Ensure Successful Screen Printing with Proper Tools and Safety Part I

November 20, 2012 at 10:00 am 1 comment

Here is another installment of Kieth Stevens’ “Top 5” Series pertaining to various screen printing topics.  In this article, recently published in Impressions, Kieth addresses the use of proper screen printing tools to use for successful printing.  In our next installment, we will feature Part II of this article, which addresses some safety precautions.  Here is part I, covering proper tools:

Ensure Successful Screen Printing with Proper Tools and Safety

Learn the five must-have supplies to keep handy at your press and the top safety precautions for quality, accident-free printing.

Having the proper tools and supplies on hand is the first step in successful screen printing.

Equally important are simple safety precautions that will ensure your shop runs accident-free. In this article, I’ll provide insight on both, starting with what’s important to keep near your press workstation:

1. Pallet Adhesive: This is a pressure-sensitive adhesive designed for adhering textiles to printing pallets during the screen printing process. There are generally two types of pallet adhesives: solvent-based and water-based.

There are a couple of solvent-based adhesives available, and the first type I want to mention is the kind that comes in a spray can with two types of nozzles — a fine mist and a web type. Both are tacky and are designed to hold the garments to the pallet securely. But the web type generally is better for adhering heavier fabrics to the pallet, such as sweatshirt material. Another solvent-type adhesive is one that holds up better under the elevated heat generated by flash units. This type of adhesive withstands the higher heat without affecting the fabric.

The water-based adhesive often is sold in buckets and usually is applied using a squeeze bottle and then spread out to quickly dry on the pallet. This type is considered to be less harmful to the environment, equipment and to humans. It also may be more economical than the solvent-based spray type since a single application can be reactivated once coated with lint by dabbing it with a damp cloth.

2. Pallet Tape: Back in the day, it was necessary to clean the pallets with solvents to remove residues that had accumulated during the printing process. The build-up — mainly caused by excessive squeegee pressure, adhesive and lint from thousands of shirts — would start to degrade the print quality. Needless to say, the cleaning process would take hours and was very messy and unhealthy, due to the fumes printers were exposed to.

Today, we can use a repositionable paper called pallet tape that can be peeled away along with the build-up and tossed out.  The pallet tape protects the print pallet from ink stains and spillage and replacing it is easy.

3. Proper tools: As a former race car driver, I know the importance of “the right tool for the job.” For example, I cringe when I see adjustable wrenches being used on expensive automatic printing machines. After years of continual adjustments without using the proper tools, the nuts and bolts used to adjust levels, heights, etc. on the automatic press most surely will be rounded and will need to be replaced.

Printers often just neglect to adjust anything on the automatics because they find it too difficult to do adjustments without having the right tools. The resulting print quality will not be optimal, and the machine’s lifespan may also be shortened. Invest in the right tools for the job!

4. Tape: There are a lot of inexpensive tapes being used to block out the edges of the screen and for on-the-press pinhole repairs. But beware: When it comes to tape, you definitely get what you pay for.

Often, cheap tapes will leave a glue residue that will have to be removed before a screen can be reclaimed. This residue can get everywhere: floors, sinks, hands, etc. By saving money on a cheap roll of tape you could be losing hours in production time. My advice is to check with your supplier on which tapes they recommend and do some comparisons.

Cardboard soaking oils from plastisol ink

5. Ink Handling Tools for the Press: Printers working in a medium- to high-production shop need to use something to handle the ink in the screen as it is being consumed on long production runs. Many shops use a square piece of cardboard that can work for the short term, but I have been in shops that print jobs with more than 200,000 shirts or more and, in such conditions, cardboard definitely is not the best tool to use. Why? Because cardboard soaks up the oils in the ink and the ink’s viscosity (stiffness) can be affected. Often, the cardboard gets left in the ink container, which then contaminates the entire bucket.

I recommend using plastic spreaders instead, the kind often used in automotive body shops. These handy plastic spreaders are readily available, are soft and pliable, and won’t rip a screen or soak up anything. (These spreaders are also used to apply graphics on vehicles.) Check with your local distributor for what they offer.

Kieth Stevens is the Western regional sales manager for International Coatings. He has been teaching screen printing for more than 10 years and is a regular contributor to International Coatings’ blogs. For more information, visit iccink.com and read the company’s blog at internationalcoatingsblog.com.

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of phthalate-compliant screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers.  For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

    International Coatings:     The Intelligent Choice

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Entry filed under: General, Printing Tips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Dye Discharge Printing Tip Ensure Successful Screen Printing with Proper Tools and Safety Part II

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