We Will Be Closed September 7th!

HAPPY LABOR DAY 2015 - 2In observance of the U.S. Labor Day holiday, our offices will be closed on Monday, September 7, 2015. We will return on Tuesday, September 8th.

August 31, 2015 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

Do You Know If Your Dryer Is Performing?

A thermometer with a doughnut probe attachment is commonly used to profile heat output in dryers.

A thermometer with a doughnut probe attachment is commonly used to profile heat output in dryers.

HOW TO PROFILE DRYER TEMPERATURE OUTPUT

The dryer preforms a very important job in a screen-printing shop. If it’s not working properly it can result in the ink that cracks, or falls off after a garment is washed.

Achieving the required temperature to completely fuse plastisol ink should not be a guessing game. Just like any other high-performance piece of equipment, the more you understand how it operates, the easier it is to use.  Kent Hudson, International Coatings’ Sales Director, recently published an article on Impressions, explaining how you can best profile your dryer for maximum use:

PROBING HEAT
Most dryers come with a specific temperature setting for heat. Is this reading accurate? How can you ensure that if the temperature is set to 320°F, the shirts going through the dryer actually are reaching this temperature?

There is another variable setting included on the dryer to make things just a bit more confusing: conveyor belt speed. This control setting often has numbers that don’t relate to anything. If it is set at 5, what actually changes when it’s set to 6 or 8? To help find answers for each dryer in your shop, I suggest profiling the heat output.

To start, you will need to get a thermometer made specifically for screen-printing applications. More precisely, it’s a thermo probe designed to go through the dryer during operation and accurately tells you the temperature as it travels from front to back. A common thermometer used for this purpose is the one with the doughnut probe attachment (i.e. Cooper-Atkins AquaTuff-K). Remember to ensure the wire from the probe to the thermometer is longer than the heat chamber on the dryer.

For measuring purposes, place a piece of tape at 1-foot intervals from the probe to the end of the wire. With tool in hand, bring the dryer up to temperature and allow for several minutes set at the final temperature. Check the temperature in the dryer on the right and left sides, as well as the middle of the conveyor belt.

Using a blank shirt or piece of fabric, place it on the right side of the belt and place the doughnut probe on it. There are two exposed wires running through the circle of plastic that makes up the doughnut probe. They run in opposite directions and cross in the middle. The wires are located on the bottom of the circle.  Place the wire side down so that they are touching the fabric sample.

Turn the thermometer on and be sure the probe is plugged in. Note the belt speed that is selected. As the probe moves into the dryer, document the temperature reading at each 1-foot interval until the probe reaches the end of the dryer’s tunnel. Then, quickly unplug the probe from the thermometer. Don’t let the thermometer go through the dryer; only the probe. Allow it, and the sample fabric or shirt, to cool before setting up for the next reading.

Repeat the same procedure for the left side and the middle. Document all readings at 1-foot increments marked on the probe’s wire. Then compare the temperature readings for the right, left and center to see how well balanced the heat is in your dryer.

Achieving the required temperature to completely fuse plastisol ink should not be a guessing game. Just like any other high-performance piece of equipment, the more you understand how it operates, the easier it is to use.

MEASURING BELT SPEED
Your dryer’s belt speed also needs to be researched. Just like an automobile measures speed in miles per hour, belt speed is measured in feet per minute.

Set the dryer’s speed indicator to a slow setting first, then place a piece of fabric on the belt. Using a stopwatch, measure how many feet the fabric moves in one minute. As an example, if the fabric traveled 6 feet, the belt speed is 6 feet per minute. Perform the same test at several settings and document the results.

Now you have an association with the adjustments on the dryer’s dial that corresponds to how fast the belt is moving by the foot. When profiling the dryer, it also is a good idea to test it at different belt speeds, noting how this affects the time your printed shirt receives the correct temperature.

Profile each dryer in your shop periodically and compare the numbers to see if the equipment is in good working order or if anything has changed since the previous profile.

Kent Hudson is the sales director for International Coatings Co. For more information, visit iccink.com or read the company’s blog at internationalcoatingsblog.com

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

August 27, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

National Contest Supports The Education Of Next Generation of Imagers

SkillsUSA 2015 - Fairfax, Viginia

SkillsUSA 2015

SkillsUSA, a national organization serving educators and students as they prepare to enter technical occupations, recently hosted the 51st annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. Student winners walked away with thousands of dollars in prizes — and the sought-after championship title.

