Davis presents eight ways to build a better textile-printing operation, including a standardized procedure that ensures consistent quality from production run to production run.
By Rick Davis
Although most printers like to find one all-purpose white product and apply it in all applications, this approach may not always be the best if you print on multiple fabric types. Few textile screen-printing shops print only one type of fabric.
The best option to avoid being limited by a single white ink is to standardize your whites to include only two products: one white with bleed-resistant qualities for synthetic fabrics, such as 50/50 cotton-poly blends, and another standard white for 100%-cotton garments.
The need for bleed-resistant white on synthetics is a subject that's been covered extensively in this and other industry journals. But you should avoid using bleed-resistant whites on 100% cotton because the dye-blocking agents in the ink may lead to the formation of residual images on the unprinted side of the garment--some cotton dyes are sensitive to those dye-blocking agents.
6. Squeegee profiles
When it comes to squeegee edges, there is more than one school of thought. Some believe that the squeegee should be razor sharp, and others believe that you should have one edge for fine mesh counts and one for coarser mesh counts. I happen to subscribe to the latter school. Inks requiring coarser mesh counts such as puffs and high-density inks need a slightly rounded squeegee edge to help minimize any potential over shearing that may occur with a squeegee that is too sharp.
7. Wash-test procedures
In the past, I have discussed different means for determining the level of cure on your prints. My enduring viewpoint is that the best way to judge cure is the same way the consumer judges it--by washing the garment. On each job you produce, set aside at least one garment and wash it 3-5 times. If the print survives, then you know you've achieved a successful cure. The results of each wash test should be documented and filed along with the printing parameters and dryer settings to ensure that the process can be repeated (or avoided).
8. Process documentation
As any experienced printer knows, you can't over-document the procedures you use to deliver a quality product. In order to properly reproduce prints from one production run to the next, you must be able to achieve identical results time and time again. And very few printers can get those repeatable results by reconstructing a successful job from memory. That is why proper documentation is critical. The main job parameters you should document include number of colors, screen (color) order, mesh parameters (thread counts/diameter, weave, color), mesh-tension levels, ink-mixing formulas, squeegee durometer and edge profile, settings for flash curing, and dryer settings
Variations in any one of these variables can throw a wrench into the works and adversely affect the quality of the finished product. Documenting procedures is a repetitive and mundane task that is easily overlooked during hectic times on the production floor. So make sure your employees understand that proper documentation at each step of the production process is as important as meeting the customer's deadline.
Standardizing each of your production procedures is a necessity if you want to achieve proper and repeatable control of the variables inherent in textile screen printing. Set your standards in stone, and establish a record-keeping procedure that forces employees to use and maintain the standards. Once standardized procedures become second nature to your staff, the ability to deliver high-quality products will, too.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.