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xTool Screen Printer Review: Laser to Print!

xTool Screen Printer Review: Laser to Print!

xTool Screen Printer Review: Laser to Print!

"Innovation" is a term I often use in my xTool laser machine reviews. xTool has done it again!

They have put in the work and made a one-of-a-kind screen printer that simplifies the screen printing process.

This article will explore, test, and review the xTool Screen Printer to help you understand how it simplifies the screen printing process, making it accessible to anyone with a laser engraver.

ProsCons
Laser engraving simplifies screen preparationEmulsion screens cost extra per unit
Enables printing on diverse materials up to 2.36" thicknessAlignment guide only for xTool D1 lasers
Special steel mesh screens are durable
Easy to set up and use
Basic kit has everything needed to begin printing
Pros and cons of xTool screen printer

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Quick takeaways from our tests.

  • The xTool Screen Printer integrates laser engraving technology to simplify and streamline the traditional screen printing preparation process.
  • The printer comes with purpose-built steel mesh screens pre-coated in emulsion. You laser engrave artwork directly onto these screens to create a stencil effect for printing.
  • EasyStretch frames allow quick mounting and drum-tight stretching of screens. This ensures crisp registration across multicolor designs.
  • Its simple layout lets you position and adjust the parts to print material up to 2.36 inches thick.
  • Great for small businesses, artists, and hobbyists wanting affordable custom apparel, posters, cards, etc., with a handmade, textured aesthetic rather than photorealistic sublimation.

Testing xTool Screen Printer: How's the print quality?

To test the xTool Screen Printer, I first created my artwork design in LightBurn and finalized it with the proper orientation.

I then imported the design into the xTool Creative Space software to configure the laser engraving settings.

In Screen Printing mode, the software optimizes speed, power, and other parameters specifically for exposing the emulsion coating.

Setting up the design on XCS for screen printing
Setting up the design on XCS for screen printing

With the emulsion screen framed up, I placed it into my 40W laser cutter and engraved the design.

I used the xTool recommended settings of 285 mm/s speed at 64% power and 22 lines/mm resolution. It took around 38 minutes to engrave a 3.5" x 3.5" logo design.

Laser engraving on the xTool screen
Laser engraving on the xTool screen

After laser engraving, I had a finished screen ready for printing.

I installed the frame onto the Screen Printer press using the quick-release clamps and alignment guides to ensure accurate registration for multilayer prints.

I carefully applied ink along the top of the screened design. Then, I smoothly pressed the ink through the open mesh using the included squeegee.

Applying ink on the screen
Applying ink on the screen

The results were quality prints with an opaque, textured aesthetic unique to screen printing. I was able to produce great prints on t-shirts, posters, wood boards, and more.

Here are my results:

Mellowpine logo printed on a T-shirt using the xTool screen printer
Mellowpine logo printed on a T-shirt using the xTool screen printer
Gradient-style single-layer multicolor print on fabric
Gradient-style single-layer multicolor print on fabric

To test multicolor printing, I created a complex three-layered design that requires accurate registration across separate screens.

Preparing a multicolor design for printing
Preparing a multicolor design for printing

The following are some multilayer prints I did. For these, I had to use three different screens, one for each color.

Design printed on some T-shirts
Design printed on some T-shirts
Multicolor design printed on MDF
Multicolor design printed on MDF

xTool Screen Printer: Hands-on Review

The traditional screen printing process has a lot of intricacies as a lot of work goes behind just preparing the screen.

You have to coat super fine mesh screens with this goopy emulsion stuff, paint where you want your design to block the ink, and do that repeatedly for each color layer.

But xTool has come up with an innovative solution to this with their new Screen Printer.

xTool Screen Printer
xTool Screen Printer

This screen printer uses steel mesh screens that come pre-coated with hardened emulsion. So you can skip that whole messy coating step.

Instead, you place the pre-coated screen into your diode or CO2 laser cutter and send the design file through laser software.

Based on your design file, the laser will engrave away the emulsion coating wherever you want the ink to pass through the screen.

Securing the screen on the frame is vital before engraving. This keeps the screen uniform and tight, allowing for clean prints without irregularities.

These emulsion-coated screens from xTool also have padding around the edges that slots right into the printer's frame. This allows you to easily install screens into the EasyStretch frame.

Then, using the six livers on the frames, you can further tighten the screen for a perfect print.

Padding along the sides used to tighten the screen printer's screen
Padding along the sides used to tighten the screen printer's screen

The high sintering temperature of the laser beam effectively melts and removes the emulsion with precision.

