Tools for Success

Every screenprinter needs tools! Now that I have said that, my addiction to buying the necessary tools doesn’t seem so bad. I have spent quite a bit of money over the years buying tools, many of which were for no other reason than reviewing them in an article, only to find out how much I needed the tool in my own research and development.


by Bill Hood, BillHoodConsulting.com

Enter any number of successful screenprint shops and although the customer base and printed images may vary, there will be certain tools that each finds indispensable. It is seldom a question of whether a shop will have them. If they are turning out large amounts of quality screenprinting, it is almost certain that they will possess the majority of what are referred to as “Tools for Success.” I have broken the list down by department to maintain some sense of order.

The Front Office

The first impression that most customers receive is what happens in the front office. This area sets the tone for the entire relationship. Every successful screenprinter owes at least part of the success be able to impress clients while satisfying their needs quickly and easily.

Computerized Estimating System

When a new customer first calls on the phone or walks in the front door seeking a quote, the speed at which you can satisfy that need is of utmost importance. Today, there are several computerized estimating systems on the market that allow very quick entry and are simple to operate.

The systems cost anywhere from about $79 for a very simple spreadsheet template and up. There are systems that even do your bookkeeping at a cost of $10,000. One should never lose sight that the original intention of these programs was to make a complicated task both quick and easy.

Make sure that the system you buy is a stand-alone system that will not require you to purchase additional software and upgrades.

Catalog Organizer

By organizing your catalogs you can save your clients time by being able to quickly find any product that they might need. There is cataloging software that will allow you to input items and locate in which catalog these items might be found to speed up the search. By typing in keywords such as “caps and teal” you will be given a list of catalogs that have caps in a teal color.

ROI Calculator

This can be made using any popular spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Numbers by Apple Computer. You will need to use specific figures relating to your own production, but you can start with the inexpensive template available at ScreenprintBooks.com online.

The ROI Calculator gives three examples for a textile print shop, including a manual shop, an automatic shop and a contract printer. By adding your own numbers in place of the example figures given for a specific and real operation to illustrate real-world loss rates in your shop you move from an imprecise process to a highly predictable scenario.

Because you are capturing the “true” process cost by knowing all of the components that go into that cost (not just the obvious ones), you can make a very quick and accurate assessment of how much money per hour, a minute or per printed piece the company may cost and find savings in many places. When you do your homework on your own plant, the savings for your investment become obvious and you benefit greatly.

The Art Department

It has often been said that great printing starts in the art department. It is true that successful printing is the result of having created art that will print well. There are a number of tools that every successful art department should have to create art that will contribute to the success of the printed piece.

Pantone Matching System (PMS) Guidebook

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) color chip books are the most universal source available for communicating color. While they are in use worldwide they are simply a way of communicating color, i.e. a guide, and certainly not meant to be matched perfectly from one printing method to another. In fact, the guide was created by the offset ink company Pantone and can only be used with any degree of accuracy when using their inks, due to differences in pigments from one manufacturer to another.

In the screenprinting industry, the colors are even more difficult to match. Clients should be forewarned of this in advance when accepting a PMS color to be matched. Still, matching a custom mix or created color to a similar or identical color in the PMS guidebook under a standardized light source is the most effective way to identify a color for those involved in the decision making. Due to the differences in light sources, substrate color and type, the thickness of ink deposit, color change during the binding or curing of the ink, and many other variables, extreme care must be taken to match the requested color and a charge for this should be taken into account when pricing those jobs that must match a PMS color.

Note: The Pantone Matching System is offset printed onto paper and will degrade over time. It is suggested by Pantone that the guides be replaced on a yearly basis. However, in the ink mixing area, the guides will fade much faster than they might in the art department and will require replacement more frequently.

Pantone Color Cue

If you are thrifty and despise having to replace the Pantone Matching Systems Guides every six months to a year, this device is made just for you. The Pantone Color Cue is a hand-held spectro-colorimeter that is pre-programmed with Pantone Matching System color data.

