It 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.
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.