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The Road to Reclamation

(February 2009) posted on Fri Feb 20, 2009

Thinking of upgrading your screen- preparation capabilities by adding automatic screen-cleaning and reclaiming equipment? This discussion will help you make some important decisions as you adopt the technology and update your workflow to support it.

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By Ben P. Rosenfield

“And this is where we prepare screens,” you say, rushing valued clients who just popped in for an unannounced visit past the doors to your cleaning and reclaiming area. “Let’s head to the production floor, where we actually print your jobs. It’s much more interesting!”

Why are you deflecting your customers’ attention from your screen room? Is it because solvents and other chemicals are flying all over the place? Could it be that your employees spend way too much time incompletely cleaning and reclaiming screens or damaging the mesh by using tools improperly or mishandling the frames? Whatever the reason, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to show your clients how well you can manage an early step of the workflow that ultimately determines the quality of the prints you produce for them. This article describes the types of automated screen-cleaning and reclaiming systems available today and how they can boost consistency and efficiency in this key area of your operation.

Manual vs. automatic

Let’s get one point out of the way before we start our discussion about these ma-chines: A screen cleaner is a tool that removes inks from screens that will be used again for the same job. A screen reclaimer, on the other hand, comple-tely removes the stencil and dehazes and degreases the mesh, thereby leav-ing you with a screen that you can use on another job.

Completely manual cleaning and reclaiming units can be as straightforward as open-chamber booths or dip tanks into which you load screens that either need to be washed for reuse or prepped for new stencils. They can be quite economical and effective in getting the job done, provided they’re used properly. These tools require more human intervention than automatic cleaning and reclaiming systems.

The basic reclaiming workflow involves ink removal, emulsion re-moval, and a high-pressure washout. Users who manually wash and reclaim screens must be careful to monitor chemical strengths and soak times and closely control the ways in which they use related cleaning tools—high-pressure washers, for example. Employee safety also is paramount. Eyes, skin, lungs, and clothing can damaged by exposure to some of the chemicals commonly used to clean and reclaim screens. Care also must be taken in handling and transporting screens. Properly tensioned mesh can easily be rendered unusable when it’s not given the attention it deserves.


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