-on-wet printing saves printers a lot of time since they do not have to flash between printed colors. Time savings result in more prints, which result in getting a return on your investment into the automatic machine quicker.

Of course, as with manual printing, screen printers need to know about the screen’s mesh, mesh counts, and screen tension. They also have to be comfortable with the pre-registration of screens as that’s how you ensure a perfectly placed print on the automatic. 

Enough Space

You should also have a large enough environment where the machine will be placed. When considering this, you should remember the other equipment used alongside the machine, such as your screens, exposure units, washout booths, etc. Larger screens, exposure units, and dryers would require more space. Consider drawing floor plans to see where your equipment might go.


Automatic presses are pneumatic, so you need to install airlines in your shop. You can either install them on your ceiling or your floor. Other tools you need include an air compressor, chiller, air hose, fittings, and valve. If you don’t know how to set it up, you can ask a professional for help.

Established Customer Base

You must already be lined up with customers and large orders before you consider getting an automatic printing machine. That way, you can get good returns on your investment, and keep a steady cash flow.

How Much Does An Automatic Screen Printing Machine Cost and How Do I Achieve ROI?

Person wiping blue ink off of an automatic screen printing press.

Automatic screen printing machines can get pretty expensive compared to manual presses. It costs about $35k to purchase a new entry-level machine. Or, you can get used ones from as low as $11k to about $30k. However, that is not the only cost involved. 

Other hidden costs include freight, setup, spare parts, training, bigger screens (to fit into the automatic press), bigger exposure units (to fit the bigger screens), bigger flash units, materials needed for the airlines fitting, and the costs of hiring an electrician for hardwiring. 

To get the best ROI, your company must be receiving large orders that cannot be completed by hand so that the presses are continuously printing and there are fewer setup or teardown times. So, the larger the quantity to be printed, the better the ROI you will be getting. Additionally, some jobs with multi-layered garments that require longer loading and unloading time have a lower ROI on the automatic press, and would be best suited for the manual. 

For example, let’s consider the revenue generated from two different scenarios:

Scenario 1: You are printing two colors on 400 T-shirts

  • Time taken: 1 hour (9 seconds per shirt)
  • Price per t-shirt: $15
  • Total revenue from 400 t-shirts: $6000
  • Revenue generated per hour: $6000

Scenario 2: You are printing two colors on 400 jackets.

  • Time taken: 2 hours (18 seconds per jacket – the extra time is needed to load and unload the jackets)
  • Price per jacket: $20 (priced $5 higher than the t-shirts) 
  • Total revenue from 400 jackets: $8000
  • Revenue generated per hour: $4000

Even if you price the jacket $5 higher, you will still generate more revenue per hour from printing the T-shirts because you can print more of them quicker due to quicker loading and unloading.

What To Look For In An Automatic Press

An automatic screen printing machine that's not in use.

Amount of print heads/colors needed

You should choose a model that meets your color requirements and offers enough screens. First, look at your typical orders and the number of colors to decide how many print heads or colors you need. Also, consider purchasing machines with extra heads if you want to mount flashers and dryers. The presses usually start at 8/6, that is, eight stations and six heads, and can go up to 52/48.

New vs. Used Presses

Buying a new press can be costly, but it has a lot of benefits. The equipment usually works a lot better than a used one, and you don’t have to bother about replacing the parts shortly after buying it. Also, they come with warranties. So, if a part breaks, you can have it replaced without stress. However, used equipment is usually less expensive but might be without warranty and require repairs. Be sure to factor that into your calculations!

Features of the individual machine

Finally, you should consider the features of the machine and how it is relevant to your business. Do you need a touchscreen display? What are the pallet sizes and print area? Do you want a self-diagnostics system? Motion sensors? Or do you want an electric (non-pneumatic) press? (Currently, the only one that exists is Anatol VOLT.) Ensure that you prioritize your business’s needs and what you can afford.

You Still Need The Manual Press

A person holding a squeegee that's dripping red ink onto a screen.

As important as an automatic screen printing machine is, the benefits do not eliminate the need for a manual press. Manual presses can be more cost-effective to operate when handling smaller orders. Using a large automatic press for small orders like 50 to 100 prints is not cost-effective.

In addition, certain types of jobs do better on the manual. For example, orders that can’t be loaded and unloaded quickly and need a clamp to hold them down like jackets, or printing on long sleeves, require a manual press. 

Also, for atypical prints like umbrellas and hats, using a manual press means you can easily adjust the length and pressure of the stroke to accommodate the zippers, seams, or umbrella frames.

In short, an automatic press is an amazing and recommended investment to increase productivity and grow your business, but don’t throw your manual press away! You’ll definitely still need it.