Setting up a small textile screen shop — #2 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • New shops are springing up like mushrooms
  • There is much to consider in equipment and supplies
  • You will need a flash dryer

The full version:

A typical flash dryer.

Assuming that you’re going to be printing multicoloured designs with plastisol ink, you will have to be able to gel the ink. For this you will need a flash dryer. Gelling ink between colours is a quick process; the time under the flash dryer is generally just 5 to 10 seconds at most.

But understand that in established, high-production shops there are two types of dryers—flash dryers and conveyor dryers. Whereas a flash dryer is used in the printing cycle to gel ink, a conveyor dryer cures the finished print.

However, although curing prints with a flash dryer is generally frowned upon, it is not uncommon for smaller start-up shops to do just that. The main reason is avoidance of the cost of a conveyor dryer. Historically though, when prints crack or wash out, the reason is under-curing and often it’s because the curing was done by flash dryer in a smaller shop.

That said, some industry professionals will tell you that plastisol ink can generally be fully cured with a flash dryer. But then there are steps you must take to ensure something approaching a decent cure. You should set the flash dryer to its highest temperature and position the heating element just 3 to 4 inches over the garment for 25 – 30 seconds. You want to reach the 320 degrees on the surface of the print that plastisol generally requires for curing. You can test the temperature with a donut probe.  Expect to have to experiment to arrive at a print that doesn’t crack when stretched or still looks good after, say, three wash tests.

You will need a flash dryer but, ideally, you’ll also need a conveyor dryer. We’ll discuss conveyor dryers in the next post in this series.