It is placed atop a printed item (even T-shirts) and a photo is taken of the ink deposit. The onboard computer diagnostically determines the closest color match to the 1147 Pantone colors and gives a user a reading. The display will present a choice of Pantone Color Ink Formulas, CMYK, RGB, sRGB, HTML, LAB or Hexachrome values.

A 9-volt battery powers the small hand-held device. The device makes disagreements about Pantone color matches are now a thing of the past.

Art and Film Filing System

As anyone who has been in the industry for any period of time can attest, a good art and film filing system is a must. While some screenprinters choose to not keep film positives on file but to output them as needed, others have devised a system that allows quick retrieval.

X-ray envelopes that can be purchased from a local hospital supply house can suffice, but the very best is the hanging systems specifically made for holding and cataloging film positives for screenprinters. Today, screenprinters can use inexpensive software programs to keep track of their art and film.

Color Separation Program

While there are artists who can separate colors in Adobe Photoshop quickly and produce outstanding results, the truth is that it takes years of experience. For the rest of us, there are color separation programs that produce separations that while maybe not perfect, are very close to the original.

Some programs are Photoshop plug-ins that work on averaging the original art to the required number of colors, while others are stand-alone programs that use complicated formulas that can produce outstanding results.

Monitor Hood

The use of a monitor hood can serve several purposes. The use of a monitor hood can block reflections that create eyestrain, which slows down the amount of work that an artist can create. Additionally, a hood monitor can better display color that glare can change dramatically.

Monitor Calibration

All monitors need to be calibrated to be able to display color accurately. It does little good to create an illustration in colors on the monitor that cannot be effectively output either as transfers to a digital printer or separated properly.

While it is possible to adjust the color range that a monitor produces, a more sophisticated external monitor calibration device will allow the monitor to correctly evaluate and display colors more accurately.

Registration System

A registration system is the most important tool in any successful shop. While it is true that the success of any registration system is dependent upon a number of variables, they do work well in greatly speeding up the setup times on the press.

It is possible to register a job in less than one minute per color, where many times screenprinters may take up to 15 minutes per color when registering by hand and eye. These savings make them an absolute necessity to ensure success with a very quick return on investment.

Clear Film Positives

Most uneducated screenprinters are far too concerned with the opaqueness of the solid areas of their film positives. They forget that the purpose of the exposure is to allow the ultraviolet light to harden the emulsion through the “clear areas” of the film positive.

By using clear film positives the exposure time can be reduced and using clear film positives, instead of frosted positives will hold more detail. This saves both time and money while improving quality.

Loupe

Every art department should have an inspection loupe to inspect original artwork, film positives, and color separations. In fact, many shops take this a step further and buy a 100x microscope that can be used for close inspection of artwork and the exposed stencil on the screen.

Microscope

If you print four-color process on a regular basis, you should have at least one microscope in the shop to troubleshoot your film and printed product. The microscope type you need depends on what you print and how much you need to magnify or if you will need to photograph through the eyepiece.

In a critical situation where the presses are stopped, a portable microscope pays for itself saving troubleshooting time. For printed circuit, membrane switch, solar and industrial screen print applications, a benchtop microscope with measuring stages, reticules, precision light sources, photographic filters, and the software will prove most valuable.

More than just image shape and resolution can be analyzed when you are viewing at higher magnifications than 60 to 400x or more.

Densitometer

For most shops and especially the higher-end shops specializing in four-color process and fine halftone printing on a day-to-day basis, a densitometer is a good investment. A densitometer is used to check and maintain consistent film output from your imagesetter through the settings of curves. This has become a more crucial instrument with the increasing use of laser-printed vellum positives.

A densitometer also takes readings of the tonal range of the halftones to be printed by measuring light reflection values. A common way to use a densitometer is to evaluate the halftone step-wedge (at the edge of a film positive) as well as select areas of the image.

The Screenroom

The screenroom is an often-misunderstood area. Its importance is paramount to the success of the shop, as the printed image can only be as good as the image that is captured in the stencil.

