100% Black Polyester with Image Armor ULTRA and 10 Washes In (Using Epson OEM Inks)

An update on our Epson OEM inks and Image Armor ULTRA pretreatment print on a Black 100% Polyester Sport-Tek ST340 shirt: 10 washes in and still absolutely no degradation in the image. It looks incredible with the white ink still extremely white and the reds still popping.  Again, this was printed on the Epson F2100 with OEM inks. We just used Image Armor ULTRA and pretreated like normal, printing like normal. 

So, if anyone tells you it is not possible… I think this disproves that.  See our original article here: http://imagearmorpt.com/printing-black-100-polyester-with-the-epson-f2100-and-oem-ink/

Keep Your DTG Printer Warm and Happy This Winter

Humidity-GuageIf you live in a part of the Unite States where it gets cold and snows, a warm and comfy home is a nice place to be. You need to take that same stance with your DTG printer but keeping it warm is just one part of the successful equation.

When the gas furnace kicks on in the winter, the humidity levels quickly drop in our homes and places of business. Natural gas has a tendency to really dry the air out. It doesn’t take long for the humidity levels to quickly drop to what is commonly found in the Southwest most of the year. Humidity levels below 35% can really start to cause problems with your DTG machine. Get into the 20% and lower and you’re asking for serious printer issues.

It really doesn’t take much to help keep you and your DTG printer happy during these dry, winter months. First you will want to pick up a temperature/humidity gauge similar to the one in the picture in this article. They are relatively inexpensive and help give you the tools to know what is going on with your DTG printing room. They typically show the temperature and humidity levels. Check out this link on Amazon for one that will easily fit on top of your DTG printer.

If you are not sure what humidity level you should keep in your printing room, ask your DTG manufacturer. Most will give a level range of say 35%-80% humidity. Typically, you can help ensure a safe humidity level if you try to keep it around 50% humidity. This will not only keep your DTG printer happy, but you also. The more humidity – the warmer it will feel in the room.

Unless you have a humidifier located on your furnace, you’ll have to utilize a whole room stand alone humidifier. You can find these at your local home depot type store or on Amazon. A good example of something you can get to take care of a DTG printing room would be something like this. Look around but plan on spending around $100 or more.

The temperature should also be stabilized. This is where a climate control system comes into play. You don’t want to have your DTG room hover in the 50’s over night and then you try to come in early in the morning and turn the heat on to start a day of printing. The ink in the printer and lines will end up being much cooler and take longer to warm up than the ambient temperature in your printing area. Cooler ink will be less likely to flow as nicely as warm ink and can result in lost nozzles and bad prints. The best thing is to try to maintain a constant temperature when you know you’ll be printing or a range of comfortable room temperatures over the winter. Use common sense – don’t go from the low 50’s when you’re not there to low 70’s early Monday morning and try to start printing immediately. If you keep it a constant temperature, you know you’ll always be ready to print.

Keeping an eye on the temperature and humidity levels and making sure they are within recommended levels will take one variable out of the DTG printing mix this winter. This will enable you to focus on what you really need to be doing – printing and making money.

2nd Business Day of Christmas and Image Armor Gave To Me

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12-Business-Days-of-Christmas-1On the Second Business Day of Christmas Image Armor Gave to…….. John from Cleveland, Ohio.

Today’s Selectee was John from Cleveland, Ohio.  John, though shy and didn’t want to have his information posted,  will be receiving a complete Image Armor Ink and Pretreatment change over kit containing a Liter of each our E-Series DTG inks (white and CMYK) as well as Cleaning Solution and a gallon of ULTRA Pretreatment. This will ship out to him after the holidays so he can make good use of the slow time after Christmas.

Only two days of Christmas have passed and there’s still time for you to enter and have a chance to be selected to receive a conversion kit for free. Just ask Kenan from yesterday – you DO have a chance to be chosen. Visit our SIGN UP page to get your name thrown into the hat to be on Santa’s NICE list this year. You have until December 23rd to sign up. There’s no obligation to submit your picture. You can even request to be anonymous if you win (we know some people are shy) – but we want to help spread some holiday cheer. So spread the word….. there are still 10 Business Days of Christmas left!

Name of the Day – 1st Business Day of Christmas Begins

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12-Business-Days-of-Christmas-Selectee---Day-1---Kenan-CanalesIt’s December 9th and the 1st Business Day of Christmas in our Christmas Give-Away!

