Quick Question Monday : What Is Silk Screen Tooling (Fixtures)?

We talk about Deco Tooling (sometimes referred to as Fixtures) for almost every new Silk Screening project that we undertake…you see it referenced on our quotes and it typically means that we’ll need an extra 1-2 weeks lead time to design and build for your very first decorating order, but what exactly do we mean?

The short story - deco tooling for the silk screening process references the special attachments required to hold your individual bottle, jar or closure in our decorating machines. If you can imagine, while our machines are standardized, the bottles and jars that we decorate are not. Each unique component shape requires a special ‘holder or clamp’ to ensure that the component is securely held in place as the screen and squeegee apply the inks to your component. This becomes especially important if your project involves application of several colors that we require the component to stay perfectly registered so that your art is reproduced just as you had imagined.

Deco tooling involves several components that need to be manufactured to the specific component dimensions. The number of required tools could vary from size to shape, but in general, silkscreen deco tooling involves three main components: a Nose Cone (or Nozzle), a Base Chuck (or Cup), and a Gear Chuck.

Deco Tooling for a plastic jar

The Nose Cone (or Nozzle)

The Nose Cone, or nozzle, is the piece of tooling that attaches to the neck of the bottle. This piece of tooling owes its name to its general shape: the tapered cone shape. Depending on the size and rigidity of the bottle, it may have a nozzle in the end where compressed air will flow through. While we don’t use air for every deco job, the air pressure can help keep the bottle shape rigid during ink application.

The Base Chuck (or Cup)

The Base Chuck is often used with rounded bottles or jars. Fitted to the base of the bottle being decorated, it helps keep the bottle in place while simultaneously rotating the component during the ink application process. Working in conjunction with the other tools, it secures the bottle for consistent ink application. The base chuck also feature an index or decorating lug – think of this as a small metal protrusion in the base chuck that is designed to engage a corresponding index or decorating lug on the bottom of the bottle or jar. The job of the decorating lug is to align and engage the bottle to a specific orientation; this feature is critical to ensure your art is being applied to the same location across all bottles, and it helps ensure accurate ink application for multi-pass silk screening process. For bottles or jars without this deco lug feature, multi-pass deco processes requires eye-registration – which literally means the machine operator is registering art / ink application by ‘eye’ – that’s right, they’re watching and adjusting by hand. You can imagine this is a extremely time-consuming and costly process, but sometimes required for small volume runs on specialty components.

The Gear Chuck

The Gear Chuck is located behind the base chuck and is connected by a rod that controls the rate of rotation during the decoration process. This chuck is essential to the silkscreen deco process when the bottle needs to be rotated. This piece of tooling ensures the bottle isn’t rotating too slow or too fast – which could dramatically impact the art / ink registration. The gear chuck is specific to the bottle as well as the silk screening machine in use.

Silk Screening in Action

Do I need different tools for different bottles?

In short, yes. Every bottle has different dimensions and has different features that require a specific set of deco tools to ensure proper results. When you are thinking of silk-screening your glass or plastic bottles and jars, always think of tooling as being essential initial investments you make to ensure long-term viability of the final project. Always talk to your decorating company when starting a new silk-screen project to ensure these costs are accounted for. If you have specific questions about silk-screen deco tooling, feel free to leave them below.

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