Mesh Count Determiner

What many people don’t realize is that mesh is measured before weaving. After weaving, finishing and especially after tensioning, the mesh count is affected by at least 8-percent in most cases. However, the percentage can dramatically higher. For instance, a 110 mesh tensioned to just 20Ncm2 is really more like a 101.2. Tensioned to 35Ncm2 and the number is much lower.

Without a proper mesh determiner, you will be forever guessing as to the correct mesh. By using a mesh determiner, one can easily find the correct mesh count after the mesh is brought to the suggested tension level. This helps eliminate double stroking and moiré patterns.

For the high-end printer who needs more control over those award-winning designs, there is a more technical instrument available for determining the mesh count of the tensioned mesh. It is the Haver Mesh Scanner. This instrument is placed directly in contact with the mesh, and a digital display shows the mesh count. The unit is also capable of determining the percentage of open area in the mesh.

Retensionable Frames

Nothing can bring more success to a shop than correctly using retensionable frames. Correctly in that, the user brings the mesh to the manufacturers suggested tension level and then continues to maintain that tension level by periodically re-tensioning the mesh.

While the list of reasons to use retensionable frames is quite lengthy, a few of the reasons are that they eliminate the need to recalibrate the press settings for each job, assure consistent color from job to job, increase the printing speed and produce higher quality printed images.

Pneumatic Tension Table

Once retensionable frames become work-hardened, they do not require retensioning as often, but it is the number of retensionings that must be made that make the use of a pneumatic tensioning table a worthy consideration. The use of the table can reduce the time needed to retension the mesh while assuring the correct tension level on each and every frame.

Dehumidifier

In order for mesh and stencils to dry, the moisture must be evacuated. The absolute best way to make this happen is through the use of a dehumidifier. An inexpensive dehumidifier can effectively remove the moisture from a screenroom allowing the stencils to dry in just minutes.

Thermometer / Hygrometer

A combination of thermometer and hygrometer allows a small but important difference in your stencil making. By controlling these two variables, screens will dry more quickly and will hold up longer on the press.

Moisture Meter

The use of a moisture meter can check the moisture content in what you believed was a dry stencil before the exposure is made. You will be very surprised when you take a reading off the surface of a stencil that you think is dry. Moisture becomes trapped beneath the skin of dried emulsion causing poor washout, loss of detail and saw toothing.

This simple-to-read device gives a reading that indicates if the stencil is totally dry and ready for exposure, which means no more guessing for you and better control over the lifeblood of your printing quality – the stencil.

Tension Meter

In order to correctly bring mesh to the manufactures suggested tension levels a properly calibrated tension meter is an absolute must. Ink deposit and color can be controlled with a single stroke by assuring even and consistent tension levels. This will eliminate much of the cost-reducing time and increasing production.

It has been proven that higher-tensioned screens, measured in Newton’s per centimeter squared (N/cm2), allow for better registration, better color balance, less ink usage, and more opaque prints on dark garments, just to name a few of the many benefits.

Exposure Calculator

Each mesh count accepts emulsion in a variance, which in turn will require a different exposure. While the difference in exposure between a 123-71 and a 156-55 may be within a few minutes, by exposing them at the same exposure one may be overexposed and the other underexposed. This means that neither screen will produce the quality of the image that could be available.

Stencil Thickness Gauge

Successful screenprinters understand that the ink deposit is controlled by the stencil thickness. A thicker stencil will result in more ink and thus more opacity, which lowers the number of strokes one must make to achieve a salable product.

A thinner stencil is needed for UV work where the ink deposit must have minimal buildup for a quicker cure. An extra micron or two in emulsion thickness can mean the difference between one stroke and two, which can effective cut the printing time in half. Control your profits by controlling your stencil thickness.

An additional and highly beneficial use of the stencil thickness gauge is that you can measure the thickness of unexposed stencils and quickly find the correct exposure time that will create a hardened stencil throughout the emulsion thickness. This one benefit is reason enough to invest in a stencil thickness gauge. It is one of the biggest-selling testing tools in the screenprinting process.

Radiometer

When a screenprinting shop finally arrives at the point where they are turning out a high-volume of screens and realize the control that is needed they buy a radiometer. This device allows them to measure the intensity of aging exposure bulbs.

