The squeegee is certainly one of the most important tools used in the screen printing process. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most neglected. After investing countless sums of money on equipment, mesh, pre-press preparation, ink and substrate, the low-tech inexpensive squeegee is the primary factor that controls the ink deposit, affects the color and sharpness of the printed image, and ultimately controls the quality of the finished product. The squeegee alone forces the ink into the screen mesh, keeps the mesh in contact with the substrate, adapts the mesh to the shape of the substrate, and removes the excess ink from the mesh.
Squeegee manufacturers try to manufacture their blades with as sharp an edge as possible. However, while you may not be able to see it, the edge of the squeegee begins to wear from the very first impression. Eventually, this wear will cause the following conditions:
- The edge will become rounded, leaving a progressively heavier deposit of ink.
- The edge may become so highly polished it will tend to skip over the ink rather than spread it. This happens primarily with poster, water-based, or plastisol inks.
- The edge may become swollen and chip due to aggressive inks.
- The edge may become uneven due to wear at some spots and not others.
The simplest and most cost effective solution to these problems is to sharpen the edge.