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Sorting Out Squeegee Sharpeners

(December 2013) posted on Wed Dec 18, 2013

Use this tool to restore the squeegee blade’s edge, so your squeegee can be brought back to action.


By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

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Squeegee cutters are generally more expensive than belt and wheel systems, but the performance they’re designed to deliver can offset the price. Operator experience weighs heavily on the edge quality produced by a grinding machine, but the level of quality a cutting system can generate depends largely on maintenance. Knives, whether fixed or rotating, must be in perfect shape in order to work as expected.

Functionality
Squeegee sharpeners are available with analog and digital controls, as well as manually and automatically actuated components. Some units combine manual and automatic processes and functions. A basic machine may simply have an on/off switch and mechanical clamps, while a more advanced unit may offer digital controls, programmable cycles, user-defined material removal, pneumatic clamps, and more.

Digital input allows the user to program the sharpener’s operating functions: number of passes, cutting depth per pass, and cutting speed are some examples of parameters that may be accessible. Digital controls and readouts are often most useful to those who want to cut away a precise amount of material on each pass and not have to rely on a dial indicator.

Clamping systems eliminate some of the operator intervention in the squeegee-sharpening process. On the mechanical side, you might find levers or knobs as access points to the clamping mechanisms. Pneumatic systems are pretty much hands-off, and Landesman says he finds them to be quicker and more consistent. Regardless of which type you deem most compatible with your needs, the clamps must never squeeze the squeegee blades.

Angle adjustment is another consideration. If all you’ll ever need is a square edge, then you can probably live without it. Even though a square edge is suitable—if not preferable—for many screen-printing jobs, the need may arise for a different profile. As noted earlier, diamond wheels can shape various blade profiles as they grind. But some sharpeners come standard with angle adjustment. This function allows the operator to adjust the squeegee’s position in such a way that the sharpener can produce single and double bevels at virtually any angle.

How little material can the machine remove, and how accurately can the unit remove it? These questions are addressed by a system’s minimum cutting depth and blade-height tolerance. Wheel and belt sharpeners offer minimum cutting depths measured in the thousandths and hundredths of inches, respectively. Knife units support minimum cutting depths measured in tenths of an inch. Blade-height tolerance refers to variations that may occur from end to end on the squeegee blade.

Other specs to keep in mind are maximum squeegee length and cutting speed, both of which should be selected to match the applications you normally handle. If possible, leave some room for growth. Machines on the market can accommodate squeegee sizes for use in printing garments, graphics, industrial jobs, and more.


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