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Realities in Reclaiming

(June 2008) posted on Tue Jun 03, 2008

This final chapter in a series of columns on the screenmaking process concludes with tips on how to make screen reclaiming a smooth, efficient, and money-saving process.


By Gordon Roberts

Here we are, finally at the end of the screen-printing production line. Our trip through the stencilmaking process has brought us to the step that we love the best--screen reclamation. We have all bought a really cool, state-of-the-art machine that allows us to load a screen caked with dried-on catalyst ink onto a conveyor belt and watch it magically come out, dry and ready to be retensioned or re-exposed. The chemicals we use are wonderfully reclaimed by the waste recycler and magically turned into fresh water, which is used to fill the aquariums of tropical fish in the boss’ office. Problem solved for you, and column finished for me. Gosh, that was easy wasn’t it? Hey, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Actually, it’s not so easy. I suspect there are a few of us who still reclaim our screens the old-fashioned way. Ok, let’s get real. Most of us still use the same, basic, time-tested method who has changed little over the last 20 years. The chemicals have become more environmentally friendly and a little more effective, but the process is pretty much the same. Scrape the ink out, remove the tape, splash on the ink remover, slosh it around with a nylon brush, spray it down with water, splash on some emulsion remover and wait a while, pressure spray the broken down emulsion out of the mesh, dehaze if necessary, and then degrease, and you are finished. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

No, it’s really not that easy. I know that for most of us, this method often doesn’t yield the results that the chemistry supplier promised. It worked beautifully when the distributor visited to demonstrate the products, but it somehow never seems to work consistently once you put it into practice. The easy way out for we managers is to blame the person responsible for screen reclaiming assume that he or she is not following the correct procedure. We often decide that the inks we use are so specialized that we have to compromise, and every screen ends up being routinely dehazed, reducing screen life drastically.


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