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Special Effects on Automatic Presses

(August 2009) posted on Fri Aug 07, 2009

Tips for Cutting-Edge Garment Graphics in High Volume

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Take note of the differences between electric and gas dryers and what is achievable with either. For example, curing water-based inks or gels in an electric dryer can sometimes be problematic. The main issue here is air flow in the heat chamber of the dryer. Some electric dryers don’t have any, and the ones that do often pale in comparison to gas dryers. The point is that water-based inks and gels require longer cure times. The forced hot air in the gas dryer helps to speed this up, especially when water-based inks are concerned. The water must evaporate out of the ink before it can achieve cross-linking, just like plastisol. This process takes longer in electric ovens, which typically lack the forced hot air, thereby adding production time, consuming more energy issues, and introducing the possibility of scorching the printed garments. Again, be sure to quiz the ink manufacturer or distributor about these issues.

Supplements to special-effects printing
The approach to special-effects printing on automatic presses really is the same as that of conventional garment screen printing, except that there are more variables in special effects. Paying attention to these variables and then transferring knowledge gained to the designer is the key element.

The wide range of inks and possible applications can be dizzying, but you can learn a lot with some patience and forethought. Making use of the technical information you obtain from practice in production is as valuable as what the manufacturers are able to teach you—oftentimes more so.

Consider adding other types of decorating equipment to the production mix once you get the hang of working with some of these inks. Flocking machines and transfer presses are just a couple of examples of valuable tools that you can use to create amazing effects when paired with special effects-printing (Figure 4). Both are a staple in any modern printing facilities. Additions to automatic machines, such as inline foil or flock applicators, are also worth a serious look.

The ability to achieve impressive results in special-effects-based garment printing (Figure 5) was once limited to a small percentage of production facilities. That’s no longer the case. Improvements in ink technology and press capabilities have opened the field to a much greater number of players. Nowadays, the question isn’t whether you can get into special-effects printing—it’s a question of when.


Ed Branigan serves as print products applications manager for California-based International Coatings, where he works in product development, marketing support, and conducting workshops and seminars. Branigan has spent 25 years in the screen- and graphics-printing industries in Europe and the US. He has also served as director of R&D for several large screen-printing and merchandising companies on the West Coast of the US.




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