Automate why? If you’ve grown or updated your operation lately, you’re probably well aware of the many recent high-tech advances in screen printing:
· Faster, more sophisticated presses
· Direct-to-garment machines
· Direct to Screen Units
· LED exposure systems
· and lots more …….
Those are the more glamorous aspects of our business. Screen cleaning and reclaiming, for the most part, still exists in a dark, backwater area at the back of every screen shop! It’s the place no one wants to be or even visit unless they really have to! At first, screen printers were hesitant to adopt any type of technology in the “Dungeon”. Then came the advent of computer-to-screen and newfangled exposure systems. All at once the benefits became clear and the push was on to upgrade.
But, really, is there anything wrong with the manual process of reclaiming screens? Not really, if you like a dark corner of your shop decorated with ink-spattered, emulsion coated walls, soothed by the sound of power sprayers, and punctuated with runaway humidity, tinged with a “slight” chemical aroma. There’s a good reason 90% of shop tours don’t even consider stopping at the screen area. They generally point in that direction and say: “that’s where we clean screens”.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Sure, it’s messy, noisy, and a little unpleasant, but why would I want to invest in automation when I have a couple of low cost employees getting the job done “Just Fine”? Well, maybe getting the job done, but it’s unlikely they’re getting the job done with consistent quality(screen to screen, let alone day to day), at a speed that keeps your production moving and at a reasonable cost to your operation.
So, if any of this makes you say: “He’s seen my shop!”
Let’s look at the some of the advantages of Automation in screen cleaning.
The Advantages of Automated Screen Cleaning
1. Reduced labor costs. Automated equipment and processes reduce labor costs per screen because an operator can typically clean many more screens per day with automation. (Overall labor costs are typically reduced significantly and the employee operating the machine can perform other tasks during machine cycles).
2. Increased, constant throughput of cleaned screens. With automation many more screens can be processed per hour, no additional people. Additionally, an automated machine performs the same every day regardless of outside factors.
3. Consistent Results. Complete direct control of volume, pressure, and duration yields consistent results. The quantity of chemical sprayed, for how long and at what pressures can be controlled and regulated. (Manually-cleaned screens can require follow-up rinsing or scrubbing because of incomplete or inadequate cleaning; processing can also vary from one operator to the next)
4. Reduced environmental impact. Many Automated machine recirculate the chemical used to clean inks and reclaim emulsions. This will drastically reduce the amount of chemical affluent dispelled into the wastewater stream.
5. Reduced Chemical costs. Lower chemical and operating costs are achieved by recirculating screen-cleaning chemicals. Because of the direct application and recirculation of cleaning chemicals can reduce overall chemical costs by a fairly substantial amount.
6. Reduction in water consumption. Water usage reduction because applying the precise amount of water necessary to clean screens. Automated screen cleaning can lessen water consumption by as much as fifty percent.
7. Longer screen life and more consistent screen tension. Automation means less handling therefore less chance for breakage. Also balanced water pressure and even application provided by simultaneous sprays from both sides of the screen help maintain screen tension and extend screen life also.
8. Healthier work environment. With automation comes fully enclosed screen cleaning chambers that keep the area clean while minimizing noise, humidity, and exposure to screen-cleaning chemicals.
And lastly, adds a really cool, clean, shiny new stopping point for the shop tours!
Written by: Bill Christensen | Easiway Systems
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