Small shops can get into big trouble when they neglect to test their supplies and document procedures. Use this overview to avoid potential pitfalls.
By Rick Davis
The decision for small garment-printing shops and start-up operations as to which mesh, inks, squeegees, and other tools and products to use is one they must make for each job that comes in. No one product performs the same way from facility to facility, which only adds to the confusion.
The manufacturers on whom we rely for our supplies typically give us sets of operating parameters to use with each product; however, these guidelines are starting points. Ink manufacturers, for example, describe which meshes and squeegees to use with their different formulations, but the unfortunate truth is that realizing optimum performance from the supplies your shop selects is most often a result of product-to-product troubleshooting.
The screen is the first place to look when ironing out the great many variables that cause the differences in product performance from shop to shop and from job to job in your own plant. Screen tension is an important consideration; however, I won’t start in on the benefits of high tension screens—save for a reminder that the higher the tension of the screen, the faster and easier the printing process becomes. This effect is partially due to the fact that high-tension screens typically have a greater percentage of open area with a given mesh than a screen of lower tension with the same mesh count. That being said, let’s take a look at the influence of mesh on ink use, the impact of ink properties on printed garments, and the realities of squeegee selection for smaller printing operations.
Mesh selection and ink behavior
Although the ink manufacturers cited as an example above conduct numerous tests to develop recommendations from which you can work, you are ultimately responsible for determining which mesh count works best for any given ink in your shop. The objective of the ink companies is to move as much ink as possible. Given this fact, you need to build on their baseline references by conducting your own in-house testing.
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