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Testing Your High-Performance Substrates

(March 2008) posted on Wed Mar 05, 2008

Davis explains why determining how a high-performance polyester garment will behave on press and in the dryer is a critical part of a successful print run.


By Rick Davis

Almost all of the current performance fabrics offered today are 100% polyester and have been dyed and treated with compounds to enhance moisture-wicking capabilities and soil/stain resistance. The issue that that these types of garments present to the garment screen printer is how the ink will perform on the fabric from the standpoint of bleed resistance and elasticity. Again, these factors are based on the construction and knitting/weaving of the fabric in question. I’ve had experiences with some fabrics that are on the market today dyed with inexpensive polyester dyes that are not properly set, which can make the printing process impossible without some degree of bleeding, regardless of the bleed-resistance quality and curing parameters of the ink being printed. It is here that some testing is required to ensure that you’ll be able to properly print the fabric without the worry about dye migration or sublimation.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest challenges of determining a fabric’s printability is something that you can’t really control in your facility: acquiring sample fabric from the garment manufacturer that you can test before going into production. The performance fabrics offered today are typically too expensive for most printers to order samples in the name of testing, although this may be required as a last resort in order to ensure a fabric’s printability.

 

Testing

Once you have acquired either the sample fabric or garment, you need to print test swatches. You should always use your best bleed-resistant inks and tightest printing techniques. In some cases, printers achieve good bleed resistance on 50/50 fabrics by simply double stroking the fabric. Others will print/flash/print. In either case, you will need to do pick the appro-ach that works best for you, given your inks, equipment, and experience, and set the fabric aside for at least six to ten days to ensure that the print is properly cured and migration is not an issue. It’s true that such a lengthy test period may cause some tension between your shop and the customer, but you are better off testing these fabrics prior to production than having to replace the run due to poor print results.


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