Performance apparel is big business in an otherwise stagnant textile industry. Companies such as Nike are cashing in on new innovations in performance fabrics, taking in over $39 billion dollars in 2019 alone. With a portion of the market that big, you need well-performing inks. That’s where silicone comes in. The elasticity and durability of silicone ink make it perfect for printing on polyester, nylon and blends. Dye migration, a big problem for polyester garments, is controlled with silicone inks due to its low curability. Another thing to keep in mind about silicone inks is that it’s a “set and forget” kind of ink, meaning once it’s cured, it’s there for good. This again, adds to the durability and stretch of the ink.
Silicone inks must be mixed with a catalyst in order to cure. Generally speaking, 4-5% catalyst is needed. Reducers and thickeners can be used to adjust viscosity. Pigments are used according to the manufacturer’s suggestions. Different types of bases are available depending on the finish you want. By and large, silicone inks print very similar to plastisol inks yet have handling techniques similar to waterbased inks and are often used in spot color printing but can be printed in a variety of formats. Standard screens and emulsions may be used with silicone inks; dual-cure emulsions are not needed because silicone inks are solvent-less. Typical mesh counts from 86 to 305 are suitable for silicone printing, although a finer mesh will give you a smoother finish and printing a thicker ink film will increase the stretch for high elasticity fabrics.
Performance apparel shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, and silicone inks are a great addition to any shop that you won’t regret using.