Sign & Digital Graphics

November '19

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42 • November 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S Shop Talk Sign Shop Screen Printing Still in Demand B ack at the end of May, during the holiday weekend of Memorial Day, it became clear that I would not be see- ing any holiday at all. Why? Because I don't have any local competition in a viable and demanded type of sign shop work: traditional sign shop screen printing. In the last couple of years, we have been working only three full-time skilled sign makers at the shop, myself included. And of these three, I am the one who does virtually all the screen printing. Having missed a week of work for a family vacation earlier in May, I spent the rest of the month playing catch-up, and those last few days of May were not going to be time off for me. In fact, what had really stacked up and had to be dealt with ASAP was a backlog of screen-printed jobs of all kinds. Where was my competition for this work? Again, there wasn't any. Now, that situation isn't because there is no demand. In fact, we've always had a serious portion of our workload come in as screen-printed jobs. And we still do. Of course, in the big picture, flatbed printers and digital printers of all kinds have reduced the amount of work that will likely be screen printed. But, that does not mean that sign shop or flat substrate screen printing is dead, or even about to be. Actually, if the longevity and outdoor durability of a print job really matters, screen printing is hands down the winner over any type of digital printing. This especially applies to printing on pre-finished metal signs, such as pipeline signs, danger and warning signs and so forth. They need to last and do their job for years to come, and if they are screen printed, you can depend on them doing exactly that. Also, the speed and efficiency of simple one- or two-color screen-printing jobs in quantities of 50, 100 or more makes screen printing even short-life signs like corrugated plastic signs for contractors, political campaigns, or special events still practi- cal and economical to be done by screening. That weekend back in May, I found myself needing to print metal pipeline signs of different sizes, and coroplast signs for contractors, event signage for soccer season sign-ups and more. Over that extended weekend, one man, yours truly, completed about $3,000 worth of screen- printed sign work, and I still had work yet to go. Some people who are not very familiar with sign shop screen printing may think it hard to learn, inordinately messy, or just plain old fashioned. None of the above is really the case. We primarily use film positives that are just IP black vinyl applied to a clear polyester sheet, which is typically the saved clear back sheet from the rolls of capillary Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at SPECIALTY IMAGING DIGITAL GRAPHICS This is a photo of just the screen- printed jobs I was working on as I labored over one three day week- end, which wasn't a holiday for me… but the pay was pretty good.

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