What to Know About Specialty Platen Options
Screen printing is one of the most versatile methods of decorating. Whether it is t-shirts, koozies, hats, or jackets, screen printers have an amazing ability to customize a variety of items for their customers. Being able to print all of these items does require some specialized platens (also called pallets). These specialty platens are easy to install and interchange on your manual or automatic screen printing machine. Here is a breakdown of the most popular specialty platens available to enable you to expand your printing options and opportunities.
Most screen printing machines come with a standard t-shirt platen that accommodates traditional adult t-shirts. For those printing a lot of child, youth or extra large sizes, a smaller, or larger, pallet might be necessary. There are general industry norms for these sizes:
- A child platen is approximately 9” wide x 21” long with the neck (18” long without the neck)
- A youth platen is approximately 11” x 21” long with the neck (18” long without the neck)
- An X-Large platen is approximately 16” x 21” long with the neck (18” long without the neck)
Printing on long sleeves is one of the most requested customized prints. To fulfill this request, you will need a speciality long sleeve platen. Often, these platens will either fit one sleeve or two sleeves at a time. The advantage of a dual sleeve platen is you instantly double production.
Another very popular silk screen request is for pocket printing. For lower volume or infrequent pocket printing, you can get a “clip on” pocket attachment. This slides over your existing platen and is secured to the platen using a thumb screen. It is best to use it on a wooden platen so the thumb screen can dig into the underside of the wood platen to be fully secured. If you are going to have higher volume or be printing pockets frequently, get a stand alone pocket platen. This will provide more longevity and allow for increased production speed.
Tag printing for private labeled t-shirts is also popular. Again, depending on volume and frequency, there are a few options. One way is to use a pocket platen and load the neck of the shirt onto the platen to create a flat and smooth printing surface. Alternatively, you can buy a speciality tag platen if you will be frequently printing t-shirt tags.
Koozies are a very popular item to screen print. They are cheap to produce and easy to print. However, it can be tricky getting a proper platen for them. This is because there is no standard shape and size of a koozie. The trick is to talk with the screen printing press manufacturer about compatibility. It is often the more rigid koozies that are harder to print, while the softer ones that lay flat when not keeping a drink cold tend to fit most platens.
Screen Printing Hat Platens (and Hat Frames)
The best hats to screen print are trucker hats. The fashion of this hat style seems to be going in and out of fashion at different times. To screen print on these, you will not only need a special hat platen, but a special hat screen printing frame. The frame looks like a normal frame on three sides, except on one side is a thin metal edge (as opposed to a thicker standard edge). As the frame comes down, this edge presses against the top side of the brim, at the bottom of the printed area.
Lawson "L" Style Cap Platen
The platen is typically bought in conjunction with the frame and enables the hat to be positioned with the printed area facing up. There are a few different styles of cap platens, the “J” style is the easiest because it features a bill locator, plate grid and side plates for easy alignment. The “L” style hat platen is more basic and you to align the hat yourself.
Hold Down Platens for Nylon Jackets, Double Lined Jackets and Mesh Jerseys
Printing on nylon jackets and other double lined items requires a speciality platen because these garments are constructed with two layers - the outer layer and the inner lining layer. To get a good screen print, you need a platen that can hold down the outer portion. Without a speciality platen this is often a problem, because pallet adhesive only secures the inner part.
To use a hold down platen, you place the garment on the platen and then lower a metal frame around the garment. This frame (or hoop) secures the outer layer so it can be screen printed safely.
These various platens are great options for expanding your screen printing capabilities beyond a “regular” t-shirt print. Providing your customer with options gives you additional sources of revenue for the same job.