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Stretching What You Have

(May 2009) posted on Thu May 21, 2009

Making the most of your consumables is key to surviving tough times. Davis explains how to get the most mileage out of inks, emulsion, cleaning chemicals, and other supplies by optimizing screen tension.

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By Rick Davis

Film output is one area where, unless you are accustomed to maximizing the surface area of the film or reusing resi-dual pieces from larger cuts of film, you need to concentrate on making the most of what you have. Roughly 90% of my smallest images are 4 in. long or wide. These are typically left-chest prints; therefore, I keep all residual film pieces that are 4.5 in. or larger. You can also maximize film usage by placing multiple images on a single sheet (for sheet-fed printers) or area of film where you can use up all the available space.



The screenroom is another major area where you can cut costs and stretch the utility of the supplies you have on hand. Keep in mind that pennies add up into dollars. The subtleties in screenmaking can turn those pennies into many dollars.

One of the major sins garment screen printers commit is investing in retensionable screen frames only to rack them for reorders as opposed to reclaiming, retensioning, and reusing them on press—the ways the product was intended to be used in the first place! Screens that sit on shelves simply age and lose tension. Maintaining a proper retensioning program allows you to maximize the return on your original investment in these frames. Among the greatest selling points of retensionable frames in either good times or bad is the amount of savings they can bring to other areas of the process, including reduced consumption of emulsion, reclaiming chemicals, inks, and mesh. The retensionable frame’s impact on the quality of the print also is enormous.

The first saving consideration is emulsion consumption. Higher screen tension provides a coating surface with a much greater level of rigidity. The end result of this higher tension is a much thinner and consistent emulsion coating. From a productivity standpoint, the thinner emulsion coating also allows for faster exposure times, which in turn maximizes your screen-production efficiency while reducing power consumption. Setting the time and cost savings aside, you will also increase your ability to reproduce details such as fine lines, as well as your overall tonal range.


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