Squeegee Blade

Does the tension of the screen affect the print?

I work for a graphics company that has recently had problems with our art stretching when we screen print. Upon several tests, it looks like the position of the screen is causing the problem but my boss insistent that it is the tension of the screen. Can the tension in your screens cause your image to stretch?

Your assumption that it is the position of the screen (off-contact) that is causing the problem is partly correct. We do need to position the screen with slight off contact from the object to be printed. This is necessary to have sufficient off-contact to pull the mesh from the wet ink immediately behind the squeegee as it moves across the screen.[1]

This off contact produces a slight deformation of the image in what is called the Door Effectâ„¢[2]. The mesh hinges at the point where it is attached to the frame (like a door on it's hinges). The more off contact, the more deformation of the image occurs.

With the correct tension level, the screen can be very close to the object to be printed and thus the image on the mesh is enlarged only slightly. If all screens have the same level of tension, the image will be in register, but slightly enlarged. With less tension, this off contact distance will need to be increased, further affecting the amount of image deformation due to the door effect. If one screen is positioned further from the object to be printed, a registration problem will occur.

Yes, tension (or the lack of tension) is the cause of the majority of problems that are the bane of the screenprinting industry. If the mesh is not stretched to the mesh manufacturers suggested tension level, it will move under the pressure of polyurethane squeegee blade. The use of a tension meter will provide a benchmark for mesh tension. By assuring that all screens within a multicolor job are tensioned to the same level, they can all be positioned on a geometric plane with the object to be printed and will register properly.

Also, assure that your print bed or platens are parallel to the screens and that all screens are in the same geometric plane.[3] While, you are at it, recycle your low-tensioned stretch and glue frames and stop adjusting the press for every screen due to tension differences. Consider moving to retensionable frames in order to have even and consistent tension, which will greatly lessen the setup times, register better, give smooth and even ink deposits and higher quality, all relating to making more money.

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