Today’s Selectee was Kenan Canales of Excelsior! Digital Apparel in N. Kansas City Missouri.  Kenan will be receiving a complete Image Armor Ink and Pretreatment change over kit containing a Liter of each our E-Series DTG inks (white and CMYK) as well as Cleaning Solution and a gallon of ULTRA Pretreatment. This will ship out to him after the holidays so he can make good use of the slow time after Christmas.

There’s still time for you to enter and have a chance to be selected to receive a conversion kit for free. It’s just our way of spreading some holiday business cheer. Visit our SIGN UP page to get your name thrown into the hat to be on Santa’s NICE list this year. You have until December 23rd to sign up. There’s no obligation to submit your picture. You can even request to be anonymous if you win (we know some people are shy) – but we want to help spread some holiday cheer. So spread the word….. there are still 11 Business Days of Christmas left!

 

What Happens If I Don’t Cure the Ink Completely?

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Figure 1: After Washing: Properly cured ink and ink that wasn’t fully cured.

We wanted to show everyone how important it is to ensure that your DTG ink is properly cured. Figure 1 shows two different shirts with the same image printed. The garment is a 100% black polyester fabric with the Image Armor E-SERIES inks. This picture is after just one wash and dry cycle.

In this case we were testing hover curing and wanted to show exactly what happens with a properly cured in film and one that was only partially cured. The left shirt was hover cured much longer than the shirt on the right. As you can see, the partially cured ink caused ink failure after just the first wash. Uncured ink will not wash well. It will start to flake off and the image will degrade very quickly with subsequent washes.

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Figure 2: This is a closeup of uncured ink that has been washed. The durability of uncured ink is greatly diminished and will result in almost instantaneous ink film failure when washed.

Figure 2 is a closeup of the under cured ink. Under cured ink does not have the wash characteristics of durability that properly cured ink produces.Typically with Image Armor inks you need to cure at 356F for 35 seconds on cotton and blended shirts. On polyester fabrics that time and temperature can possibly cause dye migration and a discoloration of the white ink from the dyes in the fabric. The ink can be cured at slightly lower temperatures, however the time under heat usually will increase with the amount of ink applied – it is a balance of getting the entire ink film to temperature (above 315F, removing the moisture – a balance of time and temperature – and to a point, pressure if a heat press is used).

 

The point of this article is to show you the tell tale signs of uncured or under cured ink. It is of the highest importance that you need to ensure that all moisture from the ink film is removed and the entire ink film reaches cure temperature. Make sure, especially if you are trying to print 100% black polyester fabrics, that you do your testing prior to running any production runs. Proper testing, printing, and washing on fabrics like black polyester will help bring your shop to the front edge of what is possible with DTG white ink printing.

If You’re Using A DTG IV Ink Bag System You Must Read This

DTG IV Bag SystemMany DTG printers today are utilizing what can easily be called the DTG IV Bag Ink System. That is because if you have ever been to a hospital and been hooked up to one, you know it looks exactly like an intravenous drip system used to administer drugs into a patient. In this case, that patient is the DTG printer.

These type of ink deliver systems are great to help gravity feed your print, but they can cause issues because it is often easier to “forget” the inks are there and never touch it again until the ink runs out. This will cause you more headaches than you want, but the headaches are easily avoidable.

If you do utilize this type of ink delivery system, follow these simple Tips.

TIP #1: Before hanging the bag, make sure to agitate and mix the white ink well to ensure it is entirely mixed up. You can easily see if it is homogeneously mixed.

TIP #2: DO NOT LEAVE THE BAG HANGING OVERNIGHT! When you are done printing for the day, take the white ink bags down and lay them on their side. The reason for this is that the Image Armor E-SERIES inks do separate faster than Dupont, but that’s by design. What we are seeing is that most people hang the bags and forget about them and DO NOT MIX the white ink after hanging. Since the inks can separate, the heavier particulates that make up the white ink will sink to the bottom and into the IV lines easier. These “heavier” ink solutions can then be pulled into the print heads and dampers causing head failures. NEVER, EVER LEAVE WHITE INK BAGS HANG OVERNIGHT OR OVER THE WEEKEND IF YOU ARE NOT PRINTING. Removing them will cause you to be reminded to mix the ink in the bags prior to hanging them back on your IV stand/hooks.