The radiometer sensor is placed behind the stencil in an area where the emulsion is totally exposed, and readings are taken to determine the level of ultraviolet energy being emitted from the light source to the far side of the stencil.

This sensor gives you a calculated standard to go by, and a tool to determine exposure times and to alert you when it is time for new exposure bulbs. Through a manufacturing default, each lamp will exhibit a different lifespan that must be calculated.

Light Integrator

The light integrator is an extremely important tool for achieving proper exposure. It is mounted on the exposure unit and aimed at the UV exposure source. The calculated reading is sent to a computer, which adjusts the exposure dependent upon the amount of UV exposure received by the integrator.

Most shops experience electrical brownouts during the workday causing a shortened exposure time. The light integrator also takes into accord the weakening of the exposure lamp and automatically extends the exposure as the lamp weakens. These brownouts and aging lamps cause an underexposed stencil and thus a poor quality stencil that ultimately affects the printer’s quality and reputation.

Note: The light integrator will not work on a multiple lamp source such as the hobbyist fluorescent exposure units that are erroneously sold to novices when starting up their shops.

Rz Meter

To measure the flatness of the contact side of the stencil on your screen, there is the Rz meter. Rz is a measurement of the roughness or smoothness of a surface – in this case, the surface of the stencil on the screen.

It is a known fact that the flatness of the contact side of the stencil has a dramatic effect on the overall print quality. If the contact side of the screen is not flat enough, it will not act as a “gasket” against the substrate being printed and ink will spread out from the image area. When this happens in halftone printing, it is called “dot gain.” The dot gains in size when printed because the stencil is not flat enough to make good contact with the substrate being printed.

While the Rz Meter is a must-have device in those graphic shops, there are those that believe that due to the rough surface of textile materials that the benefits are canceled. However, tests have shown that fine detail and superior halftones can be achieved with a smoother stencil. Smoother stencils also reduce the amount of ink buildup on the backs of the screens when printing plastisols wet-on-wet.

The Rz meter features a probe that drags against the contact side of the stencil and measures the high and low spots on the surface of the stencil. A high Rz reading indicates a rough surface, and a low Rz reading indicates a smoother stencil surface.

Dip Tanks

To avoid harsh screenprinting inks from becoming encapsulated in the polyester threads they must be removed from the screens as quickly as possible. Also, any ink left too long in the open areas of the mesh will seep into the knuckles and set up, making it’s removal difficult as well as requiring more chemicals and time spent on labor, not to mention the waste of water needed in the process.

Screen cleaning and reclamation has always been will likely continue to be the one task that no one wants to do. As a result, used screens pile up in the screenroom until they are needed back in production.

The use of dip tanks can save a tremendous amount of time and money in that the ink removers are contained in the dip tank, while the residual ink and emulsion are contained in the bottom of the unit under the screens by use of a raised platform in the unit. The waste residue is removed as sludge and discarded appropriately.

Some ink traces may still remain on the screen, but scrubbing with a soft bristle brush and then dipping the screen a second time can easily remove these.

The Ink Department

While a metal shelf with open buckets of ink may be the ink department in many shops, the successful shops understand the importance of ink to achieve their goals. In the most successful shops, the ink department is housed in an air-conditioned room with proper lighting and all the tools necessary to produce inks that are the right color and viscosity, every time.

Ink Mixing System

Most ink companies make a mixing system, which can make one of the biggest headaches for screenprinters everywhere more manageable. The ink systems come with software that not only allows easy matching of almost any color imaginable but the ability to mix the correct amount based on the square inches of coverage and the number of substrates.

With an average ink cost of around $0.07 per shirt, the difference of just 10-percent savings in ink costs can mean additional savings of approximately $4,380.64 a year for a busy single automatic press.

Ink Draw Down Screens

While most screenprinters have a sampling screen in the ink department, the successful screenprinters have one screen for each mesh count used in the shop. These are retensionable screens that are kept tensioned to the manufacturers suggested tension levels to match those screens used through the shop.

