Successful manufacturing companies all have an in depth understanding of their costs. This understanding is one of the primary constituents of their success. Medical device manufacturers, automotive manufacturers, electronic device manufacturers and all others need a precise understanding and control mechanism in place on manufacturing costs. Without this understanding and control, chaos will undermine efficient production and ultimately, the product concept and manufacturing will fail. Screen printing companies are manufacturing companies and are governed by the same rules.
Successful screen printing operations do have a good understanding of the costs involved in printing. Printing equipment, artwork generation, ink , emulsion, screens and labor are generally well accounted for in good screen operations. Good managers know what it costs to generate film (or cts), what printing machine operation costs and capacities are (prints per hour, cost of maintenance), what dryer operational costs are (gas or electric), what emulsion or film costs in screen making are, and the time and cost to set up and print a job. Screen cleaning and reclaiming costs appear to be treated differently and yet, surprisingly, contribute a significant cost to most screen printing operations.
Small Screen Printing Shops
I don’t know how many thousands of small printers I have spoken to over the years that cannot reclaim more than 4 or 5 screens in one hour, using what they think are cheap/low-cost products and methods (mineral spirits, reclaiming powder, soy or citrus cleaners, haze removers and simple degreasers).
A small manual shop (1 or 2 manual presses) producing 100 dirty screens a month (1,200 annually) accumulates an annual screen chemical cost of $1,080.00. Using a labor rate of $10.00 per hour, and a chemical cost of $.90 the total annual small manual shop’s reclaiming cost is $3,480.00.
This may not appear to be a large number, but remember, this is a small operation that would spend about $3,000.00-$4,000.00 a year on ink and possibly $1,500.00 on direct emulsion. So, relatively speaking this is a huge cost.
Medium Screen Printing Shops
Medium screen printing shops (at least 2 automatic presses) generally use screen reclaiming products that are a step up in technology when compared to a small shop. It is common for these medium shops to use products manufactured by one or more of the recognized screen chemical companies in our industry. Theses products being used are advertised as ‘safer’, they are typically more expensive and generally have higher performance. The products are designed specifically to clean and remove textile inks and emulsions.
Labor at $10.00 per hour in a larger printing operation is more efficient than a small shop. Typically, a dedicated screen reclaimer will be capable of reclaiming 20 screens per hour. This difference is due to a more efficient work environment. Generally, the work station has an actual washout booth, typically a more powerful pressure washer and usually quality scrub pads. All of these components make the job of reclaiming the screens quicker and more thorough.
Although the chemical cost per screen is the same in a medium shop as in a small shop, the medium shop prints with a larger screen. The difference in size between the small shop’s screens (these manual screens measure 20”x22” or 440 square inches) and the medium shop’s screens (these automatic screens measure 23”x31” or 713 square inches) is 273 square inches or 38%. A medium shop is reclaiming 38% more mesh per screen than a small shop.
An average, medium shop, with 2 automatic presses will produce 30 screen to be reclaimed each day. This calculates out to be 600 screens a month and 7,500 per year.
Again, this is a large amount of cost when compared to other costs in a two automatic press operation. The $10,500.00 expense is second to ink and costs more than all other supply items.
It is interesting to note that the cost per screen is the same as the small shop but due to the increased mesh area (38%), and an upgrade to higher quality chemicals, the cost is actually reduced in the larger shop!
Large Screen Printing Shops
Large automated shops reclaim screens in a variety of methods. Many have experimented with automation over the years, to varying degrees of success. Large printers can justify the expense of automation much simpler than a small or medium size operation.
For a large shop cost example, we will describe the costs related to cleaning ink from the screens with a single stage machine, automatic screen washing machine. There are many makes and models of these machines, but the majority of them operate on a simple principle. Screens are placed in an enclosed cabinet, where a pump sprays a liquid ink cleaning solvent at the screen through a series of spray nozzles. The solution, gravity feeds back into the reservoir, where it is continuously used over and over. Every installation is different, but most shops using these machines see a consumption of 1-2 ounces of chemical solution per screen wasted due to drag out. Basically, the solution that is on the mesh and frame is carried away with the screen when it is removed from the machine. The other chemical consumption with this process is the ink load, or contamination of the cleaning solution. If the screens are well scraped, or pre-cleaned before they enter the machine, the chemical will enjoy a longer life. If a large quantity of ink is left on the screen (which is the reality with many shops) when it is placed in the machine, the functional life of the solution will be short. The filtration/purification ability of these machines is generally crude and inadequate.
A large production printing facility with five or more automatics will easily produce 200 screens a day that need to be reclaimed. Reclaiming these is essentially a full time job and the likelihood that an employee in this position, in many parts of the United States, will work for $10.00 per hour is low. For the following example we will use the fictional compensation of $12.00 per hour.
Again, $70,500.00 in relation to other supply items is large. The point of these three different screen printing shop scenarios is that in each case, the cost spent on screen reclamation is significant. In an era where health, safety, air emissions (VOCs) and effluent discharge rules and regulations are becoming more detailed and restrictive, this area of screen printing demands a professional approach. Attributes such as price per gallon, or a casual reference to soy, citrus or biodegradable may not be the best decision making criteria.
The new generation of products which are water based or water dilute-able may deserve consideration. Products which perform dual roles (for example an emulsion remover which also degreases) should be considered wherever available. Also, products like these can make a major difference in reducing costs. Any process change or product innovation that reduces the amount of chemical used, or the overall cost, is best measured in cost per screen measurements. This allows the comparison and your best option to be clear.
If every owner or screen area manager knew their exact cost of chemicals and labor per screen, decision making and evaluation of new products and processes would be dramatically simpler. This type of knowledge makes all manufacturers better and screen printing is not an exception.
Single stage machine, automatic screen washing machine
Manual screen reclaiming
Start Experiencing Easiway Systems Today!
Get a free customized sample pack of our top selling products for your shop.