TIP #3: Never re-use an ink bag. Many people buy bulk ink and want to re-fill their own bags. Image Armor does not recommend this as it can lead to multiple problems. Residual white ink in the bags can cause series issues within the DTG printing system as it might not be fresh, of the right “mix”, etc. It is NOT recommended to ever re-use an IV bag. ALWAYS USE A FRESH BAG WITH FRESH INK.

IN CONCLUSION:

We want to ensure that our users have the most issue free, easy to use inks on the market. Following these simple steps above will help us all achieve that goal. Remember – if you’re printing, hang the bags, if not, take them down.

What Happens When You Heat Press Pretreatment and Ink or Hover Cure

Pretreatment-Ink-Press-Hover-Cure-Comparison-UsedTo help people understand some of the variables with different pretreatment and ink curing options, we wanted to do a side-by-side comparison to show what happens with the Image Armor E-SERIES™ DTG Inks and pretreatments. All the printing parameters and pretreatment application settings were the same for each print. The only difference was how the pretreatment and inks were cured – either with pressure and contact or using a hover with “no contact”.

In the image to the left we we show three different pretreating and ink curing scenarios.

The TOP:
The top process in our picture is as follows:

  • Pretreatment Cure: 80 psi heat press cure with parchment paper while PT is wet.
  • Ink Cure: Hover cure ink with no contact with the ink surface.

Results Observed: Because we were able to press the pretreatment while wet, we were able to trap the fibers so they were flatter against the shirt. This allowed for a nice smooth white ink layer. The reds were still very bright and visibly appears to be the brightest red of the three procedures. The surface of the CMYK/White ink had much more of a screen printed look and feel – i.e. it was “textured”. The surface texture was a little rougher due to no pressure from the heat press smoothing out the ink film. Plus, if you look at the close-up you can see the weave of the shirt in the DTG ink film thus giving it the look of the screen mesh in the ink film just as you would get with a good, high-end screen print.

The MIDDLE:
The middle process in our picture is as follows:

  • Pretreatment Cure: Hover “dried” the wet pretreatment and THEN used the heat press @ 80 psi for 15 seconds to flatten fibers of the shirt prior to printing.
  • Ink Cure: Hover cure ink with no contact with the ink surface.

Results Observed: Due to the fact that we did not “trap” the shirt fibers down (laying flat on the shirt) while they were wet, this print results in a much higher degree of loose fibers and a much higher/rougher surface for the white ink and color print. The white ink was not nearly as bright optically but was still very good (a result of a rougher printing surface for the white ink). The colors, especially the red was not as bright due to the fact that the white ink soaked into the shirt a little bit more (more loose fibers) and so not as smooth as a printing surface. The over all hand and feel of the print was the roughest of all three prints, which some might find attractive for a finished print.

The BOTTOM:
The bottom process in our picture is as follows:

  • Pretreatment Cure: Used the heat press @ 80 psi for 15 seconds to flatten fibers of the shirt prior to printing – repeated twice to ensure it was totally dry.
  • Ink Cure: Parchment paper – light pressure cured 35 seconds @ 356F.

Results Observed: Because we pressed the pretreatment while wet, this gave us the smoothest printing surface as the wet pretreatment was cured and thus trapping the fibers “flat” on the garment. In addition, the final DTG print was heat pressed with light pressure and a cover sheet thus smoothing the entire ink film. Though the pressure of the ink slightly pressed the CMYK ink into the white ink film, the difference is barely visibly in comparison to the TOP version where the ink film was just hover cured – though still very bight and intense as far as the red is concerned. This process resulted in the smoothest feeling print on the shirt. Some would say it would look or feel more like a transfer due to the sheer smoothness of the finished ink film print.

OVERALL OBSERVATIONS:

What can we say? It depends on what effect you are trying to achieve on your final DTG print. I would consider the best looking and feeling print the TOP version with the pretreatment pressed but the ink layer hover cured. This is obviously a personal opinion. The issue with this process is the cure time on a heat press. The time will be MUCH longer than actually doing the 35 second cure by touching the heat press platen onto the ink film and using slight pressure (resulting in a smoother surface but a true 35 second cure time). You’d have to do multiple tests to find the right time and temperature to ensure a complete cure of the inks to ensure maximum wash durability.

