You essentially have three heat press choices: clam shell; swinger, or draw.
The clam shell press is easy for beginners to use. However, it may not be suitable for all thicker garments and layout occurs under the heat source (the upper platen). The upper and lower platens are joined by a hinge at the back. The upper platen is lowered onto the lower platen to apply pressure and heat to the garment.
The swinger press allows for easier layout as the upper platen swings away to one side but this means that it requires more space than the clam shell. Since the upper platen swings away, setup is not under heat. Experienced operators can produce more work on a swinger than on a clam shell.
The lower platen of the draw press pulls forward for layout and is then slid back before the upper platen is lowered to apply heat and pressure. The draw press is conducive to higher volumes of work but also requires more room than a clam shell.
You have digital versus manual features to consider and, of course, price. But this overview of your choices is a good place to start your research.
I saw sock pallets recently capable of enabling a print from tip to heel. Then not an hour later I saw a store display with printed socks in high density ink that combined messages with a non-slip traction function. The idea was that elevated socked feet would show a printed message. Some were cute and some were very clear messages such as “Get me a beer” or “Go away, I’m reading.”
This is another possibility for textile shops looking for additional income streams. It’s the kind of novelty printed product that could be added to the offering on an online store.
In the previous post we talked about opening a new income stream for your shop via an online store hosted by Shopify. As was mentioned then, Shopify supports its clients with a lot of useful information, tips, and ideas to improve their online business. One such recent article listed ten trending online products and at least three of them could be of interest to textile screen printers because, while they’re not printed Tees, they’re still clothing items and not too far a departure from your area of expertise.
One is a men’s plaid shirt, one is athletic wear like leggings, and another is a heated vest (think Canadian winters).
A little creativity, a little research, and a little experimentation. Who knows what could happen?
You don’t need to be reminded that the Canadian textile screen printing market is not easy, particularly in the main centers where it can sometimes cutthroat. But even if you currently have a niche market (product or location), perhaps far from the any of the big centers where you may feel quite comfortable for now, your bubble could burst tomorrow. Nothing lasts forever, especially in the business arena.
So how to insulate your shop from the full impact of an attack on your current comfortable situation? Or how to deal with a stifling market place where everyone is competing locally for the same customer?
Consider an online aspect to your shop on Shopify. It doesn’t have to be an extension of your T-shirt production; there are already a ton of online Tee vendors. You have a production facility, you have design capability, and you have equipment. All you need to add is creativity—ideas for products and ways to produce them. Think about it. Do some research. Think about it some more. Test your ideas. Keep in mind that Shopify is a great resource for online selling—check them out.
An online store on Shopify could be the diversification and additional income stream you’ve been looking for.
This month’s Images Magazine is featuring an excerpt from the Landlord chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. If you’re renting or intend renting premises this excerpt is full of useful information you’ve probably never considered.
Imprint Canada has announced the launch of a digital catalogue to serve as a hub for various industry supplier catalogues. At the moment it offers access to mostly garment catalogues enabling viewers to look around for styles and prices all from one site.
This is a positive development that Canadian textile screen printers are bound to find useful.
My cash flow can’t handle you anymore. Please go away!
When you ask a customer to pay an overdue invoice the response can range from an apology and immediate payment to an aggressive reaction and a threat to take their work elsewhere. One of the more creative and cheeky responses I ever heard of a screen printer receiving from a customer was: “Why are you asking me for money? Do you have a cash flow problem?” Of course it’s an outrageous response for many reasons, but there is an element of truth to it.
The fact is that slow paying customers can cause cash flow challenges but we tend to deal with it by not dealing with it because we are terrified of losing a customer. So we end up retaining a bad customer. But we need to remember that a consistently slow-paying customer can often turn into a non-paying customer which has the same result as giving away our product for nothing. If you can’t turn a slow-paying customer into a prompt-paying customer it’s probably better to get rid of them before they become a non-paying customer.
Ink manufacturers, Wilflex in particular, are constantly working on developing new inks and upgrading existing inks. Not only does it make business sense for them to do this, but they also have to make sure their products are compatible with the steady stream of new fabrics that regularly appear on the market and that they meet increasingly strict environmental standards. They also listen to printers’ demands such as the long-standing beef about having to carry so many whites for coping with different fabrics. On this particular topic, Wilflex now has an all-purpose white available. Have you tried it yet?
Give Stanley’s a call and ask to speak to a textile ink specialist about recent changes, upgrades and anything else you’d like to know about textile ink. Best locations to call about textile ink: Calgary (403 243 7722 ) and Cambridge (519 620 7342).
Cleaning and reorganizing makes good business sense.
