Water-based printing takes a few different pieces of equipment and a bit of know-how. When printing with water-based ink, the water in the ink needs to evaporate in order for the ink to cure. This may seem challenging, but it’s a cinch with the proper tools. Let’s talk about the tools needed to print with water-based ink.
As mentioned before, a proper cure with water-based ink means the water has to evaporate from the ink first. This can be done in a few ways, but the best way is to use a forced air flash or conveyor dryer. You can reach a proper cure in water-based prints without forced air equipment, but it'll take longer and may not guarantee a full cure.
Printers may use Warp Drive to chemically reach full cure, but that requires waiting 48 hours for the chemicals to cure the ink (plus, you still need to evaporate the water somehow). With a regular flash dryer, it's difficult to determine whether or not all the moisture has evaporated from the print or if you're burning the shirt.
Which forced air dryer is best for your shop? Let’s take a look.
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CURING VIA CONVEYOR
A forced air conveyor dryer is the best option for printing water-based ink. Water-based inks need air movement to effectively drive the water out of the ink and move the steam outside the dryer so that the heat can cure the ink.
Here’s how it works: The first zone is a flash zone where it heats up rapidly, becoming 50% hotter than the rest of the dryer. It’ll evaporate water from water-based inks quickly, then dwell for an extended period of time in the second zone at its cure temperature. Combined with the forced air technology, the dryer achieves great results.
Don’t have the space for a forced air conveyor? Use a forced-air flash instead.
CURING VIA FLASH UNIT
Not every shop has the budget or space to accommodate a conveyor dryer. No need to worry; a forced air flash dryer will still get the job done. The flash pushes hot air over the whole print, distributing the heat more evenly without burning the shirt or wooden platen. Not only does it evaporate the water from the ink, but it also removes moisture from cotton garments.
Curing with a flash dryer isn’t the most efficient way to cure during production, but many small shops use this tool to cure until they need to expand.
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USE WARP DRIVE FOR INSURANCE
Not sure if your prints will cure adequately? Use Warp Drive in your prints for curing insurance. Warp Drive is a water-based ink additive that chemically cures ink over a 48-hour period. Simply mix it into inks, print like normal, and let the garment sit for a couple of days.
This option is great for printers using a forced air flash dryer. Adding Warp Drive to the ink will mean that any spots that don’t get cured by the flash will cure over 48 hours. It’s that extra security that your prints will turn out great.
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No matter the curing device you’re using, curing water-based ink just takes a few different pieces of equipment. Use a forced air flash dryer or upgrade to a conveyor to get prints out the door and keep customers coming back for more.