Curing water based inks for screen printing can be a challenge, but with a little knowledge and some trial and error your shop can reap the benefits of using water based printing.
Before you make the decision to add water based printing to your list of services offered, you will have a few things to consider.
1. Will your existing equipment work or will you need to upgrade. Forced air dryers can be expensive.
2. Often overlooked…Can you or your employees devote the time needed to master this type of printing.
Curing water based inks for screen printing are very different then curing the plastisol inks that most everyone is used to using. You need a dryer with the capacity to handle the longer cure times that Water based inks require. Plastisol only needs to reach temperature for a brief time unlike water based inks which need to reach temperature and maintain that temp for a longer period of time usually 2 – 3 minutes.
If you do not have the proper dryer to cure water based inks don’t think you are totally out of luck. Some manufactures make an additive for the inks to help it along in the curing process. If this is the route that you chose to go down there are things to consider. (nothing can be easy or straight forward…right)
Add the Catalyst
Very important to remember that once you add the catalyst the clock starts ticking…the ink has to be used or thrown out as there is now a time limit put on it. The time will vary a bit but usually within four to eight hours is all you got. So, in addition to the benefits of a shorter cure time in the dryer the ink will dry faster in the screen…very important to not forget this…so no slow employees at this point….no lunch and smoke breaks either. When using an additive like this I make sure the press is running at all times. The theory being…take no chances. Even if you do not add a catalyst be mindful to not leave the ink in the screens at the end of a shift.
An acceptable alternative to an additive in the ink is simply putting the shirts through the dryer more than once. Depending on your dryer twice through might be sufficient or maybe three or more times. Although this method is not production minded it will work…just remember to do a few test prints. Run them at various times through your dryer and make to sure wash test each version before you do the full job and it gets in the customers hands.
Curing water based inks can be a challenge. A little effort and lots of trial and error you can be successful.