Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Few Screen Printing Tests

I ran a number of tests today on some screen printed fabrics, just to answer a few questions I had.

First of all, one thing I need to determine is if the fabric I'm using can withstand the heat needed in order to cure plastisol inks. Westar tells me that they need to be blasted for 90 seconds at 300 degrees. I took some fabric swatches from both my plastisol test run and my speedball test, and threw it in the oven for 90 seconds. While I'm not sure if this accurately reproduces a curing environment, it's the best I have right now.

Based on a conversation I had with Westar, one of my concerns was that the temperatures would either melt the milliskin, or ruin it's stretch abilities. As far as I could tell, neither of those things happened.

Here are the two swatches after they had some time to cool down. Essentially, the fabric was unchanged. Also note from this photo that you can see how the diamonds print differently based on the inks. it's subtle, but the Plastisol inks tend to spread a little more than the speedball. Plastisol is on the right.

Here's a close up of a chunk of the Plastisol treated fabric. What's interesting about it is the way the fabric buckles. This happens after the printing is done. Initially, this dismayed me a lot, but now that I think about it, I don't think this will stop me from using the plastisol inks. The fabric only requires a tiny bit of stretch in order for it to lay flat, and I'm pretty sure I will be providing that once I put the suit on.

Interestingly, in the special features of the Superman Returns DVD, they talk about how each suit could only be worn for a short while before it was ruined. I think I understand why now. The plastisol inks tear when stretched too far, and they crack. I might end up making a couple different suits. One for display, one for wear, etc, each using different inks.

Another test I ran was in the washing machine. I wanted to see how well the Speedball inks held up in a delicate wash cycle. Here's the results.

I probably should have put a comparison picture together, but the punch-line is that the ink faded a bit. More than I would have liked. I'm not super happy with that.

Another test I ran was to see how hot I could iron the fabric without it melting. On my iron, I set it to the highest setting before steam, and it did not ruin the fabric. Speedball inks need the heat of an iron to cure them, so perhaps next time I will run a wash test on post-ironed fabric.

There were many interesting tidbits picked up from this round of testings. Overall, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't nail it on my first try, but that's OK. I've learned a lot, and will make a lot of changes on my next round of screen work.

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