The North American textile ink shortage crisis updated.

The thumbnail version:

  • The ink shortage continues.
  • Stanley’s can help.

The full version:

Some of your favourite North-American brands are beginning to slowly trickle through in drips and drabs but there are still severe shortages of raw material leading to manufacturing headaches and short deliveries.

But, as previously reported, Stanley’s has lessened the impact of the manufacturing shortages by having the foresight to add the Inknovators brand of plastisol to their line. Presses that would otherwise have been idle have been able to keep turning and the reaction to Inknovators all-round quality has been encouraging.

If you have any questions about the state of the textile ink supply and what Stanley’s can do to help keep your presses turning, help is only a phone call away.

Is the condition of your shop turning away prospective customers?

The thumbnail version:

  • An untidy, dirty, disorganized shop will discourage prospective customers.

The full version:

I once saw a Tom Peters presentation in which he was explaining the importance of instilling confidence in prospective customers by attending to even small details that can shape an opinion. He used the example of a commercial airliner.

Your secret weapon for helping to attract prospective customers.

He pointed that we all like to have the confidence that when we get onto an aircraft it has been properly maintained and prepared. We don’t want to see or hear anything that might undermine that confidence. Then as you settle into your seat and lower the fold-up tray, you notice a coffee cup stain and crumbs on the tray.

The first thing through your mind is, if they don’t maintain the cabin properly, do they maintain the engines properly? You wonder if the dirty tray speaks to a generally lackadaisical attitude that extends to engine maintenance? And what does this say about the overall mechanical soundness of the aircraft?

The message for every business, including your textile screen printing shop, is that appearance has an impact on a prospective customer’s initial and probably lasting impression. A messy shop is bound to create a bad impression and doubts about the quality of your output. On the other hand, a clean, organized shop is bound to help get you off to a good start with a prospective customer.

There are of course other good reasons to run a clean and organized shop, but don’t underestimate the impact on prospective customers.

Hey boss, are you highly toxic?

The thumbnail version:

  • A lot of bosses are “toxic”
  • The toxicity affects productivity

The full version:

Harvard Business Review (HBR) published the results of a survey by Life Meets Work. One of the finding was that 56 percent of American workers (can we assume Canadian as well?) claim that their boss is “highly toxic.” To add to this, the American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of Americans say that their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.

So, what would your shop’s employees say if asked the same questions? You may want to consider that because if you’re one of those “toxic” bosses it’s likely having a detrimental effect on your business. Do you want your employees to stay because you’re a great boss who creates a great work environment or are you okay knowing that they’re unhappy and only staying for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They don’t have the energy to look for a new job.
  • They need the salary and cannot afford a pay cut.
  • They feel that they don’t have the skills to get another job.
  • They hope things might get better.

Maybe if you hope to run a happy, productive shop, a little introspection might be in order.

Cotton in the news again for giving rise to a science known as element analysis.

The thumbnail version:

  • The cotton in a T-shirt can take a long and complex journey
  • Until recently there was no easy way to pin down its origin

The full version:

The Guardian recently ran a story about how, fives years ago, Welspun was mired in a scandal. Welspun, a manufacturer of more than 45 million meters of cotton a year, labelled it’s cotton as “Egyptian” until some of it’s customers conducted inquiries and found that in fact much of the cotton labeled in this way was not Egyptian.

Not from where it says it’s from?

And here’s the part of the story that showed how complex the supply chain in T-shirt manufacturing can be and how difficult it is to trace the origins of the cotton in a particular Tee. Quoting from the Guardian: “The cotton business is a labyrinthine, and the supply chains of products—running from the source farm to the shop shelf—have grown increasingly complex. A T-shirt sold in New Delhi might be made of cotton grown in India, blended in other cotton from Australia, spun into yarn in Vietnam, woven into cloth in Turkey, sown and cut in Portugal, bought by a Norwegian company, and shipped back to India.”

And this, writes the Guardian, is a relatively simple supply chain.

Things have become a whole lot more transparent since the origin of the cotton on a T-shirt can be pinned down to a specific farm. This is due to a geochemist, Prof Russel Frew of New Zealand, researching and developing the science known as element analysis.

Now well-known cotton brands are using element analysis to avoid any unpleasant surprises about the origin of their cotton such as, for instance, finding that the raw materials of some of their products were harvested with child or forced labour.

