In order to run a profitable screen printing business you need to set up a screen room. This room is sometimes called a darkroom. Darkrooms are vital when it comes to increasing production. They help you lower labor costs and they reduce consumables. When you are creating screens you want to move through the different stages efficiently. Which means that you must have a good workflow. You should go from imaging and burning frames then move on to developing and finally washing them.
There is a logical order to screen creation. It begins with coating the screens with emulsion. Then drying the screens. Next, you move to printing the film positives. Then exposing the screens. Finally, developing the screens (washing them out). You should place the appropriate materials and supplies based on this logical order. You don’t want to have to cross the room every time you need a tool or emulsion. Put it right next to the stations that they will be used with.
Your Environment Can Hurt Your Darkroom
The three worst things for your darkroom are temperature, humidity, and dust. You must control these three factors if you are to be successful. Keeping the temperature under control is so important. Liquid emulsion and capillary film are heat sensitive. You don’t have to be a perfectionist in maintaining the temperature. Just make sure the room is not freezing or burning up. Drying screens is important. Which means that the more the temperature fluctuates the longer you have to dry them.
You must keep humidity low because it directly affects drying times. The ideal humidity is between 35% and 45%. This way your emulsion will dry quicker. Which means that you need to keep your washout area and water in a separate place from your screen creation. Sometimes this just isn’t possible. So you may want to purchase a dehumidifier. When you touch emulsion sometimes it seems dry, but remember that may only be on the surface. It may not be dry underneath the surface. Emulsion needs plenty of time to fully dry. This can be difficult in humid areas.
Keep dust out of your darkroom. One of the biggest reasons that pinholes occur during screen printing is that dust particles have landed on wet screens or they come into contact with film positives. You must keep your area dust free. Which means you need to clean your shop regularly.
Proper screen preparation is key
Once you have your environment set up you need to focus on the tools. An Emulsion scoop coater is the most important tool that you will use. You apply liquid emulsion to screen printing frame mesh. A sharp edge is important for a scoop coater. No dents. No nicks. You should have backup scoops in case something happens. You could stop production if your scoop coater is not working well. That would be a disaster.
Your screens need a place to dry without dust after you have coated them with emulsion. You can use a drying cabinet like a Pro-Cure Roll-InScreen Dryer. It works great for this. You can also use screen drying racks. Fans can be used to speed up the drying process. Be careful they can also move any dust around as well. Keep fans on a low setting. Clean them often. They can collect dust.
What to Know About Washout Booths and Filtration
Once the screens are dried and exposed the last step for creating a screen is to develop them. This will reveal the image. This is where the washout booth comes in. You wet the screen and wash away the unhardened emulsion. If you don’t have a washout booth you can also use a dip tank filled with water. Just put the screen in the tank and it will develop for you. A dip tank works great for small fonts and halftones. It minimizes accidentally washing out fine details. A dip tank will also help you develop multiple screens at the same time. This will speed things up for you.
You want the best screens possible. Set up your darkroom to ensure maximum efficiency. Then keep it dusted and dry. Use good tools for the job. You will reap the benefits of a well run darkroom.