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Maximizing Efficiency in Your Inkroom

(January 2008) posted on Tue Jan 29, 2008

One effective way to boost production, improve efficiency, and reduce inventory costs in your shop is to utilize ink-management equipment. This article explores a variety of options available for ink handling, mixing, and dispensing, as well as the benefits these products offer.

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By Lori Leaman

Containers come in a variety of styles and sizes. Ideally, you should have several 1- and 5-gal containers for mixing custom colors. Pint-size containers can be used for storing a control batch for each batch mix. Screen printers typically purchase ink in containers that range in size from 1-55 gal. Some manufacturers offer totes, which hold up to 300 gal of ink. Totes are usually pressurized and equipped with a tap in the bottom that allows users to dispense the ink into smaller containers.


Pumping the ink

Pumps are available to remove ink from the container prior to mixing. Pumps are usually required when working with large containers or drums of ink. However, some manufacturers offer pumps for use with containers as small as 1 and 5 gal. The type of pump you use will depend on the ink’s viscosity and pigmentparticle size. Your ink supplier will be able to furnish this information.

Piston and air-operated double-diaphragm pumps are two of the more prominent types used in our industry. Basically, a piston pump is a metal cylinder with a piston inside that raises and lowers under air pressure, bringing ink up into the cylinder. As the piston moves downward, it pushes the ink out through a valve. The process does involve a considerable amount of friction; therefore, it is not suitable for certain types of ink, such as UV-curable formulations, where a friction cure may result. However, piston pumps are suitable for high-viscosity inks, such as plastisols.

Air-operated double-diaphragm pumps are less expensive than piston pumps, do not generate friction, and are designed for low-viscosity, freeflowing inks, such as UV-curables.

Double-diaphragm pumps are displacement pumps that compress fluid by decreasing the volume of a chamber that contains the fluid. Two diaphragms are oscillated (mechanically, hydraulically, or pneumatically) to displace the fluid. A chamber is divided with one side using hydraulic fluid, air, or a motorized drive to move the diaphragm. The fluid is pulsed through the pump.


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