Have you ever wondered about the origin and the journey of the cotton in the Tees you are asked to print?

Pantone toast

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s more about the smile than the message

The full version:

I’ve been unable to find the designer of this piece to give proper credit but it’s just too clever and too pertinent to an aspect of our industry to not show,

There’s no particular business message or technical tip in this post. But if it puts a smile on your face (or stimulates a T-shirt design idea), it will be mission accomplished . . .

Lousy customer service

The thumbnail version:

  • Most businesses think they provide great customer service
  • Most customers think they don’t

The full version:

I think it is fair to say that most businesses will claim that they care about their customer service. But I think it’s also fair to say that customers will say that customer service is mostly lousy.

You call this customer service!

For instance, I bet that I could list at least a dozen instances of lousy customer service I’ve endured in the past month if I put my mind to it—starting with a major international courier all the way across the board to the local appliance repair man.

So what’s going on? What are customer service providers missing? Well, according to a white paper by Howard Lax, there are ten causes:

  1. Lack of commitment from the top.
  2. Inside-out view of the world.
  3. Rising customer expectations.
  4. Sub-standard employee experiences and poorly-trained employees.
  5. Corporate culture.
  6. Misperception and failure to listen.
  7. Failure of measurement and analysis.
  8. Failure to act.
  9. Cost / benefit challenges.
  10. Lack of clarity of objectives.

These all apply to all businesses, but some more than others in the case of textile screen printing shops. We’ll explore them in more detail in upcoming posts.

Customer acquisition cost . . . Do you know what it is?

The thumbnail version:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost is an important measurement
  • If acquisition cost exceeds the benefit, the acquisition makes no sense

The full version:

If yours is one of those reactive shops where everyone sits around waiting for business to turn up, then this post is not for you. But if yours is one of those proactive shops hustling for growth by acquiring new customers, then the concept of Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is something you should know about.

What is my CAC?

Roxanne Voidonicolas writing for Shopify, defines CAC as the cost to your shop of acquiring a single customer.  She includes in those costs: ” . . .  product costs, labour costs, marketing costs, and any other cost that contributed to getting your product into a customer’s hands.”

If you know your CAC, then you have an idea of how much you must earn from each customer in order to have a profitable shop. In other words, if you’re spending more to acquire customers than customers are spending on your shop, your business model is not viable.

I would suggest though one exception to this viability concern is if the new customer has a high likelihood of becoming a repeat customer which would obviously amortize the CAC.

I’ll  address this important concept in more depth in upcoming posts, but in the meantime, here is a basic formula that explains the CAC concept:

Total Marketing spend ($500) / New customers (10) = CAC ($50 per customer)

Cyber security — your biggest risk might be Matt

The thumbnail version:

  • Cyber security lapses can come form within your shop
  • Staff training is essential

The full version:

I recently received an email from my internet security provider, Eset. The message reminded me that it was time to post my annual cyber security reminder. It’s an important topic that’s becoming more important with each passing day—there are a growing number of bad guys out there on the net and their “break-and-enter” tools are becoming more sophisticated.

Don’t let Matt allow a cybercriminal in for lack of  training.

Eset’s opening sentence raises an important point: “We have a question for you: Who’s the bigger security thereat? A cybercrime mastermind, or Matt in Marketing?”

That point being that even if you subscribe to a virus-detection or some other form of internet security service, a staff member can still be a chink in your internet security armour.

The answer is to make sure that all your staff members with access to your shop’s computers are properly versed in being alert to potential cybercriminal activity. Some of the bad email approaches can be quite subtle and look like legitimate emails from legitimate sources—that is why training and ongoing sharing of information on the topic is essential.

Don’t let Matt mess it up for lack of training.

We’ve tested Inknovators plastisol — the results are in

The thumbnail version:

  • Stanley’s doesn’t offer untested products.
  • Inknovators plastisol has passed the tests

The full version:

Wendy has been overseeing the introduction of Inknovators plastisol, the new brand being offered by Stanley’s as a solution to the Wilflex and Rutland supply shortages. Of course part of the process was testing the ink to ensure that it met the standards Stanley’s customers have come to expect.

Tests were conducted by Craig at Stanley’s Cambridge warehouse and by Reid Gennutt in his Calgary print shop. In both instances the tests met the standards required for ease of application, curability, opacity, colour accuracy, and washing.

