May '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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64 || P R I N T W E A R M A Y 2 0 1 8 W hile plastisol ink has been around for more than 50 years, the types of ink avail- able and how printers choose that ink have changed. Some shops prefer to use certain brand lines while others ex- periment with different manufacturers for specific fabric types. Despite all that, there is still an ongoing need for product education and compliance so that printers can ensure they're getting the most out of their ink and keeping up with industry standards. CHANGES Of all the major shifts in the last few de- cades for plastisol, one major change sourc- es point to is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Crafted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commis- sion (CPSC), the statute regulates products for children aged 12 and younger, and cov- ers a range of products that include wearable screen-printed goods. The primary compo- nent to this law that affects screen printers is the phthalate restrictions in plastisol inks. For a shop to be CPSIA compliant, they need to use inks that are free of restricted phthalates. Gregory Markus, RhinoTech, stresses that shops on the hunt for compli- ant ink should be wary of ink manufactur- ers who claim to offer "phthalate-free" ink. "Some inks say they are 'phthalate free' but simply are free of the restricted ones," ex- plains Markus. Finding a reliable manufac- turer who offers detailed literature can help narrow down the best puchasing options. In addition to legal influences, another change has been the move towards high- opacity inks, or inks that allow printers to print without a white underbase. The higher opacity also provides a softer hand feel, ex- plains Aaron Blank, Monarch Color Corpo- ration. "The less layers you can put down, the better the final print feels," he adds. Manufacturers have also responded to customer demand with the development of lower-temperature curing plastisol inks. With lower-temperature plastisol inks, screen printers can now print on sensitive materials like stretch fabrics and athletic wear, widening their reach to everyone from the local sports team to startups and com- munity events. These low- or no- bleed inks also mean product offerings can cross over from the standard T-shirt order to items like coozies, polypropylene bags, and other promotional goods made of heat-sensitive materials. MESH AND JOB CONSIDERATIONS The consensus is that mesh selection when working with plastisol usually depends on the design and look for the final print. "The only limitations that I would consid- er are the type of fine-line halftone prints that require higher mesh counts as much as 355 tpi," says Kieth Stevens, International Coatings Company. "However, if you are printing specialty inks such as glitter, then it can go down to as low as 25 tpi." Stevens cautions that these numbers can vary since some manufacturers offer thinner threads that create larger openings versus a regular mesh. If a printer is looking for a more compre- hensive way to transition to higher mesh counts, Dave Gehrich, Atlas Screen Supply, recommends some basic experimentation. "I have found that the easiest way to transi- tion into higher mesh counts is to do it one step at a time," he states. "If you are current- ly using a 110 tpi screen for your underbase printing or even your spot colors, move up to a 125 tpi or move into a 160 tpi." Inked Up Choosing and Working with Plastisol Inks B Y M I K E C L A R K Left: Regardless of how experienced shops might be in screen printing, continued education is widely recommended. (Image courtesy Interna- tional Coatings Company) Above: Finding safety-compliant plastisols is key for the modern screen printer. (Image courtesy RhinoTech)

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