September '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 5 S E P T E M B E R P R I N T W E A R || 111 magnifier is not expensive, and is an invalu- able aid in examining a printed garment. You can also use the magnifier to check on the quality of pretreat coverage, fibrillation, dot gain, and more. The second tool you need sits atop your shoulders. That's right; you need to use your brain. Many problems can be solved sim- ply by deductive reasoning. For example, if a portion of your printed garment looks horrible and the ink looks spotty, chances are the spray tip on your pretreat sprayer is partially clogged. The direct-to-garment printer does not decide to print good, then bad, then good again. Print heads and fluid dynamics don't work that way. Your third tool is courage. Be brave, ask questions. Call your supplier. Email and ask your supplier questions. Read maga- zine articles, and online articles to better understand this entire process. Even use forums, if you are so inclined, but be care- ful as there are many suppliers who lurk on the forums with ulterior motives. There's also just some bad information out there, so it's best to use advice found on open for- mus with caution. The fourth tool I recommend is a method of documentation and record keeping. Use any system you devise to track the variables on each job. Some use a job ticket, work or- der, or other form to document the various direct-to-garment variables. I suggest you record the substrate details, pretreat depos- it, and most importantly, printer/file details such as resolution, number of passes, and color deposit. It is also important to docu- ment dry times. The key to troubleshooting is using your powers of deductive reasoning and logic, understanding the necessity of having a few inexpensive pieces of hardware, and using them, and above all understanding the di- rect-to-garment process. By properly utiliz- ing the tools at your disposal, from personal research, to input from suppliers, to simple trial and error with proper documentation, there's no reason you can't master this hot decoration method and get a piece of this lucrative market. shirts may require quality mode settings to achieve the same result. Be in control of the process, and understand the essential gar- ment-to-printer settings. INK CURING Once printed, there are several different methods for curing the final product. Us- ing a heat press to cure the finished shirt is the most widely used method of cur- ing. It is the least expensive and takes up the smallest amount of floor space, but is also the slowest and most labor intensive method. When using a heat transfer press to cure a finished print, use light pressure, and set the temperature at 350 degrees F. Cure white shirts for 30 seconds and dark for 60–120 seconds. Make sure the ink is fully cured, otherwise you will lose color in the wash. It's always better to over-cure as opposed to under cure. Other drying options include stationary and conveyor dryers. Stationary dryers, al- though more expensive than a heat press, offer the advantage of non-contact drying. This arguably makes the print look bright- er because the ink is not smashed into the garment, and it has a substantially softer hand and feel. Conveyor dryers are available in either gas or electric models and must be con- vection-air to efficiently heat and drive out the moisture from the printed gar- ment. High velocity convection-air dryers provide the most cost-efficient method of production for the large shop. They also produce the most consistent and thorough cure possible. If you have the space and money, a convection-air conveyor dryer is the absolute best way to cure your di- rect-to-garment printed items. TROUBLESHOOTING In order to be a good troubleshooter, you need a toolbox. Similar to a good auto me- chanic, you should have your own filled with a variety of tools to analyze and fix a problem. One of the essential items to have on hand is a good magnifier. An illuminated Ts. Colors to be printed were white print- er, gold, blue, black, and highlight white in that order. The inks were custom mixed us- ing the manufacturer's software and a scale to match the official PMS (Pantone Match- ing System) colors and catalyst added ap- propriately. The substrate was an extremely heat sensitive tri-blend fabric. After exper- imenting with some low-fusion plastisols and even water-base, we settled on a silicone solution as it only needed to reach 250 de- grees to crosslink. That low temp would not let any of those pesky poly dyes release. We exposed our white printer on a stan- dard LE (low elongated) 102 tpi (thread per inch), and all the colors as well as the highlight white were on 166s. All screens were dyed to minimize undercutting, stretched to the standard 45 N/cm, and coated using a quality dual cure emulsion with a two/three coating method finishing on the squeegee side with a medium-edged coating trough. This gives us about fifteen percent EOM (Emulsion Over Mesh) on the substrate side. Set up was straight forward on-press with our pre-registration system. After some minor micro-adjustment, setup took only about 10 minutes. The white printer was first followed by a flash and cool station. The subsequent colors came next, flashing between each color as this was necessary for silicone ink. We used a 65/95/65 triple ply dual durometer squeegee in the whites, and 75/95/75s in the other screens at min- imal pressure and half speed, all at fifteen degrees. Floods were also about half speed with medium pressure at a traditional angle. Off-contact was set using our minimum T-shirt distance of 50/1,000ths, or a little under a 1/16th of an inch. Again, for the sil- icone printing we had to pre-heat our plat- ens to 125 degrees and run it at a steady 135 degrees to gel the ink between each color without drying in the screens. The 1,000-piece run took most of the day after set up and approval. In the end, the project was not quite as difficult as we thought it may be but it was not a cake- walk either. continued from page 16 continued from page 98 DIRECT-TO-GARMENT TECHNOLOGY FROM SOFTWARE TO SUBSTRATE

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