You might want to try a couple variations on this to see what you like best. Running the shirt down a conveyor dryer to cure the ink would be the most optimal as far as “production” is concerned, however most DTG printers do not have the space or equipment to cure in this fashion. This process though provides the best facsimile of a screen printed shirt, but using a dryer you will definitely need to ensure the entire ink film is cured (not over baked) and wash tests to confirm the best, optimal settings to ensure a durable print. Due to the many variables we can not give much in terms of guidance other than the fact that you’d have to do a fair number of tests with different times and temperatures to find the magic combination for your equipment.

Many users will still find that using the heat press to cure the pretreatment and ink with the “on contact” method will still be the fastest and most secure way to ensure a smooth, bright print that is properly cured in 35 seconds.

So, don’t be afraid to experiment a little and expand your knowledge base with your printer and inks. You might find something you and your customers like better and it will give you a better understanding of your entire DTG process.

 

The Beatles Said It Best…

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SHAKE IT UP BABY

The Beatles said it best in their song “Twist and Shout” that you should “Shake It Up Baby”. This applies not just to keep your body in shape (and have a good time) but to all White DTG inks on the market.

White inks are formulated to help hide the shirt color and give a good, solid white base on which to print. The very nature of the inks that provides this base also has some interesting side effects that every DTG user must take note of and ensure that they keep in mind. The biggest side effect is the “settling” of the inks. Settling occurs when the ink sits for any period of time and the components in the ink start to “sink” to the bottom. This results in white chunky monkeys found in the bottom of the ink bottles.

There are two types of “settling”.  One is a “hard” settling while the other is a “soft” settling. We designed the Image Armor inks to “soft” settle. This means that those chunky monkeys in the ink bottle can be re-shaken back into solution. This is often why you hear people recommend that end users shake their ink bottles and cartridges daily. This keeps all of the “heavy” components in the ink suspended in solution and the ink working properly.

The “hard” settling is another issue. Hard settling will not go back into solution no matter how hard or long you shake the ink. This is a standard problem with some inks and can cause serious performance issues, even damage to print heads and other printer components.

Image Armor is committed to bringing the best products to the industry to help our end users. One day we will find a way so that you don’t need to worry about ink settling, but for now, get into the groove, Shake It Up each morning and get that white ink moving!

Longer & Hotter is NOT Always Better with DTG Inks

Hotter-and-Longer-pink-shirt-white-inkIt is a common misperception that more time and higher temperatures will help cure an ink “better”. This mis-information can and will cause you issues in direct to garment printing if you are not careful.

The new Image Armor E-SERIES™ inks have a 35 second white ink cure time. This is achieved through light to medium pressure on the heat press at 356F. However, there is something to consider that many people do not take into account, which we need to look at to ensure we are curing properly.

We can think of curing DTG inks in a similar way that we cure plastisol screen printing inks. Plastisol inks can be cured in 1 second or 100 seconds and still have a durable ink film. The key to curing the ink is to make sure that the entire ink film achieves 320F for the plastisol inks. If this temperature is achieved very quickly via a much higher temperature you theoretically could cure the ink in a much shorter time frame. Or, that same transition temperature could be achieved a lot slower but still reach the cure point. The lower temperature provides a longer time to reach cure, but also is easier on the garment. You could always cure the ink in 1 second, but the 1500F temperature might not be so good for the garment.

The same can be said for DTG inks and the curing process. With direct to garment inks being water based, we effectively need to ensure we remove all the “moisture” from the inks which will then allow the ink components to reach their transition temperature. Once the entire ink film for the DTG ink reaches this transition point, the ink will be cured. With the E-SERES™ inks we recommend to not wash the inks for 24 hours after heat curing to allow the “magic” of the curing process to continue. For most shirts being printed and given to a customer, this will not be an issue. However, it is very important to allow that 24 hour window even during testing inks in your own shop. It will enhance the wash fastness of the inks.

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What happens if we over cure then ink? Well, too much time and too much temperature can cause some fading of the ink after heat pressing the shirt to cure the ink. Basically the colors start to break down to put it simply. The resolve on this is to reduce the heat setting on the heat press as well as reducing the cure time. Again, we only need to get the moisture out of the ink and get the ink film up to temperature to officially cure the ink. A thin ink film of CMYK only on a white shirt will technically require less time than a black shirt with a heavy white ink film. Our 35 seconds at 356F is targeted to try to achieve ease of consistency for a wide variety of types of printing, however you might find on a white CMYK printed shirt you can reduce the temperature and time slightly to achieve even better results. Please note to do any testing prior to shipping out shirts to customers – always test any temperature and time changes.

