Scott Valancy was first introduced to screen printing during his high school and college summers and very quickly fell in love with the craft. He’s been in the industry ever since, now as the COO of his own company, Tee Shirt Central. With over 30 years of experience under his belt, Scott has witnessed major changes in the way printing businesses use technology. We speak to him today about some of the most significant changes to come from the last few decades.
So how did you first get into the print industry and what do you remember about your experience?
It was right around 1984. I was in Miami and working while I was in school, just trying to make some money. I bumped into a printing company who hired me for the summer which was a great business; the owners were really great to me and gave me a lot of cool exposure. I worked there for several summers until I graduated from college and then for about 3 or 4 years after college until I launched my own company. I remember being really intrigued by how screen printing worked and found the entire process exciting — whether that was art development, or screen prep, or ink mixing — just everything it took to bring that shirt to life.
What was the equipment like in that first shop?
The equipment was more oval-based. We had a few automatics, and a bunch of manual machines, but there were really no pre-production tools... There weren't as many flash cures, there wasn't as much space for screens. [Everything] just ran rougher, but it was what produced the products of the time.
What are some of the main differences you found between printing then and now?
I found the machines were a lot more dangerous; there weren't as many safeties, so you'd have to be really careful! Aside from that, you would have to be much more skilled about how the machines would have to be set up. It wasn't until I worked with a screen print operator that I realized how much of a skill it was, and I really thought of them as technicians as well as really great printers. Although there are still really great printers around, some of the amazing pre-production and setup tools we have today has taken some of that skillset away.
Were there any pitfalls you used to fall into with the machinery of the past?
With ink mixing, today we have dispensing machines. But back in the day without those, you'd need a skilled person to mix inks and match colors. That becomes difficult when you're working with pigments from an ink company and you have to reproduce something 6 months later… you'd need an ink technician. But today, you can use a dispenser to formulate an ink and you can reproduce it over and over for years.
What do you think was the most important advancement over the last 30 years?
There are so many. I think the direct-to-screen has been revolutionary, not only as a huge timesaver and lowering overall costs, but the screen outputs are terrific in terms of quality. The ink dispensers I already mentioned is also amazing — it's definitely evolving and really benefits any screen printing facility. Also, the screen print dryers; they're just so much better today with being more insulated and more accurate. It's all come a long way!
Is there a tool from back then that you still find really useful today?
I’d actually say it’s my overall knowledge. The idea of printing doesn't change. The tools you use may change — and you have to keep up with that — but just having the in-depth knowledge of the process was really helpful. Back then, you would have to understand exactly what makes things tick. I think that's where a lot of this evolution came from: people really understood the process from more a manual angle which inspired the technology that came to help it.