Craig’s test prints are shown here and some of Reid’s extensive comments are as follows:

  • ” . . .the ink is very smooth and light. It stirs wonderfully and spreads onto the screen with ease.
  • “Flooding the screen was no effort and the ink passed through the screen very nicely.”
  • “I ran the shirt through the conveyor dryer for a total of about 35 -40 seconds, the ink on the shirt reaching about 350 degrees.”
  • “I ran the shirt through a standard cold wash cycle with cold water. It was run on its own and not turned inside out. Given no special treatment or anything. The prints held up beautifully and they look as good as they did coming out of the dryer.”
  • “It prints and cures nicely and definitely would work as a good substitute for Wilflex if the products are not going to be available for some time.”

So, there you have it!

Stanley’s is on standby to deal with your ink requests.

An important tip from a courier horror story

The thumbnail version:

  • Courier companies can lose your valuable stuff
  • Be prepared for such an eventuality

The full version:

It doesn’t always end like this!

Bad experiences often have something to teach us, though it might be difficult to see it at the time, particularly if you’re so mad that you’re fit to be tied. But later, in retrospect, there are usually a few tips worth keeping in mind.

I have just such a situation to tell you about and an important tip that came out of it.

Three weeks ago I shipped an original botanical art painting that had been selected for a prestigious travelling exhibition starting in New York. It was then to travel to other main centers in the US until 2023.

The big international express courier company “lost” the package.

Well, we’re not even sure that “lost” is right because the story changed five times over three weeks of inquiries. It started with “we have the package but the contents have been removed,” then moved to “the package is missing,” then back to “we have the package but the painting is missing,” then back again to “the package is missing,” then finally, “we have the package, it’s badly damaged and the contents are missing. File a claim.”

Here’s the important tip . . . if you ship anything of value, take images of the item, the step-by-step packing process, and the package ready for handing to the courier. These images will prove invaluable when the courier company asks for a description of what they’re looking for. And then when they can’t find the package, the images are helpful  for negotiating with their claims department for compensation.

Fortunately I did this. It didn’t help in the search for the “lost” package but it’s sure helping in the discussions about compensation.

The North Amercan textile ink shortage is real, serious, and widespread.

The thumbnail version:

  • There is a critical shortage of textile ink raw materials in North America
  • Stanley’s has a workaround

The full version:

Stanley’s has been addressing this shortage proactively by adding a new brand, Inknovators, to its offering. A recent email to all customers who have consented to be on Stanley’s email list, explained this in some detail.

A recent article by Christopher Ruvo in PROMOGRAM confirmed that all North American printers are in the same boat. Quoting various industry members on the supply side, he points out that this situation is due to not just COVID-related disruptions but also a slew of other supply problems. And the outlook is not good either, some are predicting that the situation will continue well into 2022.

Stanley’s has tested Inknovators plastisol; we’ll provide an assessment by a textile screen printer in an upcoming post.

Talk to Stanley’s about ways around the ink shortage.

Tees from seaweed

The thumbnail version:

  • Tees are now being made from seaweed
  • Seaweed has a hugely positive sustainability profile

The full version:

Tees from seaweed by Inland Sea. Image provided by Inland Sea.

Inland Sea, a UK business owned by entrepreneur, Adam Costello, has announced the creation of tees made of a patented fiber, SeaCell, manufactured from Bladderwack seaweed found in the Atlantic ocean.

An interesting fact about seaweed is that it is a mass absorber of CO2 and it grows relatively quickly compared with trees. This gives it a positive sustainability profile as a raw material in a clothing industry that is increasingly coming under scrutiny for a lack of sustainability.

The seaweed is processed into SeaCell fiber using an environmentally-friendly technology by Smartfiber of Germany. The process embeds the seaweed within a natural fiber to ensure that the positive properties of the seaweed is permanently preserved.

The 100% biodegradable garments are available through Inland Sea but Costello’s intention is to create a demand for them among other independent ethical clothing brands as well. Inland Sea’s website  currently lists the Tees at £34.99 (CAD60) but, as with any new innovation, the price is bound to come down as demand increases and manufacturing cranks up.

If you’re looking to position your Canadian shop favourably on the sustainability scale, you should consider beginning a conversation with Adam Costello. Who knows where it might lead?