The busy season will be so much more tolerable and productive if you give the shop a morale-boosting cleanup before things become hectic. I know that there’s never a good time to do this kind of thing but making time is really not all that difficult. One way to do it is to down tools for a day while things are still a bit slow and have everyone do nothing but clean up and reorganize. Reward them with coffee and donuts in the morning, pizza at lunch time and perhaps a beer or two when the job is done. Friday would be a good day because that will mean that paint (floors, shelves etc) will have the weekend to dry properly.
Imagine a busy season when you can lay your hands on materials and tools without having to look for them. Ink, emulsions etc. properly labeled and shelved. Clear walkways and work spaces. Clean equipment. Annoying minor equipment malfunctions fixed. Planned workflow.
A clean, organized shop is a happy, productive shop, especially in the busy summer season when there’s enough pressure without also wasting time because of filth, disorganization, and malfunctioning equipment.
A recent post on LinkedIn pointed out that 60 percent of liquids (including paste-like products) that come into contact with our skin are absorbed. Even if, like me, you’re not sure how to interpret this number exactly, the fact remains that our skin absorbs stuff. If you’ve ever used a hand cream you’ll know this.
So, why do so many screen printers expose their hands to inks and chemicals? If you don’t wear gloves, you’re absorbing stuff through your skin that’s not good for you, to say the least! It’s a serious matter. Gloves, re-usable and disposable, are cheap at the price when compared with the cost of health problems.
It may be an ongoing issue for your shop or it may be a need that arises from time-to-time—we’re talking about finding designers. For many smaller shops a full-time designer might even be out of the question, in which case a freelancer would make sense. A few places worth visiting to find freelancers are Dribbble, Freelancer, and Upwork. Dribbble in particular is for designers (yes, the extra “b” is intentional) . One of these could be the answer to your designing dilemmas. But, as you know, it’s important to make sure that the designer understands designing for screen printing.
With a phone answering service your customers will always get to talk to a real live person!
We’ve had a lot to say about the necessity for a real live person to answer your shop’s phone when it rings. I’m sure we don’t have to discuss again how much you risk losing a potential customer by sending them to voicemail. You can’t build your business around what’s convenient for you, it has to be what’s convenient for the customer and, most of the the time, voicemail is not convenient for an impatient customer.
Well, if you can’t give your customers and potential customers the experience of reaching a real live person every time they call, there are services that will do it for you. Expect to pay about $150 a month for an answering service but weigh that up against peace of mind and possible lost business when people phone your competition because you’re not answering immediately. Here is one such service worth exploring: www.smiledog.ca —check them out.
If you’re not yet receiving the Images monthly online magazine, you should be. It’s a fun read right on your monitor and is crammed with interesting articles and technical information. Excerpts from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Business is being featured each month this year so a good way to start is by clicking here for the April 2019 edition and then paging through the rest of Europe’s premier magazine for our industry. You’re bound to find something useful or interesting, not only this month, but every month.
Now you can read summaries of exceptional business books.
So you don’t like to read or you don’t have time to read complete business books. I get it. But what if there was an easy way to access at least some of the useful information that business books offer without reading the entire books? Well, there is! Soundview offers summaries of many of the better business books. This is a resource too valuable to overlook, especially when you can pick up tips and ideas to greatly benefit your shop and also make you a better-informed business owner. Check them out by clicking here.
Mixing the exact quantity of ink required for a job.
Back in the 1980’s Wilflex was the first manufacturer to offer textile printers the ability to match and mix their own plastisol colours accurately and only in the quantities they needed. The PC mixing system provided bases for all types of inks (multi-purpose, special effects, nylon, etc.) and over 30 pigments. Precise formulas enabled printers to make exactly the right colours consistently and repeatedly. Today the system is still in use but has been refined. It only needs 15 pigments now and the matching and formula aspects are computerized. Clean, sharp colours are now at your fingertips. And, importantly, it makes economic sense in many ways.
Ask Wendy at Stanley’s Calgary (403 243 7722) or Craig at Stanley’s Cambridge (519 620 7342) about the benefits of the Wilflex PC mixing system.
I recently saw this simplistic explanation of screen printing:
Place design on top of the desired position.
Add a thick layer of ink on top of the artwork.
Spread across evenly using the squeegee.
Set the ink on the fabric by using some sort of dryer.
It’s not a generally helpful or detailed enough explanation but what is really troubling about it is: “Set the ink on the fabric by using some sort of dryer.” Some sort of!? No! Use a proper conveyor dryer! This type of explanation only reinforces the wrong idea for new printers in particular that a heat gun is fine for “curing” plastisol. It’s not. Period!
It’s not the value or nature of the gesture that matters, it’s the thought behind it. And remember that people like doing business with people they like. Show some generosity of spirit toward your customers and employees and you’ll be well on your way to being likable. It just makes business sense. Here’s a link to a case in point.
