I travel the country teaching our customers the best ways to make a total conversation from high temperature inks to our extreme low temperature inks. It is a lot of fun to work with teams who have never really had the time to experiment with their press settings. It can be a bit of an adventure as often my ideas are instantly viewed as crazy or impossible by press operators who have only known one way. They have only ever printed with thick, heavy inks. They possibly have never had a well made screen. So many of our peers don’t get good training. Even if they do, it is likely not up to date with high tech inks and new accessories.
I try to set up 95% of shops with the same press settings so they can just leave them alone. This won’t work for the other 5% for reasons we will discuss later. There is always some adjustment as there may be variables that I cannot change. For instance, some shops have hundreds of terrible screens. No tension. Clearly, I will have to adjust. Other shops only have one flash cure unit. Revolver mode will have to be used. I try to speed up production by going around the press once. Wet on wet printing is a must and it is easy with these inks.
Keep in mind, the majority of screen printers today are printing mixed runs of fabric. They are using web stores for schools, sports teams, and businesses. Every print run may include cotton and polyester. Our low temperature inks won’t discriminate. We will get you a good print on any fabric using proper screens and settings. For those printing high end graphics such as simulated process or four color process, you already know your settings will differ.
First, the squeegee is such an important aspect of what you do for a living. Do you even know why you are using the squeegee blade you are using? I am betting either the press operator says it works best or it simply has always been there. Regardless, let’s make a change. 70 durometer blades are fantastic for laying down a thicker ink deposit. This is a medium flex squeegee. Combined with the other settings we will be discussing, you will get the best results with our ink.
Now that you have a medium flex squeegee, set it to 15-20 degrees. This is again designed to provide an excellent ink deposit which leads to better opacity and bleed resistance.
Squeegee pressure for the first print of white (I prefer using a base white and a highlight white) will likely be 40 psi. Every color after the base white will be 20-30 psi. I realize there are other factors with the squeegee pressure such as the squeegee height. Heck, some presses don’t have a psi adjustment so you may only have the ability to adjust the squeegee height. In these situations, it is important to watch the squeegee rubber and how much it flexes. Yes, it should show some flex. No, it shouldn’t be much. I don’t want it bending in half to clear a screen. It should slightly flex as it is pulled across the image area.
Squeegee speed will also depend on the press but what I call “medium” speed will get the job done. On an M&R this is about a 4. Play with the base white until the previously discussed settings get you a consistently cleared screen. Then you can set all of the colors to the same speed. The colors certainly can be printed with faster speeds if you would like. It is simply not necessary as the slowest print head controls the press speed anyway.
What we haven’t discussed with the squeegees is that I expect to pull every squeegee once. That’s right, one stroke. This will speed up your production and keep profitability to a maximum with each press. So many printers double stroke everything and it isn’t necessary. The prints aren’t as sharp. You push the ink through the apparel onto the platen. We will get our ink deposit using the new squeegees, settings, and better emulsion practices.
After the base white you need to flash cure. I cannot account for variables such as the platen temperature and your particular flash cure unit and height. If your platens are pre-heated as they should be, this ink will dry very quickly. If you have a flash cure unit with a cut off temperature, 200ºF will certainly do it.
After the flash cure unit there needs to be a roller squeegee. A roller squeegee will basically flatten all of the fuzz on the shirt working with the already hot base white. There is a dramatic difference between a print that is rolled and one that is not. It is a must-have item. If you don’t own one but you want to try this out, get yourself a fine mesh screen with emulsion, a teflon sheet, and a hard squeegee blade. Add a little ink to the screen and a lot of squeegee pressure. It will do an okay job of flattening the print like a roller squeegee will. It won’t be as good but you will get some benefit.
Assuming you have a second flash cure unit, you will print the colors after the base white wet on wet, flash cure, and then print the highlight white. If you don’t, you will be in revolver mode to make this work. You can certainly print the base white, flash, roll, and then do it all over again. I prefer to always have the highlight white as I will change mesh counts. For most applications, a 110 base and 158 highlight is great. If I want a lighter print, a 158 base and a 180 or 230 highlight works great. What matters is your customers love your prints. Show them and ask which they prefer ahead of time.
The final setting to adjust is the off contact distance. This will depend on your screen tension and sometimes the apparel you are printing. However, a low off-contact distance is preferred with these settings. Many shops like to keep one off-contact distance and they use it for tees and sweatshirts. For me, this is too high for thin apparel and my settings. Simply adjust for the hoodies and sweatshirts when it comes time. You will have better prints all around.
That’s about it. This is a simple way to run the majority, if not all of your orders. For those in the 5% who are printing high end graphics or using special techniques, this isn’t for you. You may have multiple roller squeegees. You may use harder, triple durometer squeegees and an upright squeegee angle. I get that. No reason to change for these inks. They will still give you the benefits you are looking for with your press settings.
Director, Product Development