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Easy Ways To Reduce Screen Printing Waste

If you have recently opened a print shop to create screen printed t-shirts, then you want to offer the lowest prices possible to your customers. Online retailers and other printing businesses in your area can make your business quite competitive. Increasing your profits while reducing your customer costs means that you need to cut down on waste. Follow the tips below to make sure that you are not flushing valuable materials and resources down the drain.

Use Different Screens

Many print shops purchase a singular type of mesh that can be used to create screens when graphics are added to t-shirts. Number 109 or 110 mesh is purchased most often, because it is versatile and easy to use for large graphics and moderately detailed imagery. This type of mesh is thick though with large openings. The openings allow ink to move freely to the t-shirt, but they also trap a great deal of ink. The ink is left behind after the screen printing process and it is then rinsed out when you start cleaning.

Choosing Thinner Mesh

Thinner types of mesh with smaller openings can be just as effective as thicker varieties, and you will lose less ink during the printing process. Consider purchasing 140, 162, and 200 mesh to work with. The 140 mesh can be used to replace the 109 mesh and the 162 and 200 mesh can be utilized for more detailed t-shirts.

Thinner mesh screens require less pressure to force the ink through the openings, so make sure to test your hand pressure when using a thinner screen. Consider purchasing a new squeegee for yourself that helps to control the amount of pressure you apply. Tools that are hard in the center and flexible around the edges are typically best. The center portion of the tool keeps you from flattening the squeegee and forcing too much ink through the mesh.

Reuse Your Ink

If you are typically in a rush to complete multiple t-shirt orders, then you may rinse out screens quickly as you prepare for your next job. Rinsing screens is an essential part of the process, because ink must be removed with water before it hardens. Otherwise, degreaser agents and phosphate cleaners must be utilized. Before you start rinsing though, you should make sure to scrape as much ink from the screens as possible so it can be placed back into ink buckets.  

Use Ink Cleaning Cards

The easiest way to clean ink from your screens is to use ink cards. These small cards are disposable and typically made out of paper. Paper cards can absorb some ink though, and they can become costly if you use dozens of the cards every day. Invest in reusable plastic or silicone cards instead. These products are rigid so more ink can be removed and they can be rinsed off at the same time that you clean your screens.

When you use your cards to clean your screens, you may find numerous ink colors mixed together on your tool. You do not want to place the mixed ink back into ink containers or you will contaminate them. Instead, scrape the ink into an empty bucket. As you collect the ink over time, you can mix the contents and create black ink.  

As you collect the ink, make sure to add about one-half a teaspoon of water to the container. This will keep the ink from thickening or clumping before it can be reused. If you use plastisol inks, then use a curable reducer to thin the ink instead.

If you have decided to open a screen printing business, then it is in your best interest to keep prices low to attract customers. Reducing your wastes can help you with this, so make sure to use the right screens and reuse your inks.

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