Since color is matched and proofed in the ink room, much time and expense are saved at the press. As a screen printer, you already have most of what you need for a basic drawdown system.

The most accurate use of this method is to have small-scale screens of exact mesh count, thread diameter, tension, and open area and stencil thickness as those to be used in production. The artists in the art department will specify color, after which ink samples are mixed and printed on substrates using identical squeegee angle, hardness and speed settings.

These printed samples are checked for correct ink deposit thickness, dried carefully, dated and presented to customer service for written customer approval.

Viscometer

Viscosity is the ink characteristic that makes it more or less resistant to flow and since it is extremely temperature-dependent, it must be controlled. Pigment grind, particle properties, and dispersal affects the manner in which ink performs. There are many different types of viscometers, but the most popular is the spindle type, which spins a shaft in the ink at a known speed and measures the resistance.

By measuring viscosity and temperature prior to the press run, you can assure that ink will perform to your specifications, rather than waiting until the job is on the press.

Ink Mixer

All ink requires stirring to bring it to a working viscosity. By stirring ink before adding the ink to the screen, the viscosity of the ink can be greatly altered.

High viscosity ink that is stiff, resistant and hard to stir is certainly going to be difficult to print. The press speed can be greatly increased by stirring the ink. If the shop is unheated in the winter the cold temperature can reduce the ink flow. This is where stirring can become a necessity to get the ink flowing well enough to print at all. At a cost of less than $1,000, the return on investment can be as little as a month.

Ink Cabinet

In reference to the aforementioned ink mixer, those printers in cool and especially cold areas may find that an ink cabinet to be quite helpful. The cabinet should be equipped with heated airflow to bring the ink to the correct temperature for the best ink transfer.

During a recent consult in the Los Angeles area, the temperature in the morning was cool enough to warrant heating the ink to achieve better ink transfer. We were able to run the press at almost twice the speed with the ink brought to the correct temperature as compared with the “cold” ink.

Wet Ink-Film Thickness Gauge

Many printers, especially those involved in graphic or industrial printing will find the Wet Ink Film Thickness Gauge a necessity. The wet ink film can be measured with simple tools – ranging from “comb” style gauges that are pulled through a wet print, coil and roll-type gauges that are rolled through a test patch to optical surface tension gauges such as the “Pfund” gauge.

Adhesion Testing

The range of adhesion testers for cured inks (UV, plastisol and solvent) is quite huge. In most screenprinting applications, the precision scoring blade is the most common device. In the industrial, “removable” adhesive arena, surface-cleanliness adhesion testers are used. They are available for most surface and coating types.

Dyne-Level Testing

If you are a plastic, metal or glass printer, you should have some kind of Dyne-level test kit. In cost and result reliability, the range of dyne-level test materials includes felt-tip pens, flow tip liquid pens and liquid samples with swabs. The accuracy, range, and repeatability of the kit you require will be dictated by the type and cost of inks, coatings, and materials you use.

If you require daily dyne-level testing, you print on materials with low-surface energy. You should have a dyne set with a range that extends at least three levels above and below the minimum and maximum levels recommended for your material.

The Pressroom

The pressroom is where the work of the art department and screen room comes together. And, since the success of the shop is often based on the number of substrates produced, this is a good place for successful tools.

Press Cart

The use of press carts can dramatically speed up the printing process. Each press should have two press carts for transporting the screens, inks, squeegees, fill blades, and other tools necessary for setting up the press.

At the end of the press run, the first cart is loaded with the screens, squeegees and fill blades that are removed from the press and then rolled away to the reclaiming area. A second press cart is ready with the tools for the next job, thus saving time and money with less press downtime.

Constant Force Squeegees

The squeegee is quite often misunderstood and often overlooked for its importance to the screenprinting process. The purpose of the squeegee is to simply push the stencil down so that the bottom of the stencil, which has been loaded with ink from the flood stroke, comes into contact with the substrate, allowing the ink to transfer to the substrate. During the past ten years, engineers have become aware that pushing the stencil down versus dragging it with a pull stroke results in much better ink transfer.

There are squeegees on the market that take advantage of this newfound technology. The newest squeegees quite simply transfer more ink with less effort and more control than a conventional squeegee.

