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Tools of the Trade - Screen Openers

Posted by Mary Yaeger on 9/8/2017

Why have screen openers in your shop? Simple. Sometimes ink will “dry up” an area of your screen which has the possibility of ruining the image area and the mesh itself. Not only does this slow down your production time, but it could cost you money in the long run. Regular use of screen openers helps prevent clogging and work delays.

Screen openers are used by screen printers everywhere. Just as there are many different screen printers, there are many different brands of screen openers. This fact alone can make it difficult to determine where to start when you buy one, but it is important to note they all have their advantages depending on the type of printing your shop does. Screen openers typically come in two forms – spray and foam spray. Both forms of sprays are meant to be used with different types of inks – water based or plastisol.

As mentioned in previous articles, plastisol ink does not “dry”. It has to go through a curing process to be considered “dry”. So, when we say an area in the screen has dried up, what does that mean in terms of plastisol ink? Depending on the mesh that you are using (especially really fine mesh), plastisol essentially gets lodged in between the mesh threads. When this happens, your standard press wipes or press wash won’t penetrate those threads well enough to get the plastisol out. This is where screen openers come into play. Screen openers are a more aggressive version of press wipes/wash. And can get in between the fine threads to remove the ink.

Water based inks are a little bit different than plastisol in this case. With this particular type of screen printing you will run into ink drying, but there are screen openers made specifically for water based inks! Most screen openers recommend regular use of screen openers. Not only does this open dried up areas on the screen, but it prevents clogging in the first place. It is important that when you use water based inks you keep the screen wet to prevent the ink from drying. Water based screen openers are another tool for screen printers to ensure they are protecting their mesh and keeping up with quality and production.

Another great aspect about screen openers is that they can also be used to clean ink and dirt from your press. While press maintenance may not be high up on a shop’s list of to-do’s it is important to remember to occasionally wipe your press down to protect it.

How to use a screen opener:

When using a screen opener it is important to remember that you are using a chemical. There are some screen openers that smell bad and there are some that smell fruity (typically oranges). That being said, remember to open a window or turn on fans as to inhale as little chemical as possible. Whenever you run into a screen clogging issue, spray the screen opener in a circular motion 6 to 8 inches away from the screen to open. Only a thin application on dried-in areas, and a few passes with a clean rag, is needed to open the mesh back up! 

Typically screen openers do not leave an oily residue or film, but it is important to check with your supplier to make sure you are getting the right product for your shop.

To learn more, visit us online at screenprintingsupply.com

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