Screen Print

The Ultimate Guide to Industrial Compressors for Screen Print Shops

Equip your screen print shop for success by investing in the right industrial air compressor. In this guide, we’ll explore the critical aspects of choosing and maintaining compressors, including the differences between hobby and commercial-grade compressors, understanding your shop’s CFM and duty load, the benefits of having a backup compressor, using chillers for optimal performance, building custom noise-reduction solutions, and essential maintenance practices.

1. Hobby Compressors vs. Commercial-Grade Compressors: A Key Distinction

Screen print shop owners must differentiate between hobby compressors and commercial-grade compressors. While hobby compressors are affordable, their short lifespan limits their usefulness in a screen print shop setting. Commercial-grade compressors, built with higher-grade components, offer a long-lasting and cost-effective solution.

Our main compressor was a Chicago Pneumatic and cost about $1800 at the time of purchase. It lasted about a year with pretty heavy usage, and then the motor caught fire. We were quoted near $1600 to have it repaired. The motor itself was only $500, but with labor and other fees the cost was near the total of buying it brand new. So that proves no financial sense. We will likely purchase the motor and do the fix ourselves down the road so this compressor can be our backup.

We have orders to run nonstop, so we needed an immediate solve while coming up with a new compressor. A quick trip to Home Depot and $800 later, we installed their Husky Compressor. This got us by for only two weeks while we sourced a good industrial compressor. The Husky started making weird noises and eventually stopped working altogether.

The Schulz Compressor we went with set us back $3400 + install and tax, but worth every penny. This industrial compressor is built with quality components that will last for years, especially with proper maintenance. The single phase compressor specs are 7.5 hp, 30 CFM, 80 gallon, and 175 PSI. A local company here in Las Vegas brought the compressor over and did the complete install.

2. Calculating Your Shop’s CFM and Duty Load: A Crucial Step

Selecting the right compressor requires understanding your shop’s total Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) and duty load. CFM measures a compressor’s air flow capacity, while duty load indicates the compressor’s operational time. Knowing these figures helps choose a suitable compressor for your shop’s demands. Finding your total CFM can be done by adding up all of the CFM specs for each machine that air is supplied to.

3. Backup Compressors: Minimizing Downtime and Maximizing Productivity

Unexpected downtime in the screen printing industry can prove costly. A backup compressor on standby helps maintain productivity and provides peace of mind while waiting for parts or mechanic assistance.

In an ideal setting, two compressors should be piped side by side, so if/when one goes down, the other is only a switch away from being operational. This is how you will achieve peace of mind and finally get some sleep. The screen print game can only be played at a high level if you have immediate back up components ready to go. If not, in-hands dates and promises cannot be kept because machinery will go down, it is inevitable.

Although this Husky compressor meets all the necessary specs to run the machine and do the job, it kicked the bucket after just weeks. It is not built with commercial grade components, and is only for garage hobby work. Our press runs about 12 hours a day off and on, this compressor could never last with that type of demand.

4. The Importance of Chillers in Screen Print Press Performance

Chillers, which remove moisture from the air, are vital for screen print press efficiency. While built-in chillers in compressors can be expensive, incorporating separate chillers offers a cost-effective way to optimize your press’s performance. Chillers are mandatory!

5. Custom Noise Reduction Solutions: Enhancing the Workplace Environment

Industrial compressors often generate significant noise. Custom noise reduction solutions, such as constructing a sound-dampening enclosure, can create a more comfortable work environment for employees. Keep in mind that these solutions may require temporary removal during compressor servicing.

If space allows, you should build the compressor area as far away from the production area as possible. Run longer hoses so that the compressors are away from everyones working area. A separate room would be ideal, and precautions should be taken to reduce the noise pollution of the shop. Printing is a long game, and protecting employees hearing over time needs to be addressed and considered.

6. Compressor Maintenance: Ensuring Longevity and Efficiency

Proper compressor maintenance, including regular oil changes and inspections, is crucial for the equipment’s long-term performance. Following recommended maintenance schedules prevents unexpected breakdowns and minimizes costly downtime.


Choosing and maintaining the right industrial compressor is vital for your screen print shop’s long-term success. By understanding key factors like hobby and commercial-grade compressors, CFM, duty load, backup compressors, chillers, noise reduction solutions, and maintenance, you can optimize your shop’s efficiency and productivity. Make informed decisions about your equipment and pave the way for a thriving screen print business.

Two broken down compressors. Left side: Chicago Pneumatic $1700 (worked for one year before catching fire in the motor). Right side: Husky from Home Depot $800 stopped working after two weeks.

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