June '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 5 J U N E P R I N T W E A R || 79 CAUSE OF DEPENDENCY While water-based inks in the U.S. are marketed as being more environ- mentally-friendly, one of the main reasons many printers all over the world use water-based inks is because of low operational costs, a real bonus for a labor-intensive manufacturing, e.g., garment decoration. These operators often choose water-based ink for cost savings. Here's a cursory review to compare the cost and value of plastisol and water-based inks. 1. Dollar savings: There are a few options with water-based systems, which include ready-to-print, clear colorants blended on-site through a ho- mogenizer, emulsified aqueous coatings, and semi-opaque and opaque aqueous alternatives. The following example allows for the evaluation of the value of any and all types. If a ready-to-print aqueous system isn't printed at close to the same speed as plastisol, water-based inks are likely more costly. Consider a square foot of plastisol at $48 per gallon on 280/35 mesh that costs 3 cents per print. In the U.S., the press used to print 500 pieces is worth more than $150 per hour. Let's say a decorator prints 500 shirts per hour. The ink cost at 3 cents would be $15 total or a cost per print of 33 cents. If the hypothetical water-based ink costs $8 per gallon or 5 cents per print, this cost to print 500 shirts equates to $2.50 total or a per-order savings of $12.50. However, to maintain the same total cost of 33 cents per shirt, water-based ink has to print at a rate of 462 shirts per hour to break even with the cost of plastisol. This means a decorator can only in- cur 8 percent more downtime, even at $8 to $48. If aqueous causes more than 8 percent downtime, the plastisol costs less than the water-based ink. When the labor cost is as low as it is in most other countries, wa- ter-based inks are affordable—our costs are considerably higher in the U.S., and our example favors water-based ink. It's best to do the math and see for yourself. Top: Inks and coatings that contain water are more likely to develop fungus. Luckily, today's additives help to elevate pH to help minimize growth. Above: To determine the true cost of production, take the time to do the math.

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