Small shops can get into big trouble when they neglect to test their supplies and document procedures. Use this overview to avoid potential pitfalls.
By Rick Davis
Squeegee selection is a variable in the garment-screen-printing process to which few printers give enough thought (for more details about squeegees, consult Tips for Squeegee Selection on p. 31 of this edition of Screen Printing). The truth is that many reordered multicolor prints suffer from fluctuations in quality because shops fail to document the squeegee-related parameters they use during a given production run. Keeping thorough, accurate records in this area enhances quality and productivity.
Here again, as with my mesh counts, I prefer to minimize my squeegee selection as much as possible in order to reduce the number of potential variables within my own facility. This is even more prevalent for smaller shops that have a few employees, where a different printer might handle a multicolor order without knowing the operating parameters followed during the initial production run. You should always document squeegee parameters, regardless of whether you use two or six different squeegee durometers in your facility.
While I’m on the subject, the different squeegee durometers available will baffle a rookie coming into the business and can confuse even seasoned printers who are starting their own shops. As a basic overview, you can select from single-durometer squeegees, such as 60, 70, 80, 90; dual-durometer squeegees—60/90 and 70/90, for example—and triple-durometer squeegees in configurations such as 60/90/60 and 70/90/70.
My preference from the standpoint of quality is the triple-durometer squeegee, but most small shops typically opt to use the standard, single-durometer squeegees in the name of cost, as they are the cheapest of those offered. I believe that you generally need only two different squeegee durometers to execute 90% percent of your applications without excessive effort.
I would suggest a 70-durometer squeegee for printing heavier ink films on darker shades and an 80-durometer for thinner ink-film thicknesses applied to lighter background colors. Again, even if you only have two different squeegee durometers in use at your shop, that does not relieve you of the responsibility to document which squeegees you used for any one particular job. You also need to make careful note of other parameters related to your squeegees. They include squeegee pressure, speed, angle, and radial edge (if any).
Small shops and newcomers to garment screen printing are often best served by keeping things as simple as possible. Still, even the simplest choices can become complicated decisions when you don’t document your actions. Keepings records of your mesh counts, squeegee durometers, and other information related to the supplies you use each day will help you ensure quality from order to reorder.
Rick Davis is the president of Synergy Screen Printing in Orlando, FL. A 27-year veteran of the textile-printing industry, Davis is a member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology and has a background that spans production management, artwork engineering, application testing, and industry consulting. He is a frequent contributor to trade publications and a speaker at industry trade events.
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