More than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students — all state contest winners — competed in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as screen printing, dye sublimation, computer-aided drafting, T-shirt design and advertising design.

International Coatings is a proud sponsor & supporter of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

This year’s winners in the Screen Printing Technology were: Travis Hathaway (Waynesville Career Center, Waynesville, Missouri) – High School Level. Kimberly Jepson (Salt Lake community College, Salt Lake City, Utah – College Level.

IC is proud to contribute to their success by providing starter kits.

SkillsUSA 2015 - Fairfax, Virginia

SkillsUSA 2015

“Because of their partnership, SGIA industry development initiatives dovetail nicely with the mission of the SkillsUSA organization in providing a skilled workforce. By leading the Screen Printing Technology and Graphic Imaging — Sublimation competitions, we can assure that competition standards align with industry needs,” said Johnny Shell, SGIA’s Vice President of Technical Service.

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

August 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm 1 comment

Specialty Printing for Success – Part II

 

HD ink with a clear gel makes this logo pop.

HD ink with a clear gel makes this logo pop.

Part II of an article recently published on ‘Impressions‘ by Kieth Stevens.

PREPRESS PREP

Many of these specialty inks require a little extra prepress effort. Let’s look at what is involved:

• Artwork: When it comes to designing with special-effects inks, the motto “less is more” often rings true. Avoid large areas that use thick ink, such as puff, or adjust the artwork accordingly. For instance, use large halftone dots instead of a solid block. Also, avoid lines that are too thin and detailed, as they often don’t reproduce well.

• Tight Mesh: The tighter the mesh, the better the ink flow. When the mesh is tightly stretched, its thread gets thinner and allows more ink to pass through. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions on the appropriate tension for your mesh type. Otherwise, other issues may follow, such as the need for excessive off-contact. This can create a distorted printed image or problems with color-to-color registrations.

• Thicker Stencil: Most of the aforementioned inks work best if used in conjunction with a thicker emulsion layer, usually in the 400-micron range. When creating a thicker screen stencil, either apply a thick emulsion layer by making dozens of passes with the scoop coater while allowing it to dry after every few coats. Or simply learn how to laminate a sheet of thick emulsion that can be purchased from your screen supplier.

All of these emulsions can be exposed quickly, so it is extremely important to do all coating and handling in an area that does not contain white or unfiltered light. An area with a ruby filter covering the light source is preferred.

Remember that even if a tiny amount of light washes over the screen, the damage cannot be reversed. And if too much light reaches the screen, reclaim it.

Did you know that the emulsion-covered screen is sensitive to light even after you have started washing it out after exposure? So keep the lights off until the screen has finished the developing process. When I hear that someone is having trouble making a thick screen, I find that the problem usually stems from improper handling prior to, during or after exposure.

Lastly, when printing through thick emulsion, try not to print too small of an image. This is because the ink will remain in the screen and won’t release onto the garment.

• The Right Film: The other major problem with exposing the thick screen is the type of film being used. Hold the film positive that you will use up to the light or sun. If you see light passing through its black portion, then you will not get the best image. Use a film or printer that can give you an opaque black to block the light.

• The Correct Squeegee: Many printers don’t have a large enough assortment of squeegee durometers or profile types. Having the proper tools at your disposal enables the flexibility you need to create the desired effect or look.

For example, when printing gel or glitter, a soft squeegee deposits more ink and may help avoid having to double-stroke the print.

Using a Clear HD ink creates texture and interest in a seemingly

Using a Clear HD ink creates texture and interest in a seemingly “simple” design.

EXPERIMENT OFTEN

Once the basics of specialty printing are mastered, experiment with the inks — you may even want to combine a few to see the effect it achieves — and come up with your own unique formulas and prints.

I’ve certainly experimented with multiple ideas in the past. I once tried to make a “lens” that would magnify a print or object underneath the clear coating. It would be like adhering a postage stamp to a garment and then printing a coating of gel on top of it so thick that when you cure it at a high temperature, the gel would become domed to create the look of a magnifying glass.

