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Zero-waste screen printing and more money in your pocket. Here’s how…

pots of coloured screen printing ink

Not just financially, but also from an environmental standpoint, here’s a rundown of all the areas where waste can occur and how, with a little care and attention, it can be minimised.

  • In this article:
  • Don’t waste screen printing inks or any other consumables
  • Create your workshop one step at a time
  • Avoid digital equipment becoming obsolete
  • Set up a modular workshop on wheels
  • Some DIY solutions
  • Choose which items of equipment you can repair yourself
  • Checklist of screen printing savings

There are essentially two major reasons why you might want to avoid waste: firstly, to reduce costs so as to generate greater profit for your business, and secondly, to use resources more conscientiously so that you reduce your impact on the environment.

At CPL Fabbrika, we always pay careful attention to ensuring you don’t unnecessarily waste materials or invest in expensive screen printing equipment that you don’t need and are unlikely to use again.

We always advise any customers who are looking to enter the world of screen printing to take one step at a time, to learn the ropes and techniques first without spending their entire budget at once. This approach helps to avoid any possible disappointment, but also ensures you only purchase the tools and equipment you really need and that can actually save you time rather than be an unnecessary expense.

Furthermore, wasting materials (like inks, screens and emulsions…) unnecessarily pollutes the environment – not a good way to run one’s life or business.

So, here are some tips that we often pass on to our customers. The great thing about these is that they’re very easy to implement, and anybody can do so.

Don’t waste screen printing inks or any other consumables

For many years now, most inks and emulsions sold on the CPL Fabbrika site have been available in half-kilo pots. This, of course, means that customers spend less on single items, but that’s not all.

The 0.5 kg pots of screen printing ink make it possible to use up all the ink on just one job.
Although screen printing ink lasts for quite a long time (months or even years), having smaller pots eliminates the risk of not closing a pot properly and having to throw away all the contents.

Separate the quantities into smaller pots
If you’d still like to order the larger 1 kg or 7 kg pots, we recommend pouring the contents into smaller pots, these can then be used for mixing, possibly catalysing, or diluting (with water) the exact amount of ink needed for printing.

Create your workshop one step at a time

It’s quite risky and potentially unnecessary to set up your workshop all in one go, in so doing you run the risk of ending up with equipment you’ll never actually use, or which could become obsolete.

First of all, as we have explained in this article, you don’t need to do everything yourself.

You can get outside suppliers to look after the pre-printing phase – file preparation, exposing the screen – and rather than buying expensive graphics programs, water treatment systems for developing screens, and equipment such as an exposure unit, when you aren’t sure whether you’ll need them or not, you can rely on outside suppliers for at least the first few years that you’re in business.

Then, once you’re certain you know how to use all this equipment, and that you have the financial wherewithal to cope with their depreciation, you can start expanding your screen printing workshop.

Even if we just consider the printing phase, it’s actually possible to grow over time rather than buying everything straight away.

For example, you can start with single-colour printing using the Silver Start Up Press, and then move on to the Silver 1.4 Spider carousel – both designed and produced by CPL Fabbrika – so that you can upgrade from 1 to 4 colours.
Also, if your budget allows, you can consider going for the US-made Vastex screenprinting carousels.

These are modular carousels: you can start with the rotating base and a single-colour station, and then, over time, add further printing stations to the same base.
By acquiring this equipment over time, you’ll save money and avoid any unnecessary waste.

Avoid digital equipment becoming obsolete

Much of the screen printing world is very manual: printing presses aren’t digital, at the very best they might run on electricity or be pneumatic (the most advanced).

Heat presses are also simple pieces of equipment that last for a long time, rarely do they have any digital components.
Only certain items of equipment, such as inkjet or laser printers, age very quickly: so think about it, does it make sense to buy something if you know you aren’t going to use it that often?

Sublimation printers, for example, need to be used very frequently, if they’re left idle for a week or two their print quality will be adversely affected. So, why not get an outside supplier like CPL Fabbrika to do the A3 or A4 sublimation printing, and dedicate your resources to buying a heat press so that you can transfer the ready-made prints onto the items being printed on?

Set up a modular workshop on wheels

The workshop you set up today won’t remain the same over the next couple of years, it will undoubtedly grow over time, as will the work you do and the space you need.
To avoid having to buy new workbenches with every evolution of your workshop, you can get modular workbenches – for example, one metre square, or one metre by two meters – which are on castors.
In so doing you can easily and quickly change how your workshop is set up and ensure that your investments last for a long time.

Some DIY solutions

In screen printing, there’s quite a strong element of “do-it-yourself”.

With a little effort and some experimentation, you can actually build some of the equipment you need yourself: screen washout booths, exposure units, small printing stations. We get dozens of requests for tips every week.

At CPL Fabbrika, we always encourage our customers to have a go themselves: for example, if you want to learn how to build an exposure unit, we’re happy to explain what things you need to take into consideration.

Choose whether to buy just some of the components, for example, you can find sets of UV neon lights for exposure units here, and build the equipment yourself.

Choose which items of equipment you can repair yourself

Finally, try repairing the equipment rather than replacing it. Of course, for this to be possible, the equipment you buy needs to be designed in such a way so as to make it repairable, and this isn’t always the case.

Screen printing is a mechanical world: sometimes just a bit of welding, a new bolt, or a threaded rod costing just a few pounds can easily and cheaply get a piece of equipment back on its feet.

The equipment that’s produced by CPL Fabbrika is all designed to make sure the materials and components are easily obtainable: knobs, threaded rods, bolts, nuts… all apart from the main structure, almost all of these components can be found in a standard ironmonger’s or, failing that, we always guarantee a supply of spare parts.

If you’re able to save money by replacing components rather than rebuying equipment you already have, this will enable you to invest in expanding your workshop instead.

Checklist of screen printing savings

  • To summarise, always choose solutions for your screen printing workshop that avoid waste:
  • buy good quality inks in the right quantity
  • don’t buy the equipment all in one go, wait so that you can understand what you really need
  • choose equipment that doesn’t become obsolete or that you can repair. Leave the problem of obsolescence (e.g. software) to outside suppliers
  • design a modular lab that you can build gradually
  • the beauty of screen printing is that in some cases you can do a bit of DIY: try, for example, building an exposure unit
  • learn to repair rather than replacing with new: an approach that’s kinder to the environment and saves money like nothing else!

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