There’s a new green on the PANTONE© chart

The thumbnail version:

  • The traditional green Hong Kong trams are well known
  • PANTONE© is honouring the tradition with a new colour

The full version:

The Pantone Colour Institute has announced a new green—HK Tram Green.

The new colour was developed in collaboration with HK Tramways to pay tribute the the iconic Hong Kong Tram that is instantly recognizable by its green exterior.

The green Hong Kong Tram has been around since the 1940’s following an abundance of leftover green paint from the war years. Over time the green trams have become recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Now the green has an official PANTONE© name.

Will your shop be the first to find a way to gain some publicity by using HK Tram Green?

Freshen up your product offering

The thumbnail version:

  • Times are tough and not likely to ease up much soon
  • Re-examining your product offering is one way to help survive these times

The full version:

Times are tough. Just when we thought business would be getting back to some version of “normal” after eighteen months of COVID, we are being told to expect a fourth wave of the pandemic. Who knows what the impact is going to be on business generally and our industry specifically?

Involve everyone. Re-examine your product offering.

All of this calls for a re-examination of what your business needs to do to survive. One of those things could be freshening up your product offering. And it is always a good idea to involve everyone in the re-examination process because they too have a vested interest in the survival of the business.

Here is a suggested way to go about it . . . Focus in on a few compelling gaps in your product or service offering. This is where the people in your shop who deal with customers daily will have some useful input if they’re paying attention to what customers are asking for.

Consider how those gaps may be closed by extending your product offering. Consider the pros and cons of all options. You’ll want to initially narrow the options to those items most likely to meet the customers’ demands and most likely to lead to profitable growth.

You could of course do nothing and just hope that things will return to “normal”, but that might just be the worst of a number of options at this time.

An icon of the screen printing industry passes away

Stan Presisniuk (1934 – 2021)

The principals of Stanley’s Sign and Screen Supply, Doug Presisniuk, Barb Cumby, Sandy Presisniuk, and Rob Presisniuk, regret to have to announce that an icon of the Canadian screen printing industry, their father, Stanley Presisniuk, passed away last Friday, 6th August 2021, after a short illness.

Stan was committed to the screen printing industry for over four decades. He began his career at Sherwin-Williams Paints in 1956 where he met Cliff Beisel. Together in 1958 they were the first to bring silk screen supplies to the Alberta market when they launched Western Silk Screen Supply in Edmonton. In 1979 Stan launched Stanley’s Sign and Screen Supply where over time he introduced many new products to the industry.

Stan retired to his ranch about twenty years ago where he remained active until his passing.

The print on the stomach instead of the chest — (Part II)

The thumbnail version:

  • Mistakes happen in print shops
  • How they turn out depends upon how they are addressed.

The full version:

Well you are a */!!/%# idiot!

Last month I told the story about the shop owner that went ballistic and humiliated an employee in front of his colleagues because of a badly-positioned print on a sweat shirt.

The way this boss reacted was obviously inappropriate. So how could he have reacted in a more appropriate, more compassionate, and more productive way?

There are three things he could have done:

  1. He could have taken a moment to compose himself after the initial rush of anger when he first saw the print. He should not have addressed the employee immediately in a knee-jerk, angry manner. A good manager doesn’t react in anger.
  2. He could have considered the employee’s perspective. There might have been a plausible explanation for the badly positioned print. A good manager considers the employee’s perspective too.
  3. He could have addressed the matter privately with the employee, listened to whatever the employee’s point of view might have been, discussed ways to prevent similar errors occurring again in the future, and forgiven the employee. A good manager forgives and moves on.

Mistakes happen in shops. It’s how they are addressed that determines whether it turns out well or badly for all concerned and for the morale and productivity of the shop.

Humidity in the screen room

The thumbnail version:

  • Emulsion will absorb moisture from the air
  • Too much moisture in the emulsion will cause problems

The full version:

A coated, unexposed screen will absorb moisture from the air because emulsion is hygroscopic (prone to absorbing moisture). If this happens you can run into problems with inconsistent exposure, ruined positive films, and premature breakdown.

Ideally, you should store your coated screens in a space such as, say, your darkroom where the humidity should be below 40%. And how can you keep tabs on the humidity? You need a hygrometer. A digital version can be bought from any hardware store for just a few dollars and will prove to be worth the minor investment many times over.

In more humid climates you may have to use a de-humidifier to keep the humidity down under 40%.