Or how about printing a flock adhesive, but instead of just printing it as a clear base, you tinted it a contrasting color to the flock color? Perhaps an orange-tinted adhesive and then a green flock on top. Or what about a white-tinted adhesive on a black shirt with a red flock color?

Another idea is to use an ink called “Burnout” that can be used on a 50/50 shirt to actually burn out the cotton fibers, leaving just the polyester threads. You could then sublimate the leftover polyester fibers with another image and further embellish it with foil or direct-printed metallic glitter, for example. Again, it’s difficult to incorporate many of the suggested ideas without an understanding of the tools you will need. However, once you’ve mastered these tools, the sky is the limit.

I look forward to what the future will bring to our industry, including developments in direct-to-garment printing. Even if the digital age starts to take a stake in volume garment decorating, specialty printing still will be needed to augment digital printing. And I’m sure I’ll still feel the need to pull a squeegee once in a while in my old age.

Kieth Stevens is the Western regional sales manager for International Coatings. He has been teaching screen printing for more than 10 years and is a regular contributor to International Coatings’ blogs. For more information, visit iccink.com and read the company’s blog at internationalcoatingsblog.com.

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

August 13, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Specialty Printing for Success – Part I

These are high-density gloss dots (Gellusion method) overprinted with a solid-color design as well as a three-color (pie-chart) design that, when viewed from different angles, shows the different color hues.

These are high-density gloss dots (Gellusion method) overprinted with a solid-color design as well as a three-color (pie-chart) design that, when viewed from different angles, shows the different color hues.

An article recently published on Impressions‘ by Kieth Stevens:

Learn the tools and techniques necessary for printing with specialty inks and boost your shop’s profits.

It’s an eye-opening experience to think about how much specialty inks have evolved over the years and how the advances or applications of fringe technologies have helped screen-printing industry veterans get where they are today.

The ’80s saw the popularity of a magical, water-based product called Puff Stuff, and what an effect it was. Now, there are multiple types of puff inks available.

Why should a printer invest in specialty printing? In a word: Profits. Customers prefer shops that can give them new or unique prints. The more diversified your shop, the better poised you are to earn money.

How can your shop differentiate itself from others? There are so many choices today for specialty inks, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. Much can be added to a regular print with a tiny amount of bling, such as metallic gold, silver or even clear shimmer inks. Or how about getting creative with glow-in-the-dark ink, which now is available in multiple colors?

For those who want to delve a bit further, remember to have fun with specialty inks. Don’t be intimidated by the choices. Set aside time to play with the options and experiment with how they print and look.

The artistic aspect of our industry sets it apart from others. I got my start in high school, printing on a litho press, and it just seemed to be too aseptic and cut-and-dry. My vocational teacher, Mr. Jones, was cool and inspirational. He introduced me to screen printing, which seemed much more engaging. It was a process where I could use my imagination and — as I later learned — allowed me to express myself artistically.

Take the aforementioned puff ink. Today, there are several different types, including standard puff, suede puff and a newer type, BlowOut Base. The latter is similar to a “blister puff” — one that has a “skin” and is spongy rather than hard to the touch.

A close-up of the tri-colored dots, seen from the predominantly blue side. As far as inks, high density gloss print shows how simple lettering can be made more impactful.

A close-up of the tri-colored dots, seen from the predominantly blue side. As far as inks, high density gloss print shows how simple lettering can be made more impactful.

In addition, there now are all kinds of gel inks being used, such as a clear variety that simulates the clarity of looking through a glass window. Others can be tinted and made to resemble a neon bulb or stick of red licorice. Some gels are used as adhesives for caviar beads or other loose particles such as glitter flakes, and even as an on-press foil adhesive.

Did you know you can add a scent to ink that makes printed strawberries smell as if they were just picked? How about a chocolate bar that smells irresistible?

Some of my favorite types of specialty inks are those that can change colors. Some, called hydrochromatic, will change colors when wet. Others, called thermochromatic, change colors when exposed to temperature changes. Another popular one — and my favorite, called orthochromatic or photochromatic — changes color when it is exposed to outdoor light.

