At least half of screen printers start in their homes, perhaps in a basement, garage, or other out building. You need about a 20′ X 20′ area to work comfortably. You can do it in less space, but starting with this size will give you enough room to work efficiently. Aside from production, you’ll also need some storage space. This will vary depending on how many orders you do per week and how large the orders are.
You’ll need to have storage space for blank shirts, and a spot for finished orders that are ready for packing and shipping. In addition to storage, you’ll also want dedicated areas for staging screens, if possible. Screens are delicate, so you don’t want them lying around where they can get knocked over or damaged. If space is an issue for your start-up shop, there are space-saving options available in equipment. For example, some manufacturers offer compact exposure systems that can be placed on top of something else such as a screen-drying cabinet, allowing you to stack two pieces of equipment in a single footprint. Be sure to research the many options available as you shop for equipment.
Although your shop’s size and equipment determine electrical needs, even the smallest screen printer will need several dedicated power lines, a dedicated breaker and control panel for the flash, and a dedicated breaker for the dryer. You should get a professional electrician to help with the wiring. While suppliers offer equipment at 120V, going with 220V equipment is the better route. To get anything more than a small, entry-level dryer, you’ll need 220V capacity anyway, so why not start there? The difference should have no impact on your electricity costs; higher voltage just allows for a larger, faster machine that allows for higher production. The alternative is like having a car with an engine that’s too small. It may seem like a good idea at first, but if you can’t merge with traffic on the highway, that can be a problem.
Water access is also important. You’ll need access to water to prepare and clean your screens, a resource you can obtain simply by running a garden hose into your work area. However, it’s better if your plumbing allows direct access. Some people wash out screens at the local car wash, and some farm screen making out completely, but that’s a short-term option. You’ll want to add the ability to do screen development as soon as possible.
Lastly, because simply opening a can of ink releases fumes into the air, it’s important to ventilate your work area, including the area that houses the dryer. People often ask us if they should ventilate their dryers. They should, not for the sake of the dryer, but for your environment and quality of life. You want good air movement out of the shop. Also, solvent fumes are heavy and ventilating the ceiling alone isn’t good enough. You need to circulate the air with ceiling fans, then ventilate the air. While larger dryers have built-in power exhausts that allow the user to pipe the air outside, smaller dryers may require after-market ventilation systems.