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Real Talk: Screens and Screens

Real Talk: Screens and Screens
March 23 2018
So there is this guy who really wants me to write about screens.  I believe his exact request was for a comparison between the economics and quality of wood screens compared to aluminum screens compared to retensionable screens.  What's the difference?  What should he purchase?  Why?  These are all good questions.  The answer is aluminum.


Just kidding.  Just kidding.  Alright Eric Mason, I will get into some details here and actually break this topic down for you.  You owe me.  Like seriously, I will need a "go Bears" or something out of your mouth by the time this is all finished.  I know how much you love Chicago sports teams.

Let's talk wood screens.  They are cheap.  They do the job.  Tension is pretty good.  What could go wrong?  Well...about that.  They warp.  Sometimes they warp very quickly.  Other times they are warped when you receive them.  Does this mean you can't use them?  Well no, they are usable.  They just aren't great as a warped screen really makes screen registration difficult.  It makes ink deposit inconsistent.  Don't you argue that with me.  I know what you are thinking.  Yes, 110 count mesh is 110 count mesh.  Ink deposit shouldn't change.  However, I will argue that a warped screen will have different off-contact distance from the right to left.  Perhaps not.  It could have different off-contact distance from front to back.  No matter.  It's different.  Problems will arise from this.  The mesh may stick to the print where the screen is close to the print and won't quickly "snap off".  This leaves texture.  This may cause the fabric to pull up off the platen.  Eric, you don't want that.  You are interested in high quality screen printing.  That is why you print with ELT-S Series ink.  It cures at a low temperature.  Want some?  Call me, I have a few gallons.

So next on the list is aluminum screens.  What's the deal here?  I will tell you Mr. Mason.  Aluminum screens are fantastic as they will not warp like its wood screen step sister.  You can coat, print, and reclaim over and over again while the frame remains consistent and happy.  The price is just a little higher than wood screens but not enough to deter you.  The only thing you need to worry about is mesh tension.  When you receive a properly stretched aluminum screen it will be very tight.  The more you use the screen and the older it gets, the more tension you are losing over time.  Eventually, it will feel tight but it will measure zero newtons.  This is normal.  The screen is usable.  It's just not ideal as you must keep increasing your off-contact distance higher and higher.  Not a huge deal until you are inconsistent with your squeegee pressure and the registration does not line up from print to print.  No good.  At this point, either trash it or get the razor out and slash it.  Glue some new mesh.  Use a stretcher...which is not a bunch of guys with strong hands holding it tight while someone glues it to the frame.  I know this worked with wood frames and staple tape in the old days but lets be better.  Everybody come back into the now.  Live in the present.  Live in the present.

There are only a couple real downsides with aluminum frames.  Sometimes it is difficult to prep the screen when you go to stretch new mesh.  Some of my customers have experienced trouble in the past getting the mesh properly glued down.  Personally, I would leave this to the professionals and just send them off to get stretched.  Call me, I know a guy.  The other problem only happens when your aluminum screens are poorly welded.  If a weld has a hol


Very good (March 23 2018 4:44:00 PM)
Where did you get all that info from?

Eric - Virginia
Very good (March 23 2018 4:45:00 PM)
And Da Bears are ok

Eric - Virginia
I have worked with all 3 (March 26 2018 11:33:00 AM)
Like in the title of this comment. I have worked with all 3 and by far I use the plain aluminum frames due to all the stated above in your article. Wood just takes more time on the setup of the print job to adjust for warp-age of the frames which takes longer which equates to more overhead and less profits for the business to grow. I couldn't tell you how much of a pain in the butt it is to use the frames like the Oldman (name changed to protect the innocent) Roller retensionable frames and how many busted knuckles and arthritis that has set in trying to put the plastic strip in and out of the groove... NO THANK YOU!

Very good aluminum frames is all a print company needs to get a very good print and see at the end of the day the business covered it's bills and has profit to grow. That is all that counts in the end doesn't it?

Kirk - NC
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