We will have additional information for you as time goes by on ways to improve your final prints, and we are excited as several of our ideas might just change the way the entire industry is operating. So, just remember – hotter and longer is NOT always better – especially with Image Armor E-SERIES™ inks.

100 Black Polyester 10x washed shirt

Why is Polyester So Hard to Print with DTG?

Black 100% Polyester on Anajet Prior to heat curingThe Holy Grail
In the world of DTG white ink printing, 100% dark polyesters seem to be the Holy Grail. If only we could….In reality, polyester printing is a lot different than printing 100% cotton shirts. Most of the inks on the market today are designed to work with organic, 100% cotton garments. And they work really, really well. This is great if you are just printing 100% cotton. Our Image Armor Dark Shirt Formula (for 100% cotton shirts) has proven to raise the bar by improving wash ability by up to 50% or more while blowing the application window wide open.

Previous pretreatments required you to apply just the right amount on the shirt to get acceptable wash results. Too much and the print looked great, but would wash off quickly once the customer took the garment home. Too little and the white ink was weak and didn’t wash well either. Image Armor has opened this application window gap by completely re-writing the formula for white ink DTG printing. This makes it much easier for newcomers to achieve success with their white ink printing attempts.However, polyester still remains “unattainable”. Even though Image Armor Dark Shirt Formula works well with white 100% polyesters (looks like sublimation and washes as such) and even fairs well on light colored polyester shirts. However, why is it we have issues with darker 100% polyester shirts?

The Reasons
In our testing, we’ve seen incredible results from printing white ink on 100% black polyester shirts. As can be seen in the image to the left, this 100% black polyester shirt looked great on the shirt prior to heat setting. However, after curing the ink the image appeared to fade. In the past, we would have blamed dye migration which is still very much an issue on red or red family dye colored shirts. However, I don’t believe that we can leave all the blame at the feet of dye migration.

Traditionally, white ink would bridge the gap on the shirt and the pretreatment would allow the ink film to stay on top of the shirt as seen in the image below.

100 percent cotton white ink film closeupHere you can easily see where the white ink ends and is sitting on the top of the grey shirt. Also note how tight the weave is for this 100% cotton shirt. This is why you get better prints off of good, high quality ring-spun shirts with a really tight weave and thin thread size. You are basically creating a smooth, flat – think of it as photo glossy paper – surface for the white ink to print on and to which to adhere. The resulting prints are obviously of very high, smooth quality.

Now, let us take a look at a closeup via USB microscope at the polyester shirt. The left image is the original 100% polyester shirt, washed 10 times. You will notice the image does look faded – the white and colors are “muted”. However, take a look at the image to the right. This is a close up of the white print on the 100% black polyester fabric. The “fade”, or color loss, is due to halftoning. This would be similar to what is experienced when you take a 100% white ink film and halftone it 50% – resulting in a “grey” looking print vs a solid bright white (it is after all 50% of the optical brightness). The weave of the fabric is much looser allowing less fabric for the white to totally adhere to creating the illusion of a faded white.

However, the close up reveals much more. The ink is still extremely white and adhering extremely well to the fibers BUT the air gaps in the weave of the fabric (which allows for breathability and is why people like the polyester performance fabrics) leave nothing to which our white DTG inks can “stick”.
100 Black Polyester 10x washed shirt100% Black Polyester White ink CloseUP washed 10X

As can be seen in the image to the right, above, the ink is adhering quite well. However, the open weave of the fabric and due to the nature of polyester, we have a lot of “open” space which allows the black polyester to show through the white printed area effectively fading the actual image vibrancy.

This is part of the reason why we are still having difficulties printing white ink on dark polyester fabrics.

What Does this Mean for DTG Printing in the Future?
What this means is that we still have a ways to go with white ink printing on dark polyester fabrics. However, our goal at Image Armor is to bring you the best possible products. We have already taken 100% polyester printing further than any other company to date. And we have the drive and ideas that we believe will help bring this area of printing to reality.

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