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Curing Athletic Inks

The most important aspect of screen printing is achieving a full cure. Listed below are some tips and bits of information that will help you identify problems and create solutions that work.

Determining Dryer Temperature

There are many methods of determining dryer temperature. Infrared guns, temperature probes, thermolabels, and temperature dots are the most common methods used today. The most important thing to understand is that curing ink is a time and temperature process. It does no good to measure the heat if you do not know how long it is heating. One Stroke Inks strongly recommends the temperature probe due to its accuracy and ability to read temperatures all the way through the conveyor dryer. Cure-Rite Temperature Dots work well but they usually require a little more heat than necessary to give a proper reading.

Curing Temperature

Most plastisol inks cure at 320 - 330 degrees fahrenheit. The entire ink film must reach this temperature to be fully cured. It is common for a screen printer to use an infrared gun and measure the ink temperature as it leaves the conveyor dryer. This temperature tells you nothing. The ink that is at the bottom of the print touching the garment will be a completely different temperature than the top surface of the ink that the gun is measuring. Also, due to the varying thicknesses of garments it is unable to determine a single dryer temperature for all garments. Note: Some athletic ink manufactured by One Stroke Inks will cure as low as 300 degrees fahrenheit.

Preventing Dye Migration

Nobody wants an order coming back to be reprinted because of ink washing out or numbers turning pink. On 100% polyester this creates a problem due to the balance of cure time/temperature and dye migration. If a dryer is running temperatures well above the recommended curing temperature, the athletic ink is more likely to have dye migration issues (when printing polyester). One Stroke Inks recommends curing athletic ink on polyester at a cooler temperature for a longer period of time. This will prevent dye migration and the longer dwell time in the dryer will allow the ink to cure. If you have ink cracking or dye migration problems, you may not have a good balance of time and temperature or your dryer is inconsistantly heating.

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