It is often said that the best ideas are the simplest and this certainly applies to two screen printing innovations that received their debut at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! earlier in the year. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey reports.
The first such product could be found on the Pyramid stand. If you looked hard enough you would have found the Squand.
The name doesn’t automatically reveal the nature of the product and what it can be used for, but once you know you will wonder why you never thought of it yourself.
The Squand was invented by Joanna Pawlowska. Joanna fell in love with the art of screen printing while completing a degree in fine art at Central Saint Martins in London in 2010. She discovered a need for the Squand when completing a screen printing course at Hampstead College a few years ago.
She explains: “We were all putting our squeegees on the table and making a terrible mess. It was here that I made my first prototype of the Squand. A lawyer colleague suggested I get a patent for the invention. The rest is history as they say.”
But what exactly is the Squand? It is a small plastic block designed to hold an A2 squeegee upright. It keeps the ink on top of the squeegee rubber, preventing it from dripping on to any surroundings. It is made of durable but recyclable ABS plastic.
The aim of the Squand is to help screen printers perfect their practice by giving them the right tool for the job. “There is nothing like this out there on the market,” says Joanna. “Most screen printers leave their hand held squeegees on the edge of the table or rest them a brown tape roll, which is not very safe.”
Following large commercial exposure during P&P LIVE! at the NEC in Birmingham, uptake of the product has been great. Joanna says: “The reception from visitors at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! was very good and enthusiastic. I received some orders immediately and made some new contacts. The main thing for me was that the Squand was shown to the world and people have started noticing it.”
The Squand is now being used in a few colleges, print studios and galleries, as well as by individual artists. “Artists who use it could not do without it now. They think it is a brilliant product. It is very handy, easy to use and most all it does the job very well,” says Joanna.
Although very happy with the original product, the inventor and innovator in Joanna could not rest and she has now created a much heavier version of the Squand which also features non-slip silicone feet. The new version is aimed at textile printers who use large squeegees.
She concludes: “I do have other ideas in the pipeline, but I am determined to get the Squand fully on the market first so these ideas can be self financing.”
The Squand can be purchased from Dave Roper and Pyramid Screen Products.
The next product was found on the Screentech Design stand. It was invented by Steve Iles, a screen printer by trade. He attended a graphic design course at Camborne College in Cornwall 37 years ago where screen printing was a module included in the course, he instantly took to it and has stuck with it ever since.
The story behind the development of the Autotac is quite interesting, as Steve explains: “After many years of using spray adhesives, I became intolerant to the vapours; even though I wore a mask I began to feel dizzy and nauseous after spraying the carousel platens.
“The adhesive is also very messy and regardless of how careful I was when spraying the pallets, excess adhesive would stick to the carousel and workshop floor.
“In time this built up, and I would have to lose a day’s production in order to shut down and clean the machinery and workshop. I just thought there must be a better way to apply spray adhesive. This is by far my preferred method of applying adhesive to the pallets, so I made it my mission to come up with a solution.”
The resulting product was the Autotac. It was developed over a period of a few years and the prototype has been in operation in Steve’s print shop for over a year. Production models are currently being manufactured, with orders being taken.
As the name suggests Autotac applies spray glue easily, accurately and safely. Consisting of a motorised cradle, which takes a standard aerosol can, a hood and a filter the Autotac coats the screen print platen at the push of a button. Because of the enclosed system this makes the process more environmentally friendly and this is carried through with both the hood and the filter being made from cardboard and, therefore, completely recyclable. Once the platen has been sprayed a vacuum fan extracts the residue with the airborne particles being caught in the filter and the gas exhausted through a vent.
The Autotac currently works best with manual screen print carousels. It can be used with automatic carousels, but the operator must be prepared to slow down production slightly to co-ordinate with the speed of the Autotac. Steve says he is hoping to develop a model that is even faster that will work efficiently with the average speed of most automatic screen printing carousels.
Steve believes the need for the Autotac machine has been identified by many screen printers, but as he explains: “Perhaps in many businesses the development teams may not actually be the people operating the machines and experiencing the problems.” He adds that he has always been very hands-on and has had first-hand experience of the effects spray adhesive can have on health and the working environment.
Just like the Squand, the Autotac received its debut at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! back in February. Steve and his team took the product along to establish if there was a substantial demand for it. “I wanted to get as much market feedback as possible before proceeding with the expense of launching it,” says Steve. “All feedback was positive; I received many enquiries and even confirmed the first sale before the official launch.”
Steve concludes: “I am thrilled with the Autotac and I honestly wouldn’t be without it in my workshop.”
It just goes to show that screen printers don’t need overhaul their equipment set-up to improve the efficiency of their print shop. Sometimes the simplest ideas really can make a difference.