Screen Reclaiming: The End or the Beginning of the Print Process?
It seems that most printing facilities hold the reclaiming of screens in the lower priority of the their process steps to produce whatever item it is that generates the revenue stream for the profitability of their company. I am not saying that it does not work, as many companies that hold to this philosophy are very successful, but it would be intriguing to elevate the reclaim process to that of the art or press department and see what happens. We all have to remember that the process is actually called Screen Printing!! So to take that literally, the screen mesh attached to a frame that everyone pushes ink through is really the star of the show here. When I walk into a shop for the first time, I am usually directed to the new gleaming press or the big, new automatic die cutter. I like looking at equipment, but where the rubber meets the road is the screen/reclaim areas. Usually the screen room has ventured into the twenty-first century with a newer point of light source and vacuum frame, or more recent updates, such as a direct-to-screen or an automatic coater. You get the point here, It’s updated.
If I could interject some personal history here, it will make the rest of this article pretty relevant. The date is etched in my mind: Monday, July 8th, 1968. That was first day I reclaimed a “silk screen”! Yikes, I’m old and I am still reclaiming screens. Well, not for a living, but my life and livelihood are especially tied to it. The point here is that in fifty- two years of being involved in some segment of the screen printing, the screen reclaiming process has basically stayed the same. Yeah, I know we now have reclaiming machines and dip tanks, and better pressure washers, but the basic process of: remove ink, remove emulsion, remove stain, degrease really hasn’t changed that much. But the big changes are in inks, emulsions, mesh, and the knowledge base to bring the total screen printing process into the twenty-first century.
The shops that are still using a traditional four-step method of reclaim for the most part are small specialty graphics, textile and printed circuit board shops that are not big enough to justify the cost of an automated reclaim machine. With the introduction of newer, hybrid reclaiming products now in the marketplace most of these shops have eliminated one, if not two steps by moving up the food chain to better products that can do more than one process step at the same time. For example, an emulsion remover that has a built in degreaser, like EasiSolv5 or EasiSolv500. EasiSolv 701 is a screen wash that has the ability to remove ink, stains and degrease in one step. When I do a seminar on the screen reclaiming process I always ask one person from each company to please write down the reclaim process that is being implemented at their shop. If there are fifteen companies present I get fifteen different reclaiming processes, most times with the same products and they all say that their screens look really good!
Stay tuned for more - In the next segment of this blog we will look at how applying just a few tweaks to your existing process can reap some huge rewards.