Smilin’ Jack Squeegee and Dr. J Fill Blade

I couldn’t believe the difference that these two products during a recent consult. We would not have been able to achieve the results with any other product. The squeegee allowed us to speed the press up tremendously, while Dr. J Fill Blade allowed us a very precise amount of ink control. I highly recommend these two products.

Side Clamps for Manual Presses

Screenprinting equipment manufacturers have always tried to keep the price of their manual presses low in order to encourage sales. This is an industry that thrives on start-up businesses. The individuals that are shopping for their first press usually have a very small fixed budget and press manufacturers are trying to satisfy that budget, so they make presses with back clamps for the start-up shop.

The problem is that no one wants to admit that they made a mistake or a bad decision and would never admit that they should have spent the extra money on accessories such as side clamps after the fact. You will notice that although there are a good number of screenprinters who go out of business and sell their presses you hardly ever see one with side clamps for sale. Side clamps allow the frame to be held tightly into the press allowing quicker setups and improved registration throughout the press run. They also allow the press operator to use square back frames to flip the screen so as to allow placing more than one image on each screen.

If for no other reason, side clamps should be considered standard equipment on manual presses because they will allow you to install pneumatic frame locks and pin registration on the press.

Pneumatic Air Frame Locks

On a manual press with side clamps, there are usually four clamps that must be manually tightened by hand. It will take approximately 15 seconds per head to perform this small task, which can be accomplished in less than 1/2 second using pneumatic air-frame locks. While 14.5 seconds per head doesn’t sound like much, it can amount to 1.45 minutes for each 6 color print job. With an average of only 5 jobs a day this can account for an extra 31 hours a year.

Off Contact Gauge

Very few press operators understand the need to maintain parallelism between the screens and the platens. Without parallelism, registration will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. There are several choices of instruments ranging from simple dial indicators, precision frames with gauges and electronic off contact gauges which double as thickness gauges for stencils.

The best device is an electronic off-contact gauge, which uses a surface probe placed on the substrate to zero out the substrate thickness. The off-contact probe is then set on the stencil above the substrate, and the off-contact distance reads out digitally. This is a must-have tool that is great for gaining repeatable results in the printing process.

Platen Tape

Much time and money can be saved by not having to stop the press to clean up the platens. The use of adhesive-backed platen tape is a simple money-saving solution. Some shops apply as many as four layers of platen tape each morning, stripping off a layer every two hours throughout the day.

Platen Adhesive

Most successful screenprinters have made the shift from spray adhesives to water-based platen adhesives. Not only do these adhesives cut back on the necessary shop cleanup created by aerosol sprays, but they are also a fraction of the cost. Successful press operators will apply a fresh coat of platen adhesive for every 144 substrates printed (less for sweats with a high lint content).

Drying / Curing

All the work that goes before the drying or curing of the ink deposit will be wasted if the ink deposit is not properly cured. What happens in the dryer is of utmost importance in assuring the success of every printed image.

Temperature Measurement

The most critical measurement in any shop is the temperature of the ink deposit as it travels through the dryer. In order to cure, different ink types and colors must reach different temperatures to achieve full cure.

When printing a multicolor image the resulting cure temperature must be sufficient to cure the slowest fusing ink and not too high to over cure the fastest curing ink.

Devices range from temperature control tapes, which measure the surface of the ink deposit, electronic surface probes, which measure the air and contact thermocouples. The donut-shaped thermocouple, which plugs into a hand-held digital reader, is the most responsive and accurate device.

Folder/Bagger

Successful print shop owners realize that the value that a client places on the services offered is often the best way to create and keep relationships. While not an absolute necessity for the successful screenprinting shop, a folder/bagger can assure the continued loyalty of the client.

Once the shop begins folding and bagging each shirt that is produced for a client, they will begin to expect this service and only those shops with an automatic folder/bagger will be considered competition.

Squeegee Sharpener

The tools range from manually operated grinders and knife cutting systems to automated grinders and knife cutting systems. The only squeegee blades, which cannot benefit from a pass with a diamond hone, are molded-edge blades. However, even molded-edge blades will need to be resurfaced after use.

