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Managing Mesh-to-Frame Attachment

(December 2011) posted on Wed Jan 11, 2012

This guide focuses on frame systems and procedures for affixing screen mesh to the frames and discusses the benefits and drawbacks of each.

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Frames come in two main varieties: static and retensionable. Of these two groups, the static or rigid frame—commonly known as a stretch-and-glue frame—is the simplest form. Rigid frames are available in many different materials and profiles. The most common materials are wood, tubular aluminum, and tubular steel. Wood frames are arguably the most popular due to their lower cost but are limited in size for strength reasons and generally not recommended for high-resolution, tight-tolerance work. Among the metal rigid-frame types, tubular aluminum is the most popular in the United States. Aluminum frames are lighter than steel frames but provide similar stability. Steel frames, epoxy coated or powder coated, are more popular overseas.

Tubular aluminum frames support a variety of gluing surfaces, including sandblasted, ground, or raw with no texture (Figure 1). Frames have a great surface to work with when they’re brand new. But the surface can become less than ideal once multiple layers of adhesive, fabric, and ink residue have built up. You can re-glue mesh over old adhesive numerous times before the frames must be reconditioned; however, many printers don’t take the time to prep the frame properly when they attempt to recondition it.

Sanding the glue off of an aluminum frame is a common mistake because it leaves the surface too smooth for the adhesive to bite into it effectively. Sandblasting is great for small frames but may be impractical for large frames. So this leaves mechanical brush grinders, angle grinders with flapper discs, or chemicals.

The chemical method is most commonly used with coated steel frames, but it is also used with aluminum frames. The chemicals come in two main varieties: gels and liquids. To ensure the best performance, the exact chemical makeup of the strippers should be recommended by the manufacturer of the adhesive you use.

The task of chemical adhesive removal can be performed in a few different ways. Some people dip their frames, if the size allows, in a stripper solution. Others will paint or spray the cleaning chemical onto the frame, wait a period of time, and then remove the residue with scrapers. To complete the process, excess stripper material and residue are cleaned from the frame with an appropriate solvent.


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