As many of us know, much of the time it is easier to train someone new to do things “the right way” (your way!) than it is to break bad habits or open a closed mind to new ideas. It also takes time and patience, things that are usually in short supply in the print shop.
Nearly a decade ago when I started working with shops with a newly developing silicone textile ink base and the generation I products that preceded it, I quickly realized that there were quite a few printers who had tested early silicone products that were not quite optimized for easy integration. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the cart got ahead of the horse when these inks were launched however it did present some roadblocks to introducing new products to the printers who had bad experiences early in the curve. But when Prop 65 drove brands to begin to require inks that met RSL and eco compliant certification, there was a need to fill and companies who recognized this, rushed to fill the demand. I’ve always found that these challenges, when faced with an open mind are just as prime an opportunity to learn as to teach and these early trials were definitely a two-way street.
I’ve found that with the right approach and a client that was success oriented and flexible in their ability to adjust, it took a fairly short period of time to find a comfortable level in working with this relatively new ink technology. Conversely, each of those first interactions enabled me to adjust development of bases to meet the needs of the process which made it easier for all of us.
In every ink segment, whether plastisol, water-based, HSA etc. there is differentiation in the products from suppliers and manufacturers. This is absolutely true with silicones as well. Many silicone ‘inks’ are converted products from another market that are tweaked to fit into our application space. My desire is to simplify the silicone experience and the first step to do that is qualify what makes a system work. Breaking that into a few buckets will serve to identify what attributes contribute to what makes up a good option for your needs. So let’s get started:
Ease of printability should be one of the top priorities in developing products to fit into our application space. Let’s be real, the more you have to conform to a product, the less value that product has to you. Printability for me is defined by things like how much pressure is required to clear mesh? Does ink climb and stick to the squeegee? Will ink flood well in your screen?
High viscosity bases require more down pressure and squeegee angle to shear through the screen and tend to print through lighter fabrics creating an undesired-able and heavy print. Printing with these materials tends to give mesh limitations as well. Manual press operations can clear squeegee’s of ink easily but for automatic printers that leads to a lot of carding, wingtips and more ink in the screen.
Many Silicones, as stated earlier are used as multi-purpose materials, designed to be pumped, knife or roll coated. This leads to a broad range of viscosities from very high to quite low so it’s important that you get material on screen early in the decision making process.
Color masking and color matching are important considerations in choosing the ink that works for you. Opacity in our industry gives an ink the ability to block the garment color beneath and provide a consistent print color quality on multiple garment colors. Lower opacity requires more layers to block, higher opacity leads to higher viscosity which can affect print-ability. Most opaque bases in the market have similar hue properties making color matching easier.
Silicones are translucent (clear) in nature unless modified for opacity so clear ‘gels’ are generally widely available. These products offer the ability to pigment with glitters and special f(x) products or provide a super glossy effect.
#3 Screen life
Let’s face it, if you are paying extra for a PVC alternative ink, you’re going to want to make the most out of it. Screen life is very important to you as you evaluate materials.
Silicone inks work through a platinum catalyst to “cure”; the base product is shelf stable until mixed with catalyst. A chemical ‘retardant’ will slow the cure giving you better screen ‘open’ time. This retardant volatizes as the product warms or is flashed allowing the catalyst to initiate cure. This attribute varies greatly from silicone material to material and operating conditions of your shop also have a great effect.
There are some great ways to improve your screen open time and other common issues, look for some tips in upcoming articles or get in touch with Silutions Ink (www.silutionsink.com) to discuss our consulting services for your shop.
As in most cases, there are trade-offs in almost everything. It can be difficult to adjust for one attribute without affecting another. When making the jump into silicone inks, I highly recommend getting advice from a trusted source to help guide your decisions and find the shortest route to the best product for your shop
Getting started with silicone textile printing inks may seem like a challenge to the new user but with a little guidance and the right products, the reality is this is not the case. A variety of RFU colors in standard sports formats as well as color masterbatches for custom color creation exist in the marketplace through most textile ink distributors. While there are some differences between products, the chemistry is the same across the board, read the technical data sheet for specifics but generally speaking, DON’T think chemistry, THINK INK! Then do what comes naturally and PRINT IT!