Special announcement from Stanley’s—new plastisol brand

Thumbnail version:

  • Avient is experiencing raw material sourcing issues
  • Manufacturing of Wilflex and Rutland backlogged
  • Stanley’s adds another brand to fill the gap

The full version (as emailed to customer list):

A challenge and a solution announcement . . . 

First, we owe a big thank you to you for continuing to do business with Stanley’s over this past year and a half. For our part, we’ve worked to keep meeting your needs during a pandemic that has dragged on a lot longer and caused more disruption than many of us expected.

And as we open things up again we face a new challenge, particularly with regard to Wilflex and Rutland plastisol inks. But, not to worry, we have a solution to announce.

The challenge:

We’re coping with price increases and manufacturing delays due to apparent resin and pigment shortages. This has resulted in Wilflex and Rutland shipping delays and a long list of backorders.

As you know, Wilflex and Rutland (and a few other major ink brands) are all owned by Avient and manufacturing has been consolidated under one roof in Kennesaw, Georgia. This of course means that many of your favourite inks in those brands have been affected by the manufacturing delays.

The solution announcement:

While we expect Avient’s situation to improve in time, we’re not waiting. We’re pleased to announce that we have partnered with D3 Inks to bring you Inknovators plastisols to fill the gap left by Avient’s manufacturing shortages. We are stocking Inknovators Low Bleed White (General Purpose White), a Polyester White, a Standard Black, and Standard colors.  We’ve tested the inks and believe that you will like the quality.

This doesn’t change our long-standing relationship with Wilflex and Rutland inks, but it broadens our ink offering and solves the current supply problem—we need to keep your presses printing.

Ask us:

For specific information about your Wilflex or Rutland products and what we can do for you with Inknovators, please contact your local Stanley’s branch.

Edmonton: 780 424 4141
Calgary: 403 243 7722
Cambridge: 519 620 7342
Richmond: 604 873 2451

Scorching under the flash cure

The thumbnail version:

  • Scorching under the flash cure is a common problem
  • There are solutions

The full version:

Scorching under the flash cure is a common problem. Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious but upon close inspection you may see a slight brownish or yellowish shading, especially on light garments. However, whether it’s slight discolouration or an all-out scorch like an overdone steak on the BBQ, you don’t want it.

First, be aware of the fabric in question and adjust accordingly. Delicate and light-coloured fabrics are more prone to scorching. You can raise and lower the flash cure so that if slight scorching is occurring raising it may take care of the problem.

Using low-cure inks will allow you to lower the temperature and thus avoid scorching garments prone to it when using regular higher-curing inks.

If you take all the measures possible and you still scorch the odd garment, there are scorch removers you can use. Stanley’s can help you with this.

 

In-person shows scheduled for Toronto and Calgary

The thumbnail version:

  • In-person shows are being scheduled for Canada
  • Planning ahead is a good idea

The full version:

As COVID is finally showing signs of subsiding enough in Canada for “normal” activity to resume, two dates have been announced for the National Imprint Canada Show in Toronto and the Western Imprint show in Calgary, respectively.

The Toronto show is scheduled for 7th and 8th January 2022, and the Calgary show for 4th and 5th February 2022. It may sound like a long way off but now would be the time to tentatively plan to attend or display. Booths are being offered at the 2019 rate of $1,925 if you reserve before July 31st (this Saturday).

Admittedly the COVID situation is still fluid, even though it appears to be more hopeful than it has been for some time. However, this is no reason to not plan ahead to either display or attend these shows. Apparently 43 exhibitors have already committed.

The cat’s out of the bag . . . well, partially anyway.

The thumbnail version:

  • A new product line will be announced soon.

The full version:

To serve today’s textile screen printing industry effectively requires that one stay on top of product and technique developments. Stanley’s is constantly on the lookout for anything that might make printers’ lives easier and their shops more profitable.

In that regard, there will soon be an announcement of the acquisition of the distributorship of a new product line for textile screen printers that will accomplish what everyone likes to find—a combination of good quality, at a good price, with good service.

Stay tuned.

Cannibalizing existing products can give you indigestion

The thumbnail version:

  • A new product line may appear to be an attractive proposition
  • Just make sure it isn’t going to cannibalize your existing lines

The full version:

Like other shops in this competitive industry, you may be considering ways to expand your business by expanding your product offering. This is of course a good idea but there are pitfalls to avoid—one of those is cannibalizing existing, lucrative offerings.

