How to choose between Low Temp Cure and Standard Temp Cure plastisol Ink?
Today’s screen printing textile marketplace is filled with all kinds of inks to chose from for decorating today’s garments. However, the number one question I’m asked is, “Are Low Temp Cure plastisol inks right for me?”. (For the sake of this article, we will consider Low Temp Cure Inks, those inks that cure at 280F and below.)
There is no straight answer for whether or not your shop is a good candidate for Low Temp Cure plastisol inks, as there are many things to consider when choosing the correct ink system.
#1 DRYER SIZE
The first thing you need to consider is the size of your dryer. Dryer size is important because Low Temp Cure inks require 45-60 seconds of cure time. Unlike standard cure temp plastisol inks, you should not turn your dryer up to shorten the cure time, otherwise defeating the purpose of Low Temp Cure inks. If you want to take advantage of the wonderful things that Low Temp Cure inks have to offer, you must provide it the correct amount of dwell time. Which means, you must have a dryer with a large enough tunnel, to help you achieve that type of dwell time, without sacrificing production throughput.
#2 TYPE OF FABRIC
The second thing to consider is the fabric makeup of the print jobs you do. The reason this is important is because if you are a print shop that prints on mostly blends and cottons, these are fabrics which do not need the bleed blocking component of Low Temp Inks. This would result in overpaying for something that you will see little benefit from. However, if you are a shop that prints sport’s apparel, 100% polyester, and some blends, then Low Temp Cure inks, may be a good fit, if all the other factors are met.
#3 TYPE OF PRINTING
The third thing to consider is the type of printing you do. Do you do a lot of simulated process or wet on wet printing? Or, do you print a lot of solid colors? Low Temp inks, due to the different resins that are used, are not condusive to printing your typical 7-9 color wet on wet printing required for simulated process. But, if you print a lot of solid colors that are typically 3-4 colors, then you are in the sweet spot for low temp inks.
#4 WILLINGNESS TO MAKE CHANGES TO PROCESS
The fourth thing to consider is whether or not your shop is willing to make some process changes in order to make Low Temp Inks work. The reason I state this, is no matter whose low temp ink you use, they will not print the exact same as standard cure temp ink. It may be the fact that you can put unused ink back in its original bucket, you may need to have a heavier stencil, you may need to change squeegee angles, or you may need to have a temperature controlled store room or production facility. None of these are game changers, but you must be willing to do it in order to get optimum results.
#5 TRANSITION PLAN
The fifth thing to consider is a transition plan. How do you plan on going from Standard Cure temp plastisol inks to Low Temp Cure plastisol inks? Everyone’s plan is different. If you plan on running both sets of inks, how are you going to manage this to minimize mistakes? Having multiple inks systems under the same roof frequently results in lots of mistakes being made or wrong products being used. The most successful shops that I have seen using Low Temp Cure plastisol inks, have fully committed to using Low Temp Cure plastisol inks and dispose of their old standard cure temp inks.
#5 CALIBRATION OF EQUIPMENT
The Sixth thing to consider is whether or not you are will to invest the time and equipment needed to calibrate your flashes and dryers to ensure they are set and running at the correct temperatures. This calibration should be done at least once per quarter, even better if you can do it once per month. A lot of the new dryers that are coming out have these calibration methods built right into the system.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when deciding whether or not your shop is a good candidate for Low Temp Cure plastisol ink. If you decide that you are a good candidate for this ink system, congratulations, as there are a lot of wonderful things that come from Low Temp Cure plastisol ink; better stretch, better bleed resistance, softer hand, ability to print on all substrates, low gas/electrical bill, cooler working environment, and much, much more.
But, do your homework, as not all Low Temp Cure plastisol ink system are created equal. The old adage that you, “get what you pay for,” is definitely true in this product category. If you are using a Low Temp Cure plastisol ink system that requires you to use a grey underbase, just to print on polyester shirts, then you really aren’t taking advantage of what low temp inks are all about, and you spending more money, and getting no benefit.
If you are considering Low Temp Cure plastisol inks, I would recommend consulting your local distributor and have them work with you to help you determine whether or not Low Temp Cure plastisol ink is right for you.
Vice President Sales & Marketing Screen Products