Preserve Your Investment in Masking

Masking and in particular custom masking is an investment. As such it needs to be maintained in order to ensure it works for you.

More and more people are benefiting from custom masking. Custom masks can be manufactured quickly, enabling the finisher to process repeating jobs efficiently and accurately. However, there is an investment required for custom masking, so it is important to protect that investment by taking care of your masking. Here are a few things you can both look for and do to ensure your masking is always performing at its best.

Remove excess paint buildup – Masks should be cleaned on a regular basis, either in a chemical solution that is compatible with the mask material or in a tumbling machine to break the paint off. Layers of paint on a mask will reduce the flexibility of the mask and can mean that it stops masking correctly. Excess paint on the mask can break off during the finishing process and fall onto a newly painted surface. If your process is prone to depositing an excessive amount of paint on the masks, then advise your masking supplier. A good masking supplier can provide samples in a different material for you to try. Often a different hardness of material can mean the paint behaves differently on the mask.

Splits or cracks – Look carefully at splits and cracks to see if they are always in the same place, then contact your masking supplier as they may be able to redesign the mask to stop the splitting. Have the masking supplier visit you to review how you apply and remove the mask. They can also review the tool to check there are no sharp edges that can damage the mask as it is being removed from the tool. Well placed chamfers or fillets on tooling is often the sign of good tool design and can make or break a mask.

Colour - Watch for masks that have changed colour since you first started using them. Clear masks may start to go brown as they fatigue due to multiple passes through an oven. A once light blue mask can become dark blue after multiple runs through a chemical plating process. Display a picture of a new mask in the area where you keep your masks, to help people monitor how the colour is changing over time.

Hardness – Masks can change hardness as they are used multiple times. Keep a new mask as a master so you know how they should feel. If you detect a dramatic change then replace your masks.

When to replace masks - Count how many times the masks have gone through the process before they fail and reduce that number by 20%. Once at that number of uses, order replacements, this should give your supplier time to manufacture new ones before your old masks fail.

Track your masks - ask your supplier if you can order a different color to help track new masks. When all your new masks are red and the old ones were blue, it is easy to spot which ones need to be removed from the process.

Written by John the article was published in Surface World magazine.

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Preserve your masking investment