This simplifies the screen preparation process. We're talking hours instead of spending days.

These screens are also made of durable steel, so the laser doesn't shred them like traditional fabric screens.

The design laser engraved on xTool's screen
The design laser engraved on xTool's screen

Now, this is crucial: never engrave these emulsion screens with a fiber laser.

Fiber lasers' short wavelengths and high energy density can potentially melt or vaporize the thin steel mesh inside the emulsion screens.

This would punch holes through the screen, severely compromising its structural integrity. A damaged screen will likely warp or deform during printing.

Once the screen is ready, you must install it on the press and position the item you want to print on the work table underneath the framed screen.

Inserting the frame into the printer base
Inserting the frame into the printer base

The xTool screen printer can accommodate materials up to 2.36" thick between the press and screen. This allows you to print on diverse surfaces like shirts, trays, posters, packages, etc.

Using the adjustable hand screws on the side, lower the screen height until it just lightly touches the printing surface. Too much pressure will lead to ink bleeds.

Pressing down the screen and tightening the screw
Pressing down the screen and tightening the screw

Now, you can carefully pour ink along one edge of the framed screen. Then, press the ink through the open mesh areas onto the print surface using smooth squeegee strokes.

Pressing the ink through the engraved screen
Pressing the ink through the engraved screen

The wide clearance below the screen gives plenty of room for housing projects of varying sizes and thicknesses during printing.

The xTool Screen Printer starter kit has everything you need to start printing if you already have a laser engraver.

This includes a magnetic board, fixing pin, cutting mat, 9" x 5" squeegee, 1 8" x 0.8" ink spatula, storage box, 11.5" x 16" EasyStretch frame, three 11.5" x 16" emulsion coated screens, and the printing press.

Things inside the xTool Screen Printer kit
Things inside the xTool Screen Printer kit

They really thought of it all, so you can start printing right away.

If this sounds like your kind of tool, check it out on their website. For just $199, you get the full starter kit.

xTool offers various kit options for additional supplies like screens, frames, or ink colors. You can choose the package that best fits your needs and budget.

Inks provided with xTool screen printer
Inks provided with xTool screen printer

The higher-end kits also bundle a laser engraver machine. For example, the kit with an xTool D1 Pro laser costs around $599, while the one with an S1 laser is close to $2,000.

However, if you already own a compatible laser engraver, I'd recommend sticking with the more affordable basic or multicolor starter kits from xTool.

Opt for the multicolor kit if you want multiple screen frames ready for quick swapping during printing.

This kit provides four frames to prepare up to four different screens with various designs.

Having multiple screens prepared streamlines the process for multilayer and multicolor printing, as you won't have to stop and assemble new screens each time.

So, take stock of your existing supplies and determine the xTool components you need.

Final Thoughts: Is the xTool Screen Printer a good bet?

For regular laser machine users, the xTool Screen Printer system eliminates nearly all the tedious manual effort required in the usual screen printing process.

Currently, there are no other alternatives offering this kind of streamlined screen printing experience with laser machines.

By merging the creative landscapes of lasers and screen printing, xTool delivers an extremely versatile tool to artists, hobbyists, and small business owners.

In my opinion, the xTool Screen Printer is a good bet for laser hobbyists wanting to get into screen printing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a laser from xTool to use the xTool Screen Printer?

No, the xTool Screen Printer is compatible with any laser engraver for preparing the screens. You just need a diode or CO2 laser that is powerful enough to heat and melt the emulsion coating on the screen.

How much does the xTool Screen Printer cost?

The xTool Screen Printer kits start at an early bird price of $199 for the Basic Kit on Kickstarter. This includes the main printer system, screens, squeegees, ink, and alignment tools to start printing. Upgraded bundles go up to $2,028 for a kit with the S1 Laser engraver combo. Multiple package options are available to fit different budgets and needs.

Can I make custom emulsion screens for the xTool Screen Printer?

Yes, you can make custom emulsion screens for the xTool Screen Printer, but it's not recommended. The screens need to match the unique specifications of xTool's steel mesh design. The laser-compatible stainless steel material with edge padding ensures proper mounting and high print quality. Traditional fabric/wood screens lack these features, so they won't integrate as seamlessly.

About Unni

Hey I'm Unni. I am a laser and CNC expert at Mellowpine. You can also find me on Mellowpine Lasers YouTube channel. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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Unni

Hey I'm Unni. I am a laser and CNC expert at Mellowpine. You can also find me on Mellowpine Lasers YouTube channel. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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