Popular, profitable, and often a pain in the neck to print, the latest fashion fabrics can present quite a challenge to shops accustomed to printing standard plastisols on all-cotton garments.
For the most part, today’s ready-for-use plastisol inks haven’t changed all that much over the years, other than the introduction of non-phthalate formulations. (There are, of course, newer non-PVC inks such as silicone, high-solids water based, and acrylic-based plastisol inks, though in this article I’ll be focusing on non-phthalate plastisols.) What has changed, though, are the types and styles of fabrics that printers are asked to decorate.
Over the last several years, the increased cost and lack of availability of cotton has, in part, pressured manufacturers to develop newer fabrics that can be – and often are – challenging to work with. One popular example is the lightweight performance wear that is great for exercising, constructed from a blend of several fibers that each adds its own benefit to the garment. For example, the fabric may be made up of Lycra, which adds stretch; cotton, which adds body; and polyester, which adds lightness and cost benefits.
Newer fabrics are often composed of a mix of synthetic and natural fibers, though they may also be made strictly from synthetics. It’s important to know what material you’re working with so you can choose an ink specifically formulated for it, whether it’s a 50/50 polyester/cotton blend or a performance fabric made from one or more synthetics.
Many of these engineered fabrics present distinct challenges to overcome. Let’s look at some of the more common ones printers encounter and how to resolve them.
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