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.
By Lori Leaman
Ink-mixing equipment comes in many flavors, but in the screen-printing industry, the types of mixers you’ll most commonly find include variable-speed paddle mixers, high-speed dispersers, and closed-lid centrifuge mixers. The variable-speed paddle mixer consists of a platform with a paddle in the center. Users place an ink container on the platform, and the platform rotates, spinning the ink container. Paddle mixers do not generate a lot of heat or friction, thanks to the rotating motion, which makes them ideal for plastisol or high-viscosity inks, where heat sensitivity is an issue.
A high-speed disperser is essentially an electric motor equipped with a metal blade and controlled by a variable-speed rheostat. As the user increases the speed, the blade spins faster. This type of mixer can be used with most screen-printing inks; however, you need to be cautious of the amount of time that you mix the inks, as this type of mixer does generate heat.
With a closed-lid centrifuge mixer, you put air into the ink container, secure the lid on the container, place the container onto the mixer, and the mixer spins at a very high speed to disperse the ink. One advantage to this type of system is that its lack of blades or parts eliminates the need to clean the system. The closed-lid centrifuge mixer typically is used with low-viscosity inks.
The viscosity of the inks you plan to use is the key factor to consider when selecting an ink mixer. Presutto says that ready-for-use inks are, in most cases, relatively thin in viscosity (UV or solventbased), making them suitable for use with any of the mixers described above. However, screen printers need to be cautious when working with metallic blends, fluorescents, and other specialty inks.
“When you work with anything other than finished ink, you must mix the product well, because you are actually dispersing dry pigments at that point. You must generate proper vortex and mixing speed to disperse the inks,” Presutto says.
AWT’s Tornado ink mixer (Figure 8) is a system designed for small batches or short runs. The Tornado is a turntable with reversible direction and variable speed. Users place an ink container on the turntable, lock it in, and the container—not the blade—spins. Adjustable speed (up to 45 rpm), adjustable height, varying sizes of blades, and container grippers are a few of the Tornado’s features.
M&R’s Turnabout (Figure 9) is a self-centering mixer that rotates the ink container with a lifting and rolling action, which allows the mixer to reach ink that might settle on the sides and bottom of the container. The Turnabout can accommodate containers from 1-5 gal and is designed for use with thick inks and coatings, while M&R’s Turnabout HD is specifically designed to handle high-density formulations in 5-gal capacities.
Several manufacturers offer inkmixing systems for a more automated process. AWT’s Press Mate uses 50 lbs of compressed air to feed the ink directly to the press from the canister through feed tubes. Users place ink in a pressurized canister, which seals the ink inside, place feed tubes directly into the ink, seal the canister, and the ink is automatically fed to the press. Ink flow is controlled by an adjustable valve.
Become an ink impresario
There are many options available in inkmanagement systems that can help you regain control of your inkroom and all of the processes and procedures connected to it. Whether you choose a manual or an automated system, make sure the system you select will fully serve your shop’s needs and capabilities, today, as well as in the future. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to an inkroom that you won’t dread entering and won’t have to hide from your clients.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.