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Printing on High-Elongation Fabrics

(September 2008) posted on Tue Sep 23, 2008

Materials designed for high elongation can pull you in the wrong direction if you don

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By Rick Davis

The lines of inks are sold as either fast-fusion or low-temp plastisols. The application parameters are identical to printing on jersey fabric. The actual flash and cure temperatures may vary depending on the manufacturer of the ink line.


Printing parameters

One primary consideration in the printing of high-elongation fabrics is the loading of the fabric or garment onto a platen. Keep in mind that this fabric has an elongation factor of 500% or more and is typically constructed in garment form to stretch tightly over the body. This poses a great challenge to the printer in that the press operator must know how the fabric is to stretch not only over the body, but also over the platen.

For example, if you’re printing a pair of bike shorts, the artwork will of course be representative of the image as it is intended to be once stretched. In many cases, the actual amount of stretch is minimal and little consideration need be given to distortion during the printing process. If the fabric is stretched 3-5% beyond the point where the fabric is relaxed, the distortion to the image on the fabric will be minimal.

If you are printing a fabric that’ll be stretched more than 7%, you will have to consider the possibility that adjustments to either the artwork or platen will be necessary. Such adjustments minimize the distortion to the image once the garment stretches over the body. The platen option includes a platen that stretches the garment to the estimated elongated state that it would reach when worn by a person. This would ensure that the image would be the proper size once stretched to its intended size. The misleading aspect of this is the distorted appearance of a given image prior to the garment being fitted. This part of the printing process is one that a printer can only master through time and practice.


Spot-curing considerations

Properly flashing high-elongation plastisols requires planning and care. These inks present a challenge in that they possess a very high after-flash tack. In other words, they come out from the flash unit very sticky. The excessive after-flash tack is a result of the plasticizers used in the ink. The specialty plasticizers, or hot plasticizers, are required to give the ink its elongation.


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