Don’t cannibalize your existing lines

Let’s say that your shop has a successful line of imprinted hats or maybe even a successful line of imprinted bags. In either case you may consider adding a less expensive version to your existing offering. If the new product appeals to a market you don’t yet have and it actually adds to your sales revenue, that’s good. But what if your existing customers turn to the new cheaper product? This would leave you with lower revenue which would not be good. This is known as  cannibalizing your existing market.

The only circumstances in which the new cheaper product would make sense if your current customers turned to it, would be if the margin per item were bigger or if overall volume and margins increased enough to exceed the cannibalization. This may not be impossible, but ordinarily it would be unlikely.

So, before adding that new, attractively-priced offering, make sure it’s the great idea it at first appears to be.

 

Have you considered two darkroom spaces?

The thumbnail version:

  • Ideal coating and drying conditions conflicts with washing out
  • There are solutions

The full version:

You don’t want unexposed emulsion to be exposed to light, whether it’s on a coated screen prior to exposure or on an exposed screen prior to washing out. So usually in both instances the coating and drying and the washing out occurs in a single darkroom.

The downside to this is that washing out creates a humid atmosphere which is less than ideal for the coating and drying process. The solution? Two darkroom spaces or some similar arrangement that separates the humid air of the washout area from the drier air of the coating and drying area.

If building a second darkroom or creating two darkroom spaces within your existing darkroom is not possible for some reason, a way around the issue is to do your coating and drying at a different time from your washing out. For instance, you could do your exposing and washing out in the morning and then coat screens later in the day for drying overnight.

The print on the stomach instead of the chest — (Part I)

The thumbnail version:

  • A story that illustrates the wrong way to manage staff

The full version:

Well you are a */!!/%# idiot!

I recently saw a Harvard Business Review article with the title Why Compassion Is a Better Managerial Tactic than Toughness. It immediately reminded me of a textile screen shop incident in which the owner of the shop could have used the advice in this article.

The staff were on a lunch break. The owner was wandering around the deserted shop looking at the jobs in progress. Suddenly he appeared at the door of the staff room where everyone was gathered around the table having their lunch and chatting. He was clearly agitated as he held up a sweatshirt with a print on the stomach area instead of the chest.

“Who printed this?” he demanded.

Reluctantly one of the staff raised his hand” “I did.”

“Well you’re a (expletive deleted) idiot!” he yelled, loud enough to be heard in the parking lot.

I covered this incident in my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, and have often wondered what impact this had on the ego of that employee. Surely there has to be a better way to handle a situation like this than humiliating an employee in front of his colleagues? Well, the author of the HBR article had some suggestions which we’ll cover in a future post.

The printed bag market may have arrived at another fork in the road

The thumbnail version:

  • Single-use plastics bags are going away for good
  • The replacements are good for the textile printing industry

The full version:

All they need are your prints

In recent times the single-use plastic bag has largely given way to the branded bag-for-life version in most jurisdictions. This created printing opportunities for textile screen shops.

However, according to a recent article in Images magazine, the bag-for-life version has itself come in for criticism for not being as environmentally friendly as a new compostable bag being offered by a UK supermarket. That said though, as we emerge from the COVID lockdowns, branded bag printers are looking forward to recovering the business they lost as a result of the pandemic. They’re betting on cotton and jute bags being in demand for some time yet.

It’s a safe bet though that whichever direction the branded bag takes, it will not be going back to the single-use plastic version; this is good news for the textile printing industry.

Time to consider adding branded bags (perhaps even the compostable type) to your shop’s offering?

 

And yet another big acquisition

The thumbnail version:

  • Another big textile acquisition provides a signpost to the future

The full version:

Spoonflower (www.spoonflower.com) has been sold to Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com) for USD225M. Spoonflower built its business “on social engagement and proven direct-to-fabric print technology.”

In other words, you can order prints of your own design (or one of theirs) online and they will then print it using direct-to-fabric technology. So what does this news and the $225M price indicate? Well, first, the size of Spoonflower’s direct-to-fabric market and, second, the fact that it’s all conducted online.

This is another signpost to the future; another indication of where at least a substantial part of the fabric printing industry is heading. In spite of Avient expressing confidence in the future of screen printing with a screen printing acquisition (see previous post), garment printers should take note and cannot ignore what is evident when reading between the lines; neither the DTG nor the online aspects.

