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Screen Printing - General
How many t-shirts will I print per hour?
How should I organise my printing area?
What is the Screen repair kit for
Cleaning screens - not printing clearly after using for a while
Why heat set the ink
Printing shorts with a seam
How many colours can I print?  
Can I print something off the computer and use that as a design? 
On average how long does it take for the ink to dry? 
Can I use fabric ink on plastics? 

How many t-shirts will I print per hour?

A good question but not a straight forward answer, as numerous factors effect the speed:
1. Type of item being printed
We will assume it's a standard t-shirt. Garments with folds, ribs, long sleeves, etc with parts that you need to move may take a few extra seconds to lay onto the board of the jig.
2. Size of design and screen has little to no effect on time which using a jig. If not using a jig this can add up as you have to manually move the screen and place it down between prints, then pick it up again to print.
3. Number of colours per design
We will assume just 1 to start with however additional colours using a jig will only add about 15 seconds per colour to the print time, as you swing the colour round, lower and print. Without a jig tis process is dramatically increased [see benefits of a jig below].
4. Using a jig or manual registration
See benefits of a jig below.
5. Layout of your work area
The less you have to move the faster your overall printing time. By setting out your work area in an efficient manner you will save a large amount of time over a print job. An example of a layout [for right handed person] would have your jig, screens, inks and squeegee's all in the middle. To the left is the pile of blank t-shirts to b printed. On the right is an area to place the printed garments - either flat onto cardboard to be moved, or ideally straight onto coat hangers and then hung up [a broom handle is ideal for this]. If you can do this without having to take a step you will save about 15-20% of your print time in movement alone.
 
After you have made your very first screen and performed some test prints, you should quickly start to print 1 design every 60-70 seconds [it's slow to start with as it's natural to look at almost every print to see if you are doing it right!]. After about 1 hour of printing [and getting used to the process] you will increase the speed as you gain confidence to print about every 25-30 seconds.
 
Benefits of a jig
A jig holds your frame in position above the t-shirt and then is lowered down to print. Not only does the design not have to be registered [this is done before you begin to print] you do not have to move the screen or squeegee [which can be rested on the screen held in the jig].
Without a jig you must lift and place the screen over the t-shirt, then pick up the squeegee to print, return the squeegee after printing and then lift and return the frame. This must be done for each print and each colour!
 

'How should I organise my work area?' 
By setting out your work area properly you can save a great deal of time - through reducing your movements and wasting time performing unnecessary tasks.
 
Everyone is different based upon the size of the work area and the available equipment.
A simple layout [based on a right handed operator - reverse for left handed] is to have the pile of unprinted t-shirts on the left, your jig and printing equipment in the middle and the printed t-shirts on the right .
 
The printer does not move from the centre position, simply swinging to the left to grab a new garment, printing, then swinging to the right to place the printed garment.
 
How you place your printed garments is also very important - again this depends on your space and available equipment however a simple and low cost way to handle your printed garments is to hang them up straight after printing.
When you have finished your print in the jig, simply insert the hanger into the neck of the t-shirt, whilst still on the board, then remove and hang up on a wooden pole [broom handles are perfect].
 
When the rack is full it's easier to move them and bring in a new pole to start again. Full racks can be placed anywhere by simply putting some hooks in the ceiling, or hanging rope.
 
Hanging the printed t-shirts will also speed the drying time as there is more air flow around the t-shirt.
 
Of course placing them straight into a heat tunnel is the best and fastest, but also the most expensive method which requires a little more space than most people have available.
 

'What is the Screen Repair Kit for i.e. how do you damage a screen so that it needs repair?'

This is a new product that combines many different things at a discount. If you rush in and image a screen without taking any care of your artwork then you may get pinholes (tiny spots caused by marks in the background/ excess carbon.)

The correction fluid blocks up the holes again, screen masking tape is used for larger areas, artwork clean-up for preparing the artwork in the first place and table adhesive to hold the material still when printing (this eliminates smudges/ blurring). The whole lot combine for an overall assistance of your printing and are all fantastic items to have on hand 'just in case'.