For this particular print, we worked with a customer on a crappie image that incorporated finer mesh counts and a few special effects. This 6 color print was a great example to work with, blending standard colors with glitters and color shifting flakes in a crystal clear base. Here we are able to show reflection in iridescence and add a little pizzazz on an already great piece of artwork.
Modifying screen mesh and print sequence gave the ability to mask colors that appeared more dominant in silicone medium because of its solvent free nature (this ink does not dry, but cures and maintains its color very well). Using a lower mesh screen for the glitter and shift inks allowed us to deposit more flakes to bump the Special f(x). A 60 duro squeegee and print-flash-print process on these lower viscosity clear bases allowed for enough build up to get a nice wet look on this ‘speck’.
For more details on this print or questions on silicone printing, reach out to us at Silutions Ink!
Silicone printing inks have long been used for garment embellishment of performance wear. These synthetic fabrics made of polyester, lycra and nylons as well as cotton blends have continued their steady growth in the market. The end use of many of these garments is for athletic sports and as such the attributes of moisture management (wicking), antimicrobial capability and stretch are highly desired. As these trends continue, we as screen-printers must tackle some of the challenges that come with them. Now for me – I look at challenges as opportunities and in this space, you can too.
While silicone inks are being worked with in a wide variety of shops, they can still be hard to find printed in your local market. Having one more tool in your kit, especially one tailored for jerseys and other sublimated poly’s that provide an innovative look and feel can set your shop apart from your competition.
Let’s take a closer look at one major problem with these synthetics that silicones are naturally suited to solve – dye sublimation.
How many of you have printed that order of jerseys for the local team or used one of the many camo patterns available only to have them come out of the flash or dryer grinning at you. ‘Grin-through’ or ‘peek-through’ of these sublimated dyes will make your nice bright white a disaster and cost your shop big time. Even worse can be “Sarah” the soccer mom calling you after little Jonnie’s first game with pink numbers coming out of the dryer where white on red used to be.
Dyes used in these polyester, poly/lycra blends are by very nature, mobile. These garments are made by “sublimating” the dye or heating it until it is in a gaseous state to transfer onto the blank. The stability of these materials require low temperature when we embellish and launder (look at the use tag Sarah!). As long as we can keep the temperature below the activation temp of the dyes, then they will stay put.
Silicones cure at 240F, using a 1 minute dwell time is all you’ll need to provide that crisp, winning look. Some even flash and allow the chemistry to work without a dryer. Don’t forget about the underbase bleed blockers available for those stubborn colors.
Another little known fact is that silicones transpire gases, so your embellishment is working right along with the garments moisture wicking.
While you will pay more for this premium ink remember that coverage using the right silicone system is generally obtained with 30% less ink than other “poly” inks. Less expense in energy to dry and passing on some of that cost for this innovative ‘SILution” can make for a great addition to your product line.
For more information on silicone inks and applications, get in touch with us at Silutions Ink, www.silutinosink.com.
Well it’s out with the old year and in with 2017! It’s been an incredible journey getting to this point and I am looking forward to what’s coming next. Launching this website is a great step in opening doors to new opportunities. Obviously, we are still a bit lite on content but I am sure that will start to change quickly as the year progresses. One of the downsides to leaving a large corporation is they tend to want all their collateral but, I think it’s a great place to build from the foundation up, the way I want it.
I’m looking forward to this blog as a way for you to start to get to know me. First always, I want to acknowledge the family and friends that have helped make this possibility a reality. I am blessed with such stellar folks in my life that just don’t have "can't" in their dictionary and are willing to jump in with all their skills, support and thoughts.
I’d like to thank you for checking out the new site and your interest in the company. I probably know a few of you already and look forward to meeting many more soon!
I’ll be at ISS Longbeach later this month so feel free to reach out and let’s make a connection!
20+ years experience in the silicone industry