It is no new that print shops that are initially short on a budget find their garage the best place to start their printing business, be it screen printing, DTG, and most commonly sublimation. At least they can save a bunch of overhead costs and rather invest in buying printing supplies and equipment.
When you set a screen printing shop in the garage, the following equipment pose a challenge to get it accommodated in space-constrained area. They are:
- Screen printing press
- Curing equipment
- Darkroom setup
- Washout booth
So, let us go thorough a brief overview of how to accommodate huge screen printing equipment in a small space.
Manual or Automatic Press:
The screen printing press may be automatic or manual. But you are starting in the garage, a 1-station manual press is a right option. A 20×20 inch area is sufficient to place a small heat press machine. Moreover, that gives you more storage space for screens.
A heat gun, flash dryer, and heat press are suitable curing equipment that takes up a small space. A 9×12 heat press is relatively small, portable, and inexpensive. We usually avoid conveyor dryers because it takes a lot of space. A standard conveyor dryer from Vastex consumes a space of 30 x 18 in. In addition, it is quite expensive as compared to the alternatives.
Darkroom is used to create stencil on screen mesh. The highly concentrated UV light hardens the emulsion to create stencils. A closet, bathroom and garage room are three most prominent places for a darkroom setup at home. Considering the garage room, it can be a great place to fit your exposure unit and screen rack in the same place.
You can have a wash booth in your garage, bathroom or sink. You can even use your backyard as a wash booth A 10×10 inch booth is almost done. Ensure to attach filters at your drainage inlet. Else the emulsion is likely to clog the pipes and may need to be replaced in the long run.
05 Steps to Set up Screen Printing Shop in Garage
Taking inferences from past experiences of many printshops who started working in the garage shop. The best practices that you should follow to make the most efficient screen printing workflow are as follows:
When you begin with screen printing, you need the basic equipment to get started, i.e. a screen printing machine, a flash unit, and an exposure unit. You may go for a conveyor dryer if you consider spending more and enough space to keep it.
“Riley Hopkins 150 screen printing machine is small enough to fit your garage.”
Considering the space, Riley Hopkins 150 is one of the smallest presses that consumes space of 20 inches by 40 inches including platen. So, it does not take a lot of your room space. The 150 press is lightweight, and mobile.
Beyond equipment, you can opt for DIY techniques to build your own rack of wood and casters. You can create your own cabinet to put up a squeegee of 2×4 inches. A drying cabinet with a fan and dehumidifier to put screens.
Building it yourself doesn’t mean you are spending more than buying a finished product from the shop. Prepare estimates and tally with the shop prices. It is not meant to spend time and money building rather than buying it.
2. Dark Room:
To make the best screens, you need the best dark room. and when your workshop is small, you may need to get creative.
For a proper darkroom, you need to make arrangements for some of the following points below:
- Proper air circulation is a must for a dark room. Placing a fan will be sufficient
- Humidity control. You need dehumidifiers to control the humidity. You also need a hygrometer to measure the required room humidity.
- Screen storage setup such as a screen rack
- Yellow light bulbs
“A closet can be the best place for a dark room setup.”
Therefore, considering the space constraints, setting up the darkroom in the closet may be the best choice. Or if your garage has less exposure to light sources such as windows or doors, garage dark rooms are great for space.
- Make a wall-mounted rack to store your screens without taking extra space.
- 16 to 20-inch box fans for air circulation.
- For a warm and dry climate in the closet, you need a dehumidifier to keep the closet dry and a hygrometer to measure temperature and humidity.
Since the darkroom should be an enclosed space that blocks most of the white light, a closet with a door can be the best success.
Since a closet isn’t enough spacious to keep your exposure unit, your garage has much of its role to play.
As we discussed garage dark room, you can easily fit your exposure unit and screen drying rack in the same room.
4. Rinsing Screens:
“A bathtub or sink is the best place to rinse your screens. Even your backyard too, if you have a water supply.”
The darkroom maybe your garage, closet, or bathroom, creating the best possible stencils is the purpose for every screen printer. In most houses, there is always a bathroom or sink right next to the garage. Therefore, rinsing out the screens in the bathtub or sink makes sense.
However, you want to prevent the emulsion from ruining your pipes. Your pipes may get clogged when the emulsions continue to deposit for a long time. You may need to completely replace them. So, you need to get a filter for the drain. Moreover, you even won’t have to bother about drains if you have water supply provisions in your backyard.
“A heat gun or heat press may be the best alternative to a flash dryer and conveyor dryer for the garage.”
If you are getting started with screen printing, a heat gun still gets the job done. While the flash dryer is worth it when you are doing it full-time to fulfill small to medium orders. For large orders, like curing multiple shirts at a time, you need a conveyor dryer.
But mostly, startups or small businesses prefer to staring in the garage. so, the conveyor dryer isn’t space and budget-friendly. Instead, a heat gun, flash dryer, or heat press may be suitable options.
Moreover, the better alternative to a flash dryer is a heat press. It is comparatively available in smaller sizes and at affordable pricing. In fact, it is more reliable than using a flash dryer. Most importantly, it displays the temperature fluctuations while you are using it.
While heat press may also be called a conveyor dryer without the conveyor belt. If you are decorating vinyl, it will be excellent equipment for curing. In fact, the heat press is multi-purpose equipment used for both screen printing and sublimation printing.
Big presses, large flash units and conveyor dryers are a real burden and may need you to have space equivalent to half of the football field.
However, that isn’t needed when you are running a small business. So, follow the steps above, and save your overhead, maintenance costs so that you may focus more printing.