Small shops can get into big trouble when they neglect to test their supplies and document procedures. Use this overview to avoid potential pitfalls.
By Rick Davis
Here’s an example. I once came across a crystalline-type product that came with instructions to print the product through a mesh no finer than 86 threads/in. After examining the product, I decided to try printing it through a 110-thread/in. mesh that, in my shop, worked great with one stroke. The particles were small enough to pass through the 110-thread/in. mesh and produce the desired result while printing half the ink-film thickness that the manufacturer recommended. The effective use of crystallines, metallics glitters, and many other special-effect inks really is a simple matter of determining the mesh count through which the particles in the ink will pass with the greatest ease.
High-opacity inks, such as bleed-resistant whites, offer an entirely different set of parameters to consider: printability, flashing characteristics, curing parameters, and cured opacity. Working with these formulations can be a tough proposition for smaller shops, especially those that do not properly test the white inks that they use. In most cases, a lack of testing for best practices when using these inks results in excessively thick ink films that retain a poor hand, a loss of detail, and poor cure rates due to the excessive thickness of the printed design. I find this scenario to be more prevalent with printers who attempt to print on 100%-polyester specialty fabrics. They lay down excessively thick ink films in hopes of avoiding dye migration and sublimation, both of which occur more and more frequently thanks to the cheaper polyester dyes that are produced in Asian countries.
Smaller shops have to keep in mind that their (typically) smaller dryers are only capable of curing ink films up to a certain thickness. Past that point, you won’t be able to cure the entire ink film. The result is not only potential bleeding on polyester fabrics, but also poor washability on any fabric. Therefore, you need to determine your proper printing, flashing, and curing parameters for the mesh you use in your shop and standardize that particular mesh count for those applications. I chose in my facility to minimize my mesh counts and mesh inventory and primarily only use 110-, 155-, 200- and 305-thread/in. mesh counts. I can address virtually any application that most customers desire.
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