'How should I clean my screens - they don't seem to be printing clearly after I clean them'

You can either clean the screen down completely (as described below) generally required every 150 prints anyway with some inks, or if the problem is occurring because there is a gap in between your printing of some items (phone call/ coffee break) then simply perform a print onto some paper and DO NOT lift t

'How should I clean my screens - they don't seem to be printing clearly after I clean them'

You can either clean the screen down completely (as described below) generally required every 150 prints anyway with some inks, or if the problem is occurring because there is a gap in between your printing of some items (phone call/ coffee break) then simply perform a print onto some paper and DO NOT lift the screen.
This will keep the back of the screen against the wet ink and help prevent drying.
Cleaning in the middle of printing
Clean all the ink off your squeegee (return to the pot) and perform a blank print onto some scrap paper - this gets the ink in the screen out.
With a very damp cloth (I normally use toilet paper) wipe the back of the screen GENTLY (you don't want to scrape the film off) and you will see the water start to break down the ink in the screen.
Repeat with another piece of cloth if required then pat dry
ALWAYS perform a test print on some scrap paper as the water will come off - keep testing until clear
When finished printing
Clean all the ink off your squeegee (return to the pot) and perform a blank print onto some scrap paper - this gets the ink in the screen out.
Take the screen to the sink and run under COLD water until the ink starts to disappear
You can rub your finger of the screen to help get rid of the ink as well

'Why do I have to heat set the ink when printing fabrics?'

Aquatex fabric screen printing inks MUST be heat set in order to cure the ink to the fabric.

The following is a guide to the heat setting process and explains why prints should be heat set for 2 minutes to ensure permanent bonding.
150F [66C] Water begins to leave the ink
200F [94C] Binder reaches lowest viscosity and maximum surface contact is made with the fabric
220F [105C] Water begins to leave the ink rapidly
270F [133C] Fifty percent of the water is gone and the binder and pigment start to cure
300F [150C] Most of the water is gone and the binder-pigment combination is partially cured
300F [150C] [for 30 seconds to a minute] Binder and pigment is cured
[The above should be used as a guide only, and may vary slightly between ink types. Times printed on sides of containers are for wet prints. But curing of dry prints still takes at least 2 minutes as ink has to get to temperature first.]


'I am interested in printing across the back portion of a pair of shorts. Since there is a vertical seam that runs through the center of the screen, I am concerned that this will not allow the printing to be even. Do you have suggestions on how to print these. I have both the B5 and the B6.'

If there is a seam, your print will be affected - unless you make two screens and align them at the seam up using a jig. This is not too difficult but if will involve creating two screens and then having to use a jig (or Jig hinges).

If the design does not go across the seam then the print should not be affected.
Print on a firm table that is lined with a soft fabric/cloth - this will give you a bit more cushioning under the seam area and help to flatten the design.
- You can hold the fabric down with staples or tape.
- Be sure to use Table Adhesive to hold your shorts still when printing.

The best method of printing would be to screen print with a squeegee, rather than press printing in the GOCCO with Stamp Ink for Cloth.
The screen printing method will give you a bit more flexibility around and over the seam area.

When Press Printing in the GOCCO, you are using one large single master so there is little/ no flexibility and the height of the seam may effect the shorts for up to 15mm on either side of the seam.


'How many colours can I print?'

All screen printing is the same - only one colour per screen unless you place multiple colours on the same squeegee as you print to get a rainbow effect.
This is due to the structure of the ink used - they bleed together so colours begin to mix when you print.
To keep the colours separate a different screen is normally used for each colour.

However, depending upon your design you can sometimes use the same screen for printing multiple colours. This is done by placing a piece of paper/card on the back of the screen behind where you don't want the ink to come through. Print all your shirts and then reverse the process for the other colour/s. This is effective but only in short runs as the ink will begin to be absorbed by the paper/ card and need to be replaced or the shirt underneath will be marked.


'Can I print something off the computer and use that as a design?'

YES you can print off the computer and use the design, provided that the artwork is carbon based.
- You can use a laser printer directly
- Ink Jet printers do NOT use carbon and the artwork must be photocopied first
For full details of Artwork Types and Preparation - click here . .


'On average how long does it take for the ink to dry?'

It depends upon three factors: [1] the temperature, [2] humidity & [3] the ink you have used.

With standard water based fabric screen printing ink the average is about 20 minutes to touch dry, but as with ALL screen printing inks you MUST heat set the print to make it permanent. [On a cold wet day it could take 45mins., on a hot dry day 5mins.]


'Can I use fabric ink on plastic?'

No, a specialised plastic/ metal ink, such as RISO Aqua Ink, must be used or the print will scratch off/ not dry.

When printing plastic/ metals and other non-absorbent surfaces, the ink bonds and cures itself to the item - in effect becoming part of the item.


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