Manual Printing Squeegee School:

  1. What makes a squeegee, a squeegee?

    A squeegee is the quintessential tool you’ll be getting your hands on as a screen printer, quite simply, your ink isn’t going anywhere without one! They come in all shapes, sizes and materials – some with ergonomic handles like the BADASS; today we’re looking at the rubber part of the squeegee, the blade.

    Squeegee anatomy is straight-forward; there is a handle for holding and a flexible blade for moving ink across the screen. Handles are typically made of wood with a fixed blade or in alluminium, like that of one of our best-selling alluminium squeegees, which can be replaced. All squeegee blades will typically be made of a rubber material such as polyurethane which is designed to bend, how much bend is up to you – enter, Durometer.

     

  2. What on earth is durometer?

    Durometer is the measure of how rigid a material is, this will determine how much your blade will flex under pressure.

    A squeegee with a blade in the range of 50-60 durometer will be considered ‘soft’, this means that the blade will flex under pressure and allow for a wealth of ink to be pushed through the screen.

    A soft blade is best-suited to jobs where sizeable sections of ink needs to be adhered to your fabric, but a firm hand will let you print finer spots too.

    The most commonly used squeegees are around 70 durometer, this is your ‘everyman’ of ink-pushers, this guy will get the job done, no frills, no matter what. Consulting the chart above, you could expect a squeegee of this duro would give similar flex as a pencil rubber.

    Squeegees ranging from 80-90 durometer are considered medium to hard, they’ll offer significant resistance and subsequently gather less ink to be ‘pushed’ through the mesh. A firm blade ensures coverage in even the most precise areas of the print. This durometer class of squeegee blade is the all-star for details because you can really lean into your glide.

  3. Choosing the right blade type for the job:

    ‘Single’ Rubber Blades

    Commonly spotted in the wild, these squeegee blades are made from a material with uniform durometer – what you see is what you get!

    With a single durometer rating, these blades offer easy, cheap replacing – it’s as simple as untightening 2-4 screws on your handle and inserting your freshly-sliced blade. We recommend that you change your blades every 12 months for optimal performance, one roll from us is 3.7m, that will last you for a long time…

    It’s also our firm belief that no printshop is complete without Storage Racks.

     

    Triple (or ‘Composite’) Rubber Blades

    A blade made of three layers of rubber, sandwiched together to form a single blade with unique qualities. In short, a composite blade will maintain the capability to print fine details because of its high durometer core, despite it’s exterior softer layers, these exterior blades allow for more ink to be gathered in your push and then deposit into finer detailing than you would be able to achieve with a squeegee of the outer duro rating alone.

    These composite blades are 70/90/70,  62/90/62 &  55/90/55, they’re great working examples of a higher duro core surrounded by lower duro, softer blades.

Facts to take-away:
  • The colour of the squeegee blade will denote how much physical resistance it offers (durometer)
  • Blade edges can wear over time, replace approx. every 12 months with a new blade.
  • Squeegees can be ‘single rubber’ for general use or ‘triple rubber’ (composite) for more-experienced printers.

The Truth Exposed: M&R Vs Cheap from afar

 

Choose your destiny

A wide choice of equipment is a major advantage for us UK screen printers – we’re close to the EU mainland and have strong shipping connections around the globe, the world is our oyster.

The modern screen printer has a lot of choice when it comes to equipment; an M&R Sportsman, an Adelco dryer and a Natgraph exposure unit can all work harmoniously together in a printshop.

Buyer beware, it’s not difficult to be marketed to unethically, eBay cowboys can flog dodgy units from unknown brands and get away with it without much repercussion. It’s not a story we’re unfamiliar with unfortunately, the lack of accountability (and traceability) of these units and their vendors make specification almost as accurate as throwing a dart at a board.

What to look for

An informed choice is going to feed your passion more; it’s a chance to flex your expertise and avoid being ripped off in the process – here are some of the things we look for in a quality Exposure Unit.

A good light-source is number one. Moving on leaps and bounds from halogen technology of yesteryear and the fad of metal halide lamps, high-output UV LEDs are without a doubt where the industry is headed; they’re cheaper, last longer and expose screens faster than ever.


The Starlight will be able to expose photopolymer emulsions in as little as 3-5 seconds, how can it do this?

This M&R Starlight 2331, and its eBay counterpart, boasts UV LED bulbs – a big box ticked, but are all LEDs created equal?

These bulbs will determine more than you might think; exposure time, electricity used, quality of exposure. The secret is in the dense matrix of LED bulbs inside the Starlight, eBay counterparts will typically have around 100-200 bulbs, the Starlight has 1200

Here you can see just how many high-output UV LEDs are packed into the Starlight, this intense grid ensures a thorough, even exposure through your design. Cheaper matrixes will have large variations in intensity of light which produce a ‘wavy’ pattern of unexposed emulsion, or may not expose at all!