One type of specialty ink that hit our screens in the mid-to-late ’90s is what we now refer to as high-density (HD) ink. This thick ink has some puff added so that when printed through a thick stencil (200-400 microns), it has a sharp edge. It can be stacked and combined with regular plastisol inks to give some very interesting images and dimensions. Many prints that win awards at trade shows contain HD elements.

Kieth Stevens is the Western regional sales manager for International Coatings. He has been teaching screen printing for more than 10 years and is a regular contributor to International Coatings’ blogs. For more information, visit iccink.com and read the company’s blog at internationalcoatingsblog.com.

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

August 6, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

The Effects of Humidity on Screen Printing

screenAnother recent article published in ‘Printwear‘ by John Levocz. It’s that time of year again when everything in your shop seems to be wet due to high humidity, and this humidity can cause several problems in your shop that you should be aware of.

First, screens will take a lot longer to dry after degreasing and also after coating with emulsion. Do not rush the coated screens. Make sure they are dry all the way through the emulsion coating. If they are tacky to the touch, they need more drying time. Rushing the screens can cause pinhole and emulsion washout issues.

Second, when using plastisol inks, the moisture in the garments need to be driven out before the curing process can start to take place. Shops with smaller dryers and very little airflow can expect to see their cure time increase, so it is important to re-check your cure before blaming the ink.

John Levocz is North East regional sales manager for International Coatings. For more information, visit iccink.com and read the company’s blog

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

July 31, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

A Simple Test for Screen-Room Lighting

Screen2

Here’s a recent article published in ‘Impressions‘ by Keith Stevens:

My background is in halftone photography, and when I was using this old-school technology, it was imperative to have the proper light in the dark room where the film was handled.

It also was extremely important to have no unfiltered light entering the room either from cracks under the door, a vent or any other source. The film must be protected and inside its original box if ever the door was opened.

I’m not the know-it-all expert in screen making, but I have coated tens of thousands of screens, so I have a little experience. In light of the requirements when it comes to the screen room, it amazes me to see how forgiving many of today’s emulsions are when it comes to ambient light. That’s not to say they are immune from all light, but I’m amazed at what the common screen room can get away with.

In my perfect world, I would only use light that is filtered with a red filter — something like a Rubylith. There also are special bulbs that are made for film use. Why am I so paranoid, you ask? Well, if you’ve made as many screens as I have, in as many environments, you get a feel for how it can affect your screens and productivity.

If you have unfiltered or poorly filtered light in your screen-coating room, then a freshly coated-and-dried screen from this morning may work fine. But if that same screen were to sit on the shelf for a few days, you may find that you’ll have trouble getting the same printing results.

Here’s a simple test you can use to see if your screens are slowly getting exposed in your screen coating or coated screen-drying room:

1. Coat a 160 screen in the typical way. (I suggest two coats on the shirt side and two coats on the ink side.)
2. Dry the screen with the shirt side down horizontally.
3. Turn the screen upside down with the shirt side up.
4. Place six quarters separated by a few inches on the freshly coated-and-dried screen and leave them there for 24 hours. (You can substitute dimes or other coins instead of the quarters, just as long as they are opaque.) Ensure that you won’t have to move the screen for the duration of the test.
5. Remove one quarter, but take care not to move any others. Leave the screen in place for another 24 hours.  Repeat this until all the quarters are gone.
6. When you have finished your test, go directly to the washout booth. Don’t expose the screen with any type of light. Now this is where you need to pay close attention: While you’re washing out the screen, it should all wash out at the same time. If you, in any way, can see where you placed the quarters, then the ambient light in your screen room is not correctly filtered.

The point of the experiment is to minimize one important controllable variable — one that is often overlooked or misunderstood, in my opinion — in the screen-making process. Inconsistencies in this process can be extremely frustrating, and can cost time and effort to fix.

Looking at your bottom line, that extra time and effort may result in a loss of money in the long run.


Kieth Stevens is the Western regional sales manager for International Coatings. He has been teaching screen printing for more than 10 years and is a regular contributor to International Coatings’ blogs. He also won a 2014 Golden Image Award from SGIA. For more information, visit iccink.com and read the company’s blog at internationalcoatingsblog.com

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at www.iccink.com.

July 23, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

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