If you have not yet heard of or tried silicone screen printing ink, you should be aware of some of the distinct advantages that these ink have, especially for athletic printing.
Silicone inks are the very latest cutting-edge technology in the screen printing industry. They work and behave much differently than standard plastisol or poly inks. In fact they are so new that information on silicone ink can be hard to come by. Texsource is not only one of the very first US distributors to carry these screen printing inks, we were actively part of the beta testing process for Rutland Inks, now the leading ink manufacturer for silicone ink.
The durability of silicone inks make them the perfect choice for athletic jerseys
So what is the big deal? Do these inks have some sort of magical properties that make them superior to every other type of poly ink or plastisol ink out there? Well, yes and no. Lets get a couple of negatives out of the way first. The inks are a more costly choice, at least up front. Some can be significantly higher, but a shop owner who only considers cost and not also return is not seeing the whole picture. Another possible negative to some users is the shelf life. Once mixed, you should be prepared to use the entire amount you mixed within several hours (although some users report shelf life of up to 24 hours in the right environment). Prior to mixing, your toners should have quite a long shelf life, but once mixed with the base the product needs to be used in the full amount to avoid waste. It is important to carefully estimate and mix the proper amount for the job to reduce waste. Lastly, because of this mixing process, these inks are not 'ready to use'. The mixing process is fast and easy, but it is necessary.
Then the question is 'what is so great about these inks?'. The real magic in silicone ink is its setting temperature (curing), which for Rutland is around 270 degrees in your conveyor dryer. The reason this is special is because when dealing with polyester fabrics, most will release dye at around 300 degrees or higher. This causes dye migration issues when dealing with poly inks, which require a higher curing temperature. By using silicone inks, the poly material never gets hot enough to release the dye (except in cases of poor quality materials). Significantly reducing (or removing altogether) dye migration issues is a huge benefit to shops with regards to poly ink costs (no more base prints), speed, and efficiency.
Silicone Inks give unbelievable flexibility on Polyester fabrics
Another big benefit is that silicone inks are extremely flexible, almost to an extreme measure. When printing on material like Spandex, a properly printed and set print can withstand a stretch of the entire material to its stopping point with no cracking or adhesion issues. This is can perhaps be most clearly an advantage on athletic sportswear and jerseys that are prone to a season of heavy abuse.
Silicone ink also gives a very soft hand, smooth texture print that is easily distinguishable from plastisol or poly ink. When placed on a table at some of our screen printing classes here at Texsource, the vast majority of customers who touch and demo the prints prefer the silicone print, and it is easy to see why; it is a very different look and feel from the way that most of us have judged the feel of a print for a long time. I would challenge you to do the same in your shop - it would be an easy upsell to customers who would definitely value the additional durability and unique feel on a poly garment.
Lastly, we get customers who ask what changes they would have to make in their screen printing equipment. The good news is that you do not have to do anything to change or modify your existing equipment setup. It is highly recommended that your shop either have or acquire an accurate scale for measuring out the mix, but other than that your existing screen printing equipment should work just fine.
Texsource offers the complete line of Rutland Silicone Ink, and is the leading US supplierof these inks. Being involved with the testing of these inks since before their release means that we have a greater knowledge base for support of these inks than any other supplier. We invite your questions always; we will be happy to help you decide if these inks are right for you. To give you an introduction, here is a condensed video of a class that was held at our facility in January by Rutland to introduce these inks. We invite you to watch and learn more about these products.