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Top Tools for the Inkroom

(August 2013) posted on Wed Sep 04, 2013

Improve color accuracy and increase savings with ink-management solutions.

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By Ray Smith

Which system?
Now that we have established the general cost savings associated with a mixing system, it’s time to look at the different types of systems that are available to evaluate which is the best fit for your shop. There are three basic types of mixing systems that dominate the current plastisol market: pigment concentrates (PCs), finished ink, and colorant (or hybrid).

A PC system uses pigment concentrates and base to create color. This same system is used by ink manufacturers to create colors in production. The PC/base system was the first type of ink-mixing system technology introduced to the garment screen-printing market and offers maximum versatility. The system commonly includes 15-18 pigment concentrates and a large range of bases designed for printing onto various materials. The PC system offers the most flexibility and control, producing clean color formulas for use with multiple bases, including special-effect bases (Figure 5). The initial component conversion requires a greater investment than the other systems, but the overall value—or return on investment—is much more significant, as it greatly reduces long-term ink costs.

A finished-ink system uses mixing components that are fully fusible (curable). These components can be used alone or can be mixed together to hit color. Because of its ease of use and lower initial setup costs, it is the most commonly used mixing system. Generally, this system includes 15 single-pigment inks for mixing colors. Though this system isn’t as versatile as the other two, the finished-ink system utilizes simple formulas that are always safe and easy to follow.

A colorant system utilizes fusible color concentrates and base to create custom colors. The balanced (or hybrid) colorant system offers the freedom of using a variety of bases (like that of the PC system) with the safety of balanced, fusible colors (like that of the finished-ink system). This system generally includes 15 colorants and a variety of bases for printing onto a range of substrates. The colorants create clean formulas that can also be used with specialty and texture bases. One unique feature of this hybrid technology is the ability to add as much colorant component as needed to achieve the desired color or opacity. For instance, by including roughly 10% additional pigment in a formula, the color will go from translucent to super opaque.

Deciding to implement a color mixing system may seem like a large transition and initial expense, but the return on investment is well worth it. Once a shop gets in the routine of using the mixing system technology and capabilities, the cost savings on labor, waste, and purchasing are nearly immediate, offering immense value to all facets of production.

Ray Smith is senior print-application specialist, PolyOne Wilflex Inks,


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