We think that our list of useful maintenance tips for screen printing shops is one of the best ways to ensure that your productivity is always high. When you take care of screen printing equipment, you'll prolong its functionality and it will serve you well for years.
We recommend getting into the habit of inspecting your squeegee regularly. For example, does it have a nick or a dull finish? If so, ink just won't transfer as smoothly and evenly as it should. If the interior of the screen gets wet due to residue from ink, it's safe to say that your current squeegee isn't getting the job done quite as it should!
There are actually quite a few variables which impact the performance of squeegees. For example, abrasion via the screen may cause a squeegee to become duller over time and decrease its capacity to shear ink from the screen. Also, you should know that chemical solvents are often harsh and that they will degrade a squeegee over time. Some inks do have solvent bases which are pretty harsh.
Replacing worn-out or damaged squeegees is important. In terms of regular maintenance at your screen printing shop, try not to use one side of a blade for more than four hours if you're utilizing an ink type which is "aggressive". Instead, make a point of rotating blades in order to prolong their effectiveness. Basically, a squeegee is like a tire on a car. So, as with tires, rotation is one of the keys to getting more life out of a squeegee. A squeegee should always be wiped clean and dry following its removal from the press and stored flat in a dry environment at room temperature.
When you get into the habit of inspecting your squeegees regularly and maintaining it as we've discussed here, you'll boost productivity and may save yourself some money, too. Proper maintenance makes almost everything last longer. While there will always be times when you need to replace a squeegee, doing the right things will mean that you will have to replace it less often.
Keep Things Clean...
Another maintenance tip that sounds simple, but is surprisingly overlooked is to keep your shop as clean as possible. Lint, debris, dirt, ink spills and fibers from t-shirts can wreak havoc if left for long periods of time and will affect your print quality. Clean up as you go along. Don't let dirt and grime accumulate. Take care of your supplies, keep a record of your inventory in a digital file and generally organize your inventory regularly. Maintaining your inventory is crucial, so make a point of keeping good records. Then, you'll know what you need to order and you'll never order more or less than is needed. The times when your shop are slow, are the perfect times for organizing things and doing maintenance on your equipment, but developing a daily routine is best practice.
Top 11 Maintenance tips:
- Following the owner's manual or manufacturers recommendations on equipment maintenance is the first thing you need to do in order to set up a maintenance schedule for all the equipment you have in your shop.
- Having vinyl or latex gloves on hand will make it easy for you to keep things clean. Another great tip is to have shop rags or old t-shirts around for cleaning. Having them in an easy to reach place will save you tons of headaches when a spill occurs.
- Have a dedicated place for all of your tool including squeegees, ink scoops, tape etc. So that they are easily accessible and you don't waste time looking for them.
- Label everything. From custom ink mixes to screens and tools. Being organized saves time and money.
- Clean, label and store screens in an easy to find manner. Storing screens alphabetically is a great system that will help you find your clients screens with ease.
- Dirty shops can equal dirty garments. If you have an area where you fold garments after printing, make sure the area is always clean. It is very easy to get ink or dirt on freshly printed shirts.
- Keep backup parts on hand so you can always keep printing. There is nothing worse than having production halt because you are waiting for a part to arrive. Keep an inventory list and update it often so you will always have spare parts on hand.
- Have a maintenance log attached to all machines or equipment with the maintenance task needed to be done. As well as a date, and name place for the person in charge to sign off on. If you are a one man shop, you will need to know how to do these things yourself. If you have a larger shop or employees, you will need to have someone in charge of these tasks.
- Some maintenance, such as cleaning the air intake blowers on dryers should be done daily to remove lint build up. It should be the operators responsibility and should be done at the beginning of every shift.
- Oil your equipment based on the manufacturers recommendations. A well oiled machine will perform better and will last longer. You can also take this time to make sure your press is level. Start with the feet and frame and move on to the platens. This will ensure you have consistent print strokes which results in perfect prints.
- Platen tape placed on the arms of your machines will help to keep your machine clean from over spray and can be easily removed and reapplied at any time.
James Perry reporting for American Screen Printing Association. Mr. Perry is the owner of T-Shirt Printing Toronto, a provider of screen printing, direct to garment printing, embroidery, vinyl printing, signs, banners & flyers. He is an ASPA member and has owned and operated a screen printing business for many years.