Atkins Temperature Monitor with Donut Probe

This device should be used on a frequent basis of at least every 30 minutes to check for dryer temperature and to assure binding and curing of inks when using an infrared or gas dryer. The ceramic donut probe is placed in the wet ink, where the tungsten and nickel wires are ensconced in the wet ink. The readings are made as the substrate passes through the dryer.

Not only will the readings give accurate temperature they also allow you to find hot and cold spots, but they also warn you of impending failure of infrared units within the dryer or in the case of a gas dryer the need for cleaning of the jets.

Health and Safety

The laws in most countries cover health and safety issues, but if you happen to live in a country with lax health and safety laws, you are not exempt from applying some common sense in this area.

Check with your local and national laws to assure that you have the right equipment in place. This list covers some of the more obvious suggestions but is far from complete.

Eye Wash Stations

These are available as permanent or refillable devices. These should be mounted throughout the shop and checked on a regular basis.

Safety Goggles

All workers that are involved in the use of chemicals should wear safety goggles at all times, especially those in the screenmaking area. This is necessary to prevent the airborne chemicals from getting into the eyes and damaging the delicate membranes.

There are different types of safety goggles and only those which prevent airborne mists from entering the eyes should be used especially around the wet areas of the screenmaking department. Many shops require them for all workers in the production area.

Disposable Gloves

These inexpensive gloves can protect the worker’s hands from chemical solutions, and harsh solvents. However, the real reason that these are so popular in the screenprinting industry is the saving of time. It is so much quicker and easier to slip these gloves on and off than to use a rag when cleaning up.

Secondly, the workers will not get ink on the substrates as readily as they will not have ink residue on their hands. These are offered in both thin and thick material. Also, you can buy only sleeves, which protects the worker’s arms.

Nitrile Safety Products

There are several nitrile products that may be needed and are often required by law. These include aprons, gloves, sleeves and leg coverings. If you ever splash even a drop of caustic haze remover on your bare skin, you will rush to purchase these products. The haze remover can burn a hole in your skin with minutes that may take weeks to heal over.

Fire Extinguishers

These should be mounted throughout the shop and checked on a regular basis.

Emergency First Aid Kit

The most important thing is to keep emergency medicines handy. Always remember to check the expiration dates of the medicines kept and to keep the box clean. It is advised to stick telephone/contact numbers of the nearest Doctor and hospital on a medical box so that any person can call in case of an emergency.

MSDS Sheets

As a screenprinting facility, whose employees handle chemicals, solvents, emulsions, it is a good idea to have adequate safety data sheets on products, so that employees and especially management can take necessary steps before medical personal arrive.

Most countries require these by law. These can be kept in an easily accessible place near the area where the products are in use. You can acquire these from the screenprint supplier who sells the products or from the manufacturers of the products. Many are available online.

Evacuation Plan

Every shop should have Emergency Evacuation Plans drawn up and mounted on the walls in several areas to help employees quickly evacuate the building in case of emergency.

Emergency Safety Lighting

When the electricity goes out, employees must have a way to evacuate the immediate area in which they are located. Strategically mounted Emergency Safety Lighting will help them find their way to safety.

Conclusion

It would be unrealistic to believe that every printer will have all of the items mentioned in this article. These tools are all about controlling the variables of the screenprinting process. It is possible to leave the variables to chance and still produce a certain quality of screenprinting. However, the shops that take the necessary steps to control the variables will experience more production at a lower cost and that is what makes them more successful.

While it is important to invest in the very best tools that one can afford, the tools do no good whatsoever if they are not put to use. A tension meter that is never removed from its case will never monitor screen tension to assure consistent, predictable and repeatable results in the final image.

Adding as many of these quality-control tools to your arsenal of weapons as common sense dictates, followed by the implementation of an ongoing, in-house quality training program will take your screenprinting shop to a much higher level of expertise over the competition – a World Class Operation!

Many of the products mentioned in this article are available from your local screenprinting production distributor.



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