Are all squeegees created equal?
The answer is No. What's so important about a squeegee? Well, if you are a screen printer, this tool is what makes your decorating discipline of choice work. It is one of the most important tools for screen printers, yet it may also be one of the least understood.
A squeegee consists of two parts: a blade and the holder for the blade. Its seems like a simple design; however, the holder comes in various shapes and materials, and is designed for different functions. For manual screen printing, for example, the holder essentially becomes the handle of the squeegee. Of importance to the printer is how the handle feels when holding the squeegee, especially after several hours of printing. Wood, aluminum or plastic are the most popular materials used for handles, and each has its following. Fans of the wooden handles like the organic feel and warmth of wood, whereas fans of the newer plastic or aluminum handles prefer them for their easy-to-clean properties. For handles that are designed to allow blade replacement, check how easily the replacement can be made. Some designs feature clips, others feature screws, and so on. Another consideration when choosing handles is the shape. There are many ergonomic handles on the market today that may combat fatigue and stress-related injuries. Handles also come in different heights most commonly 4- and 5-inch widths to accommodate smaller or larger hands. Automatic printing machines generally use squeegees with aluminum or metal holders, where the blades can be replaced.
Squeegee blades come in various shapes, so its important to use the right shape for the job. The details are as follows:
Square (also called Straight Edge): The square-edge squeegee blade is most often used by screen printers. It works well for standard or regular ink applications.
Round (or ball nose): The round shape of the blade passes more ink through the screen and is often used for printing gel or puff inks. The round blade also is used by screen printers who want a heavy deposit when printing special-effects inks.
V-Shaped (single or double-bevel): This profile is often used for printing on irregular or cylindrical-shaped substrates.
For the most part, squeegee blades are now made of polyurethane rather than rubber. Durometer refers to the squeegee blades hardness. A lower value means a softer blade. For example, a 50-60 durometer blade means a soft squeegee, a 60-70 durometer is a medium-hard edge and a 70-80 durometer indicates a hard blade. Similar to the blades shape, the various durometers also determine how much ink is deposited on the fabric. The soft blade deposits more ink than the hard blade. Most printers prefer a hardness of around 70-75 durometer for general printing. Again, a 55 durometer (soft) blade would be good for printing gels and puff inks, as these types of ink require heavier deposits. A soft blade also may be used to lay down more ink on heavily textured fabrics. An 80 durometer blade is great for printing a fine, detailed print or four-color process prints.
4. Composite Blades
To complicate things even more, there now are squeegees available with composite blades, whereby two or more blades of differing durometers are either stacked or sandwiched together. For example, a 70/90/70 composite blade consists of a hard blade in the middle of two softer ones. The idea is that the hard blade supports the squeegee, whereas the softer blades still allow for a good amount of ink to be deposited. Ultimately, printing preference determines whether a printer chooses a single or a composite blade. Try the different squeegee blades and see if the high-tech ones are better suited to your printing style.
Finally, determine the length needed for the screen being used. Many squeegees can be purchased by the inch, so be sure the screens width and designs width are accounted for when ordering.