There are countless benefits to using a premium, branded machine over a chancing shipment from Shenzhen are innumerable – this unit in particular is capable of exposing around 100 screens an hour, each exposure as perfect as the last.

It’s here the value of an even intensity is tested – and where eBay tatt crumbles!



 

 

 

 

 

Pushing buttons vs pulling squeegees

Foreword by Dave Roper

 

I have been asked this question hundreds of times, it’s a big question that’s on every printer’s mind – while there’s no magic one-size-fits-all formula or answer, if you are answering ‘yes’ to any of the following, it’s probably time to look at auto-printing in your shop:

  • Are you letting your customers down on delivery dates?
  • Not enough hours in the day and printing weekends to catch up?
  • You dread the enquiry for 500 shirts in 6 colours?
  • Inconsistent prints across the print day?
  • Can’t compete in the open market with other printers?

What do I need to know?

So, you meet the criteria and you recognize that you can’t be pulling squeegees by hand for the rest of your life …so what’s next? What do I need as well as the shiny new blue auto? The other stuff:

  • Space! You will need at least 1000 square feet of ground level floor for a 6-colour auto, more colours demand more space for your press, don’t underestimate this one, when you are producing twice as much, you need space for incoming and outgoing stock
  • A decent three phase compressor with chiller unit, all autos need a good one – don’t skimp here.
  • Flash cure units for the auto (3 phase)
  • A dryer that can keep up with your new auto (3 phase)
  • Also take a look at your screen room, you will be printing twice as quick, so you will burn twice as many screens, and waiting 10 mins for a screen to expose …isn’t going to cut it, the latest LED exposure units burn a screen in under a minute from start to finish.

Can I afford it?

A new 8-colour auto with a flash cure, compressor and an electric dryer, installed will cost you around £40k, and believe me, I don’t have £40k in my bank account at the moment, so how do competitor printers afford these machines? Let’s look at this in a different way – not all debt is bad debt and 90% of the autos we sell are on finance, so let’s look at the figures:

 

A financed auto of £40,000, paid over 5 yrs. (60 months) would cost you around £789 a month; £183 a week or £37 a day…

So for £37 a day you’re buying:

  • Twice as much production capability as a manual
  • Consistency across your prints – the first print is the same as the last
  • No fatigue, pushing buttons is a lot easier than pulling squeegees…FACT
  • And de-skilling the job, its easier and faster to print on an auto, so you can afford that printer you have dreamed about – in turn freeing up your most valuable asset, time.

“Have time to work on your company, not in it”
– a wise man, long, long ago.

In this feature we’ll be hearing from Aimee Hibberd, Director of the Newport based screen printers Sticky Ink Studios.

The T-shirt of the month competition sees screen printers from up and down the country, from Aberdeen to Penzance, sending in one of their printed designs for a chance to win some printing goodies – this is our spotlight on our chosen winner for July


What does it take to produce a successful and eye-catching print in 2019?

It’s not David Vs Goliath when it comes to design; that it so say productions of any size can produce top-notch prints if they are well-informed and well-equipped, a good design can come from anywhere, like Aimee’s call to production “The design came from a client of ours who is a professional wrestler, those shirts got taken the night we printed them and flown to Japan for a series of matches”

Defying expectations, it might be surprising to learn that Aimee utilizes a rototex 5/5 at Sticky Ink to print her orders – “It’s an old machine but it works great” – keeping it seriously old school; did you know we refurbish and resell equipment too?

We asked Aimee about her choice of consumables to be used in this batch of prints. Featuring large primary colour elements, you might not expect the colours to be too difficult to achieve, being so close to the primaries…

“We mixed by hand to make the colours in this design, we used Amex CMX Inks for the colour-matching” 

“The registration was easy, but the hardest part was getting the colour matches as close to the Pantone references as we could, as we mix by eye and not with a mixing system”.

If you’re looking to produce precise Pantones every time, the new 7500 inks from International Coatings are exactly what you’re looking for. Designed for use with Ultramix, the guesswork and costly mistakes are taken right out of the equation.

Getting started with exact Pantones isn’t hard nor expensive; check out what’s included in the Pantone Ultramix Starter Kit

With waves of artists and screen printers switching to a Pantone mixing system, the skill and the art lives on in Newport.

That’s all for this month’s feature; if you’d like to see your own work on our office walls (seriously, we have about a hundred t-shirts pinned up!) and have a little write-up, send us a tee – details below.

 

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