As local authorities become increasingly sensitive about what goes down the drain and into the municipal water processing system, you may want to consider alternatives to your open-sink screen recovery process. Stanley’s can tell you about dip tanks, closed loop filtering systems, and holding tanks. Do this before you’re forced to or, worse still, incur a fine.
Water-based ink will destroy some regular emulsions!
If you’re fairly new to the textile screen printing industry, you might not yet realize that water-based inks are much more aggressive towards emulsion than plastisol inks are. Standard emulsion for plastisol printing mostly won’t cut it if you’re going to use water-based inks. Talk to Stanley’s about emulsions suitable for water-based printing.
It’s true! Textile screen printers are rigid, stubborn, and sometimes hostile when it involves discussions about switching products, even when it involves the whole shop’s health. I bet you’re still using spray adhesive even though you know that there are perfectly good water-based, non-spray pallet adhesives available! Roni Henning was right when she wrote that: “Printers are a rigid breed and once they have developed a system of printing that works well, they are reluctant to change. I myself had felt this reluctance. I didn’t realize that if something is poisoning you and the environment it can hardly be working well, even though the product looks good.” She’s a print maker, but she could just as easily have been writing about textile screen printers. Is your reluctance to change products harming the health of your shop?
Not just de-clutterers and cleaners, but productivity tools.
Many books have been written about improving one’s life by tidying up (also sometimes called de-cluttering). The NY Times best seller by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, is one example. It applies to textile screen printing shops as well. The tidier and less cluttered your shop, the more likely it is to maximize productivity. Think about it . . . never tripping over stuff, finding things quickly, space to put work in progress, and never contaminating product or materials. Then there’s also the impression a clean, uncluttered shop has on existing and potential customers. It just makes good business sense on so many levels.
Featured in March edition of Images . . . They Should Have Behaved Better — families in business.
There are a number of good reasons to log onto Europe’s premier magazine for the textile decorating industry. First, it’s crammed with a lot of useful technical and industry information and, second, for each month in 2019 it’s featuring excerpts from your editor’s book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. Take a look, you’ll like it: https://images-magazine.com/
So Don Cherry doesn’t like the way the Hurricanes celebrate victories at home; he called them “jerks.” The Hurricanes immediately printed a T-shirt with a “bunch of jerks” design and have it available for U.S.$32. That’s $42 Canadian dollars for a gimmick Tee. And the fans don’t seem to mind being gouged—they’re paying it! Way to turn a sour cherry into a sweet Tee!
Here’s more from that Stockholm University study we’ve mentioned in two recent posts. Again, this is not to suggest that there is a quick and easy answer or that we should stop handling garments, but we should be aware of these issues as they affect our industry. An excerpt from Jasmin Malik Chua’s article: “. . . researchers measured chemical levels after running the clothes through a washing machine. ‘Quick release’ compounds are discharged into household wastewater and then the environment. ‘Slow release’ ones cling to clothes, where, depending on type, they are either metabolized by skin bacteria or absorbed by the body, where they can pose local or systemic effects.”
This could be a good tip, especially if you’re relatively new to the industry . . . Don’t throw away your films once the screens have been burned. Save them because if you’re running your business well and have return customers they may want the same designs re-printed. If you’ve saved and indexed them, you’ll be able to retrieve them quickly and not have to produce new films.
As technologies such as direct-to-garment slowly improve and expand, you hear people predicting, at worst, the demise of textile screen printing or, at best, drastic changes in the technique. Printsome in the U.K. has an interesting perspective on this: “Like crocodiles or sharks that have barely evolved over millions of years, textile screen printing hasn’t changed very much throughout its long history because it doesn’t have to—it already works.”
So you tell your customers (maybe you even attach tags to their printed tees) to care for their T-shirts by: turning them inside out before putting them in the washing machine; washing in cold water; not putting them in the tumble dryer; drying them in the shade; and not ironing them.
Come on, let’s not kid ourselves and everyone else. Tees are not delicate high fashion. We throw them in the regular warm water wash, dry them in the dryer, and some of us (much to the amusement of others) even iron them (but not on the plastisol print of course).
It might be refreshing to see a printer actually attach an honest tag to their t-shirts. It could be a great marketing ploy.
In January we posted an item about toxicity in cotton garments. That same report has some serious information on Polyester garments . . . “found that Polyester harboured the highest concentrations of quinolines, a potential human carcinogen that has been linked to liver damage and aromatic amines, which are found in tobacco smoke and diesel exhaust.” What can you do about it as a screen printer handling these garments if you want to stay in business? Realistically, probably not much, but at the same time we should know as much as we can about our industry.
Stop battling and trying to innovate . . . You can get pallets to accommodate special needs such as hoodie zippers and small sleeves. The Stanley’s staff at all four branches can help you. And if they don’t know the answer to your precise challenge, they’ll find the answer and get back to you. Just give them a call with your specialty pallet challenge.