7 Tips for Successfully Using Screen Printing Machines

Screen Printing | Jul 29, 2013

Follow this advice to execute top-notch designs with screen printing equipment

Screen printing machines utilize a framed mesh screen and ink blocking stencils to transfer images onto textiles, paper, and even glass. In order for a screen printing project to have a successful outcome, many factors have to be considered. Follow these 7 tips to ensure that you’re able to produce high-quality work with a screen printing machine

1. Choose the right mesh count

Mesh count is the number of threads crossing per square inch. The higher the mesh count, the finer the screen’s threads and holes are. Using the wrong mesh count can lead you to waste ink. The size of the mesh you choose should vary depending on the image’s level of detail and the thickness of the ink. If you’re using a detailed image and/or thin ink, use a screen with a high mesh count.

2. Create off contact

Off contact is the gap between the screen mesh and the substrate you are printing on. There should be off contact of about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch to prevent ink from smearing onto the substrate. Without off contact, you may also have trouble lifting the screen from the substrate because the screen or ink may stick to it.

Some screen printing machines have an off contact adjustment knob. If your screen printing machine doesn’t have built-in off contact adjustment, use a small piece of material, such as corrugated cardboard, as an off contact tab. Placed at the end of the screen frame, this tab should hit the top of the neck platen and not the shirt. An off contact tab keeps the end of the screen up when you are pushing down on the mesh during a stroke.

3. Apply the thickest ink first

When printing a design with multiple colors, apply the thickest ink first because the first color has to penetrate the deepest. Use a thinning agent for subsequent colors that are layered on top. Not only will this will allow you to produce top-quality prints, it will also save ink. As a rule of thumb, the first color applied should be thicker density ink, the second color applied should be medium density ink, and the third color applied should be lighter density ink.

4. Use water-based platen adhesive

Use water-based platen adhesive instead of spray adhesives, which tend to be messier and get used up more quickly. It’s good to have a few cans of spray adhesive in your shop, but using it as your primary adhesive can get expensive. When applied correctly, water-based platen adhesive can cut down on adhesive usage.

5. Use the squeegee properly

Knowing how to use a squeegee properly is one of the most important techniques required for producing high-quality prints. If you’re using a full-size squeegee, place your hands approximately one inch inward from each end of the squeegee for good balance. If you’re using a smaller squeegee, just place your hands in the most comfortable way possible. 

Use only as much gripping power as necessary when holding the squeegee to avoid hand fatigue. The angle at which you hold the squeegee is also important. The lower the angle, the more ink will be deposited. Holding the squeegee at an angle of 45-60 degrees is standard for most print jobs. Use as little force as necessary when pulling the squeegee and make sure that the clean, sharp edge is making contact and pulling the ink quickly and evenly. If you push down too hard, the squeegee blade could bend.

6. Clean as you go

Try to clean squeegee handles, ink containers, and screen frame edges as you go. To avoid getting ink on your hands, don’t grab the squeegee too far down the handle. If you can’t seem to keep ink off your hands, then have someone help you load and unload the shirts. After you’re done printing, clean your screens, equipment, and tools. Wear an apron to protect your clothes and disposable rubber gloves to prevent ink from getting on your hands.

7. Ensure a proper final cure

The last step of the screen printing process, curing involves fully drying an ink deposit. If a print isn’t fully cured, it won’t stand up to washing. The best way to cure is in a conveyer belt dryer. If you use a flash dryer, then make sure that the whole design gets the same amount of heat. In order to be fully cured, Plastisol ink must reach a temperature of 320 degrees.

Screen Printing Systems That Are Designed to Create Profits 

A high quality, easy-to-use screen printing machine can aid you throughout the screen printing process and help you achieve optimal results. There are a wide variety of printing presses on the market, so it can be daunting to pick the right machine for your needs. Printa Systems is a leading manufacturer of screen printing equipment that fulfills the demand for high-quality, multi-colored screen printing with maximum ease and efficiency. 

Expand your business with Printa Systems, a fun and effective way to increase your profitability: www.printa.com/catalog