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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.

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By Gordon Roberts

We convince ourselves that the manufacturer reps used super chemicals when they sold us on their products, but we ended up receiving watered-down versions. I have heard that last explanation more times than I care to remember, but I have never seen any proof to back it up. As anyone who has reclaimed screens over a long period of time can tell you, it’s very easy to leisurely reclaim four or five screens to perfection during the two or three hour period it usually takes for a demonstration. It’s very hard to do it under the pressured conditions that we find in the average production environment. To do it effectively, we have to make sure that we have the right tools and the right disciplines in place. Now that’s not so easy, is it? So let’s get started.


Rules of reclaiming

The first rule of thumb is the reclaiming process should always be kept separate from other activities that involve water, and if possible, should be located far away from the screen-prep area. Every shop should have a minimum of two washout booths—one for reclaiming and one for washing out stencils and degreasing screens. This may seem very obvious, but I still see many shops mixing the two processes. It is literally like mixing oil and water.

If you don’t have two washout booths, then you cannot produce a decent stencil. Period. Think about it. When you prep a screen for the first time, can you guarantee that the chemical residue left in your shared booth will not splash back onto the screen? How can you get your emulsion to work properly if there is even a minute amount of emulsion remover left in the mesh? You might have been able to make it work reasonably well when you first began doing this years ago in your garage, but it won’t work now. It’s really not too hard to calculate how quickly another washout booth will pay for itself when you compare the cost of chemicals and mesh today. Don’t forget to factor in all the lost production time when the screens mysteriously break down half way through a critical production run.


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