Maintain your manual press.
Discussions about press maintenance usually focus on automatic presses. But manual presses should not be overlooked. Cleaning and proper lubrication will keep a manual press operating at its best and prolong its life. A maintenance schedule will help ensure that it gets done.
Adjust your off-contact for fleece.
A standard T-shirt jersey-knit fabric needs off-contact of about 1/32nd to 1/16th of an inch but fleece fabric (as in sweats and hoodies) needs greater off-contact because of the greater thickness of the fabric. For this type of fabric 1/8th of in inch is more appropriate.
Have you considered curable reducer?
If you have a manual press and you’re finding that your ink is a bit “thick” and tough to pull, a curable reducer may be your solution. A small amount of curable reducer well mixed into the ink will make it more workable.
Use the ink designed for the fabric.
Use an ink designed for your substrate. Sound obvious? Perhaps, but printers still make this mistake every day. Polyester fabrics are prone to dye migration so use a dye-block ink designed for polyester. Some fabrics stretch, so use a stretch ink on them. Not sure what type of ink to use? Ask Stanley’s.
Think about your online strategy for 2018 and beyond.
Earlier this year a tip indicated that Generation Z (1996 and younger) will be 40% of all consumers by 2020 and 79 percent of them show symptoms of emotional stress when separated from their personal electronic devices. This is a reminder that as you approach the new year and think about future online marketing plans, you should be taking this into account.
Frozen emulsion is useless.
Printers are forgetting . . . you can’t leave emulsion in a car or truck for any length of time (such as overnight) in Canada’s sub-zero winter weather. It will freeze and become totally useless.
Check out the EZ Grip squeegee.
Manual printer? Do your hands and arms a favour. Check out the EZ Grip squeegee. It’s simple, it’s light, and it’s genius—much better and much less expensive than a similar metal squeegee on the market.
Keep an eye open for wide format digital textile printing.
Keep an eye open for developments in wide format digital textile printing. Mimaki claims that they’re able to achieve speeds close to screen printing technologies so wide format digital textile printing is now production friendly.
Have you considered focussing on a particular customer type?
Continuing with the theme of finding and edge in the market, have you considered focussing on a specific industry or service with your printing? For instance, what about beauty salons? It’s a huge industry that uses uniforms, T-shirts, towels, and robes. Focus in business can be powerful.
Here’s Graham at Stanley’s Calgary branch a few days ago . . .
Keep it clean.
“We had a customer yesterday who desperately needed a repeat of a gallon of red plastisol ink he’d had before. Usually this is no problem at all. As long as we have the Wilflex colour’s name or the 5-digit code, we can mix the exact match and have it ready in a few minutes. But in this case there was a problem.
He could no longer read the bucket label because of sloppy house-keeping procedures — it had been destroyed by first messing ink all over it and then probably trying to wipe it down with a solvent cleaner, who knows? Anyway, when this happens we have to try to identify which red it is from past records or try to colour match it by eye. This is time-consuming and sometimes difficult depending on the colour.
The lesson? In order to prevent contamination of colours and avoid ending up with buckets of mysterious, unnamed colours, remember that cleanliness is next to godliness when working with plastisol inks.”
Select your Polyester ink carefully.
Polyester doesn’t just mean a single type of fabric anymore. There are different types of Polyesters on the market now. Light-weight inners, light and heavy-weight outer garments, single or multiple layers, weatherproof outerwear, suitable for sublimation, and so forth. These different Polyesters along with the usual Polyester bleeding issues, require the right ink. Select your Polyester ink carefully.
Considered a rhinestone machine?.
Rhinestones a fashion thing in your neck of the woods? How much do you know about rhinestone machines? They can apply rhinestones directly on to material by ultrasonic welding. You may want to look into this and get a leg up on your competition.
Don’t overdo the squeegee strokes.
If you have a manual press and you’re relatively new to textile screen printing, you may be struggling with the number of strokes of the squeegee you need to get a decent print. You don’t have to “work” the ink into the garment. One stroke should do it but if you need additional coverage you can do a second stroke but do it in the same direction of the first stroke.
You can’t print like this.
This is a particularly good tip if you’re new to screen printing. Keep ink off your hands while printing. Plastisol has a sneaky way of finding it’s way to where you don’t want it to be, particularly when you’re inexperienced. It finds its way onto container sides, lids, work surfaces, squeegee handles, frame edges, and then onto your hands. Once on your hands it’s only a matter of time until unwanted smudges begin to appear on your garments. So, be fanatical about cleanliness.
Don’t overdo the flashing!
