Ever had a stencil break down during production? It sucks. Unless you have backup screens ready, production will come to a halt. Your time is valuable. For jobs that need tougher screens, use emulsion hardener to save you time and money.
WHAT IS EMULSION HARDENER AND WHY WOULD I NEED IT?
Emulsion hardener is a liquid that you apply to an exposed screen to strengthen it. There are three main reasons why you'd incorporate emulsion hardener on screens.
Printers working in high production shops with automatic presses will need screens that’ll last for thousands of prints. Emulsion hardener provides the insurance that the stencil will hold.
Have a customer who comes back to order the same design to be printed? Do you own a clothing brand where you’ll print specific art again? When you plan to reuse screens, using an emulsion hardener ensures that the stencil will perform every time.
HOW DO I USE IT?
After properly exposing and drying the screen, apply a thin, even layer of the hardener to both sides of the screen. A sponge, brush, or cloth will work fine.
Make sure to wipe up any excess hardener. If extra hardener is left in the image area, a film may appear. Remove it to avoid potential on-press issues.
Let the screen sit in a rack for 24 hours. Pressed for time? Place the screen in a hot drying cabinet that’s at 120°F. In 2-3 hours, the screen will be ready for production.
Be aware that if you apply emulsion hardener to a screen, the stencil will be permanent. If you don’t need to reclaim the screen, you’re good. If you do need to reclaim it, place the screen in a dip tank and let it soak for several minutes. Use a high PSI pressure washer. Spray the emulsion off from the squeegee side of the screen. It will take awhile to fully reclaim the screen.
If you’re printing with aggressive inks or run a high production shop, get an emulsion hardener. Add an extra step in your process, and you’ll save yourself from so much pain in the long run.