Another big acquisition

The thumbnail version:

  • Avient acquires another screen printing ink manufacturer

The full version:

Today Avient announced its acquisition of Magna Colours Ltd. for USD48M.

Avient (until recently known as PolyOne) now adds Magna water-based ink to its other acquired plastisol ink brands including Wilflex, Rutland, Union, and QCM.

Magna has been based in the UK since it was founded in 1978. It is described as a leader in water-based ink technology for the textile screen printing industry.

So what should a Canadian textile screen printer read between the lines? Well, first, the giant among textile ink manufacturers, Avient, seems confident that textile screen printing has a long  future. And, second, that future will see a growth in water-based printing.

Hot, humid summer weather and screens.

Thumbnail version:

  • Hot, humid summer weather requires special precautions before shooting screens.

The full version:

As summer finally arrives in Canada you need to remember to take extra measures to dry your coated screens and then keep them dry. This is particularly applicable if you are in one of the regions of Canada where the humidity rises sharply in summer.

The heat and humidity doesn’t affect only you. What about your coated screens?

The first item you need is a hygrometer. It will allow you to monitor the humidity in the coated screen storage area which should not be allowed to rise above 40% relative humidity. Why? Because dry emulsion-coated screens are susceptible to re-hydration. And why is that bad? Because if you shoot damp or re-hydrated screens, you will end up with the same effect as underexposed screens. Screens are only resistant to humidity after exposure.

You cannot underestimate the potential hassles if you do not dry screens properly after coating or if you allow them to re-hydrate before shooting. Pinholes, stencil breakdown, reclaiming difficulties, and ghosting after reclaiming are all possible. And who needs those additional problems slowing down production in the busy summer season?

So how to keep the screen storage area at below 40% relative humidity during the humid summer months? Dehumidifiers, exhaust vents and air conditioning can all help depending upon the circumstances in your shop. In most cases though, a dehumidifier should do the job. To be sure that a screen is suitably dry before exposure, a moisture meter can be very useful too.

A key component in a great print—the squeegee blade

The thumbnail version:

  • Squeegee blades should be kept in good condition for crisp prints
  • Some blades can be sharpened (trim off the worn edge)

The full version:

Writing for Images magazine, Tony Palmer reminds us that the condition of a squeegee blade can make the difference between a sharp print and a print out of focus.

In other words, if overlooked, a worn squeegee blade can be the weak link that prevents a print from being all that it can regardless of the excellence of everything from the art to the ink. And it’s probably the easiest to take care of among all the variables that together make an excellent print.

One suggestion is to make it standard practice to closely examine every squeegee blade to be used in a a particular job right as preparations are being made. Anything less than a blade in excellent condition can then be replaced or sharpened.

All of this is of course predicated on the right squeegee being selected in the first place.

Jumbo prints . . . worth the hassles?

The thumbnail version:

  • Some customer may ask for Jumbo prints
  • Appropriately-sized garments are essential.
  • It’s okay to decline work if it’s “not your thing”

The full version:

If you have printed jumbo prints with success then you might want to skip this post and move onto the next one. However, if you have been asked or have been considering jumbo prints and have never printed them before or, particularly, if you’re new to textile screen printing, then we have some things for you to consider.

It makes business sense to be able to say no to orders you’re not comfortable doing or that carry a risk you’d rather not take. For instance, some shops refuse to print on nylon jackets, particularly if they have been water-proofed. The extra work required to remove the water-proofing, the special nylon ink required, a ink additive often required, the curing temperature issues, and so forth, adds up to more than some shops are willing to handle.

So too do jumbo prints have their issues, in this case, with certain garments other than regular unisex Tees. . .

  • V-neck garments: The V will often intrude into the intended print area. Obviously their are just two options: (1) reduce the size of the print; or (2) decline the order. Both ways the customer is not going to get a jumbo print on a V-neck garment.
  • Tank tops: Same problem as with the V-necks, only worse.
  • Girls’ tees: usually these are smaller sizes and won’t fit onto jumbo pallets. If they’re stretched to make them fit you run the risk of distorted images and perhaps even damaged garments.

We all like to please our customers, but sometimes you have to draw a line. Jumbo prints might not be for your shop. However, if you want to have a stab at it, just make sure the garments are able to handle it.