Don’t become a flash cure addict. Almost anyone can get a good print by curing between each colour — it covers up issues like thick ink, poor artwork overlays, etc. But it slows production down. Overcome the flashing habit and speed up production with good artwork, the correct mesh, the right ink viscosity, and only the number of strokes needed (not too many). Only flash when absolutely necessary.
Great prints need great art properly set up.
Even a brilliant artist needs experience in setting up art properly for screen printing in order to produce a high quality print. For great prints you need great art properly set up for printing.
Always stir your ink before using it.
Plastisol gets a little thicker when it sits around in the container. You should be in the habit of always stirring ink before using it — you never know for sure how long it has been sitting idle. Another reason to always stir is that you’ll quickly establish if it needs a thinner before you scoop it into the screen. But be careful about adjusting white inks because additives can change their vital properties.
Use the right ink!
It shouldn’t be an issue anymore, but it is. Different plastisols are designed for different substrates. Make sure you have the right ink before you start a job and your prints on Polyester won’t bleed and those on Nylon won’t peel off (to name just a few perils of using the wrong ink).
Generation Z is having an impact on online retailing.
If you have a textile screen shop with an online store selling direct, or if you’re thinking of launching an online store, here is a tip from CMO.com in a post about Generation Z: “55 percent of those 18 years of age and younger would rather buy clothes online . . . ” Considering that generation Z will apparently account for 40% of all consumers by 2020, this is something to take note of.
I have no idea . . .
Do you have any idea what these are: BACX; CUPRO; ROICA; ECOTEC; and RE.VERSO?
- Mexican-manufactured automatics;
- New Wilflex/Rutland colours by PolyOne to celebrate the merger;
- Lung diseases caused by aerosol adhesives;
- Different mesh weaves;
- Types of eco-friendly fabric; or
- Varieties of organic cotton grown in Egypt?
If you picked “(5) Types of eco-friendly fabric”, you’d be right. And why does this matter? Well, besides the fact that it’s an interesting snippet of information about our industry, you may be called upon soon to print on one or more of these fabrics. If this happens you don’t want to have to admit to your customer that you’ve never heard of the stuff before. You should also know which ink to use. So here are the details of these new fashion fabrics:
BACX: Manufactured in Italy by Centro Seta. It’s a blended silk textile that incorporates Newlife fibres and a silk yarn regenerated from spinning waste.
CUPRO: A Japanese fabric from the silky cotton fibres that stick to the seeds of the cotton plant after it’s been ginned. It handles like Rayon but breathes and regulates body temperature like cotton.
RE.VERSO: Another Italian fabric. It consists of up-cycled wool and Cashmere manufacturing offcuts. Ecologists love RE.VERSO because it uses almost 90 percent less water, uses almost 80 percent less energy, and generates more than 90% fewer carbon emissions than its conventional alternatives.
ECOTEC: Yet another Italian fabric. It’s woven from 100 percent pre-dyed, pre-consumer cotton scraps.
ROICA: Japanese again. Its a stretch fabric made of about 50 percent reclaimed pre-industrial waste. Applications include sportswear, lingerie, underwear, and outerwear.
These fabrics are in the market already from fashion houses to retailers like Marks & Spencer and under labels like Giorgio Armani. They could be on your press soon too.
Are you ready for generation Z?
By 2020, 40% of all consumers will be Generation Z. When dealing with this generation, consistency is important. Generation Z is said to be tough and stubborn and will remember interactions, good and bad. They will make future purchases accordingly. Time to think ahead.
Use the right stuff!
Use the degreaser designed for screen applications. Dish-washing liquid is less effective and also produces a lot of unnecessary foam that only adds to the time of the task. Cheap can be more expensive and less effective.
Don’t. Tell. Me. About. Your. Pinholes!
It’s a rush job and the press operator is on your case, the boss is on his case, and the customer is on the boss’s case. “We can’t do the job without screens! Where are they?”
You try to explain that you have pinholes and has anyone seen the bottle of block-out? And isn’t it Murphy’s law that the bottle of block-out was thrown out by the cleaners over the weekend because it looked old and had been sitting around for a long time?
In addition to always having block-out close at hand on the shelf with a “Do not touch my block-out” label on it, there are things to know about preventing pinholes. First of all, it’s almost never the fault of the emulsion — no decent emulsion manufacturer includes pinholes as an ingredient. It’s usually one of these things:
- mesh contamination
- poor degreasing techniques
- poor post-degreasing drying techniques
- dirty screen-making department
- improper preparation of emulsion
- particles in the emulsion or film
- coating speed
- trough design
- incomplete drying of the emulsion
- improper exposure
- contaminated exposure unit glass
- contaminated film positives
Take care of these basics and your &#!!*@! pinhole disasters should be few and far between. Blaming the emulsion is barking up the wrong tree — unless you bought some really cheap rubbish, But you’d never do that, would you?
