Which curing technology is best for me?
There is often much debate in Screen Printing circles on the best ink curing technology to choose. Different inks have different ink curing profiles e.g. Plastisol ink 150 – 160 degrees C for 30 seconds, Water based inks 165 degrees C for 120 seconds – always check the ink curing profile as there is much variation. So we are about to have a go at comparing the technology options.
If you don’t cure the ink properly the ink will crack, fade or in some circumstances disappear after the garments have been thru the washing machine a few times Always remember to test that the ink is cured. So worth making the right choice.
Some water based inks have curing additives (often known as Crosslinkers) which you add to the ink prior to printing. Crosslinkers range from additives which allow for a full air dry cure (not heat needed) or those which require the use of heat. Crosslinkers provide Screen Printers with small tunnel dryers the ability to use and increase printing production when using water based ink.
The following ink ranges have Crosslinkers available :-
- WPS Premium Colour Range
- WPS Premium Superflex
- Sericol Texiscreen Aqua AJ
- MagnaColour – There are number of MagnaPrint Crosslinkers available which work with the different bases and speciality inks. Also specialist curing additive for Discharge Inks.
What are the Options?
Hair Dryers – They do not reach curing temperature for either Plastisol or Water based ink. Very inexpensive. They can be used to dry Water based ink and cure with a Crosslinkers – NOT RECOMMENDED
Iron – The heat is inconsistent. Potentially can be use for Hobbyist applications e.g. printing your own T Shirt. Very inexpensive. Not suitable for commercial work – NOT RECOMMENDED
Hot Air Gun – Can be used for simple Flash Drying (also known as Spot Drying). It is possible to use to cure Plastisol inks but you need to be very patient especially on large designs. Inexpensive. – NOT RECOMMENDED for Curing
Flash Dryer – Often new Screen Printers use Flash Dryers to both ‘Flash Dry’ the ink when printing multi colour designs and for curing ink. You will need to manage this process very carefully to make sure you do not scotch garments. Easier to achieve a full cure with Plastisol Ink then Water based ink.
They range from relatively inexpensive to a significant investment Professional units. Just be aware that the cheaper Flash Dryers use a lot of power and can be expensive to run – OCCASIONAL USE
Hand Curer – The Hand Curer is a unique device which use Quartz technology often found in Professional Flash Dryers. It is designed for space constrained environments with rapid cool down. Good for small studios, home printers and for use in Live Screen Printing Events. Can be expensive, however cost effective to run.
You can use the Hand Curer for ink curing, however production will be slow. They are very energy efficient – OCCASIONAL USE
Heat Press – Primarily designed for heat transfer applications e.g. Cut Viny media, Sublimation, DTG, DTF etc. Heat presses Can be expensive especially for Professional units. Avoid the cheaper units on eBay. A Heat Press cannot be used as a Flash Dryer but can successfully be used for ink curing. GOOD for LOW PRODUCTION
Tunnel Dryers – Sometimes known as T Shirt Dryers or Conveyor Dryers. They can’t be used for Flash Drying. Prime purpose is for Ink Curing so perfect for Production work. There are lots of different types of Tunnel Dryers available, typically the length of the dryer indicates the level of production available.
For small Tunnel Dryers curing Water based inks (typically 2 metres long or less) need the garments to be put through two or three times to achieve a full cure. We produce a wide range of highly efficient tunnel dryers to suit the needs of the smallest to the biggest screen printers. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Please note that I ignored the options for using Kitchen Ovens and Tumble Dryers for curing inks, occasionally this is mentioned in different sources. Highly recommend that you ignore them as well!