Those of us who take on DIY projects around the house know that the quality of our tools and materials make a big difference in the outcome. The same holds true for screen printers. Having the right screen printing supplies and knowing how to use them can have a significant impact on your product quality and bottom line. Here are three quick tips for getting the most out of your screen printing supplies.
Know what each product CAN’T do.
Learn the capabilities and limitations screen printing supplies for all the screen printing supplies in your shop. Often knowing what a product can’t do is more important than knowing what it can do. The growing number of technical substrates featuring moisture wicking and compression characteristics has led to an increase in the number of inks designed for specific purposes. The days of smearing ink on just cotton and 50/50’s are over. “Most product performance issues are the result of choosing the wrong product for the particular application,” says Mark Dorrington, VP of Sales at Lancer Group. “The easiest improvement for many screen printers is simply understanding what each particular ink CAN’T do.”
The variety of white ink options serves as a perfect example. Let’s compare the Lancer SportPro 1550 White and Excalibur 581 Series Arctic White. The SportPro ink is designed to have great opacity and stretchability on difficult to print polyester substrates. It is more expensive than the Excalibur 581 Arctic White series, but that doesn’t mean it’s better for all applications. If you’re printing cotton and 50/50 blends and want a soft hand, the less expensive Excalibur 581 Arctic White is the appropriate choice. Conversely, trying to save a few bucks by using 581 Arctic White on 100% polyester uniforms can increase costs in the long run (like lost customers and ruined blank garments).
Know what products are perishable.
I’m sure you’ve seen episodes of Extreme Couponing, and you probably know that buying in bulk only makes economical sense if you are going to use the items before they perish. Some screen printing supplies have a limited shelf life and pot life. Shelf life refers to the useful life of the product before it’s opened and used, and pot life is the useful life of the product after it has been opened. While plastisol inks seem to last forever regardless of how they are stored, other screen printing supplies are not as forgiving. For example, DZ 343 Emulsion has a 4-6 week pot life after it has been sensitized. Value shoppers who purchase gallons of DZ 343 emulsion (instead of quarts ) may not realize the savings they hoped for if they can’t use all of the product within 4-6 weeks.
Here’s a quick list of the items you should keep an eye on:
Diazo cure and dual cure emulsions have a limited pot life after they are sensitized for use, so only prep as much as you need.
Some ink additives for technical fabrics like nylon have limited shelf and pot lives,
Water-base and discharged inks do not have the same characteristics as plastisol. If you’re accustomed to leaving the lids off of your plastisol inks, make sure you reference the MSDS, handling and storage instructions for water-base and discharge inks.
Plan your purchasing and resist procrastination.
It’s no secret that printing t-shirts is a time-sensitive business. When you are rushing to get t-shirts printed and out the door, sometimes managing the supply inventory can take a back seat. Make a list of your regularly used supplies and set a schedule for checking your inventory. Too many screen printers discover they are out of emulsion remover when they have a stack of screens to reclaim. These kinds of oversights lead to profit-eroding, expedited shipments.
Whenever possible, combine purchases to reduce shipping. Two 5 lb. shipments will cost more than one 10 lb. shipment.
Set minimum and maximum levels for all regularly used screen print supplies. Establish a consistent schedule for checking inventory levels.
Take advantage of special pricing and bulk deals on your most frequently used supplies. Shopping for deals is a luxury only afforded shoppers who aren’t facing a deadline. Those of us who consistently shop the day before anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas know this point well.