Don’t take risks with your ink-fabric matches.
If you have any doubt about matching an ink with a fabric (something that’s critical in today’s world of never-before-seen-fabrics), help is available. Stanley’s has access to Wilflex’s laboratory facilities where they can quickly test the fabric and advise on the best ink to use. Don’t risk the job if you’re not certain about the fabric — get expert help.
A nice, firm, even, but not too high pressure is best when coating screens with a hand-held trough.
When coating screens using a hand-held trough, consistent pressure is better than maximum pressure. In fact, if the pressure is too high you can damage the mesh. But if the pressure is too low, you could end up with an uneven coat. So, a consistent, firm (but not too high), pressure is best for an even coat.
Screen cleaning is possibly the most unpopular job in a textile screen shop performed in possibly the most despised location — the “swamp”. For many years now dip tanks have been promoted as a means of making life easier and more efficient for swamp dwellers, but do dip tanks live up the hype?
A CCI dip tank.
It’s generally assumed that a shop should be “larger” before a dip tank can be justified. This is not necessarily true as dip tanks can be bought in a variety of sizes so that even small textile shops can consider one — which is most of the Canadian textile screen printing industry. The more important consideration is efficiency and labour time. The primary purpose of the tank is to soften up the stencil and ink at the same time so that while screen one is being rinsed, screen two is soaking and will be ready for rinsing when screen one is done. This obviously makes sense and is bound to make screen reclaiming more efficient. But there are other considerations.
Before ordering a tank, weigh the cost of it against the number of screens your shop recycles in, say, a year. Of course you may hate the screen-cleaning process so much that you’d pay a premium to make it easier — it’s your choice but at least be aware of the cost-benefit aspect. Then there are issues such whether the dip tank costs less in chemical consumption, whether the tank chemistry is safe to discharge into the sewer system, and how long the chemicals in the tank remain powerful enough to truly make it an effective dip-soak-and-rinse process (if the tank doesn’t consistently meet this standard then there’s not much point in having it).
Ask for contact information for dip tank users before buying one. Ask the tough questions. A dip tank could be a useful addition to the efficiency of your textile shop, but do your homework before deciding. Any one of Stanley’s branches can help point you in the right direction: Cambridge 1 877 205 9218 ; Calgary 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton 1 888 424 7446; Richmond 604 873 2451.
Don’t leave the screens in your dip tank.
Save some money. If you use a dip tank, don’t leave the screens in for longer than, say, three minutes (until the stencil starts to break away). Take them out and pressure wash. If you leave the screens in until all the ink and emulsion comes off, you’ll be going through a lot of unnecessary top-up chemical.
It may be illegal and almost definitely unconscionable.
This is not a popular topic, but it is a necessary one . . . What may your textile screen printing shop pour down the drain and what may it not?
We’re talking about chemicals here — the kind of stuff used in the screen reclaiming process in particular. And it doesn’t matter whether your shop uses a dip tank or a bucket and brush, the safety and pollution issues are the same. In fact, some printers erroneously believe that dip tank chemistry is more drain safe than bucket and brush chemistry.
And, most importantly, labels can’t be relied on to keep you on the right side of your conscience and the law. Just because a container is labelled “drain safe” it doesn’t mean that it is flushable in your jurisdiction. It all depends on local laws. It’s therefore your responsibility to find out whether the chemicals you use are allowed to be flushed into the sewer system.
If the chemicals in question are not flushable into your local sewer system, you have decisions to make if you are to stay on the right side of the law (and there’s also the matter of conscience). You will have to either change chemicals or find an alternative method of disposal. This is of course likely to result in additional expenditure, but consider the alternative – – fines, potential forced downtime etc.
Let’s not kid ourselves. While it’s a lot better than it used to be, we all know that the textile screen printing process relies on certain chemicals, some of which can be pretty nasty. To be safe and compliant, it’s best to establish with the local authorities what your shop can and cannot dump into the sewer system.
It’s true! A one-white-fits-all ink is on its way.
It’s on its way! Wilflex is releasing a white that can pretty much serve as your all-purpose, one-white-for-everything, low-cure ink. It’s a response to today’s tri-blend, 100% Polyesters and other challenging fabrics. Stanley’s is expecting to have it soon.
Don’t make your high-density stencils too thick.
High-density prints can look really cool and wow customers. But you must avoid the temptation to make the stencil too thick. 200-micron film can give you great high-density prints. Any thicker and it becomes difficult to print sharp edges and fine details because of light scatter during exposure.