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Tagless Printing #2

Pad printing specifics: equipment, inks, pad selection; support in North and Central America.

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Tagless Label Printing - Podcast #2

Stevie Black: Hi, we're doing Tagless Podcast Number Two. We're talking today with Ben Adner, CEO and chief innovator for Inkcups of Danvers, Massachusetts, a pad printing manufacturing company and supplier to the pad printing industry. We also have Mike Bissel, Inkcups' Vice President, Pete Baxter, Technical Support Manager, and Bill Christensen, Textile Imaging Specialist with us today from his office in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Information on all the Inkcups now equipment, supplies, and applications can be found on their website at www.inkcups.com .

The topic of our podcast today is tagless label printing. This is number two in the series for the garment industry. Bill, why don't we start with you? How long has tagless label printing been around?

Bill Christensen: It started to show up probably about four years ago. We started seeing some innovative thoughts about how to get another label into a garment or a new style of label. It really started to take hold about two years ago.

Within the last probably 12 months, it has really become a viable solution for a lot of folks in private labeling and also branding things, but also replacing an old style label that really has not become part of the trend. It really is very popular now.

Stevie: Ben, can you talk to us a little bit about the changes that were necessary to pad printing technology of the day to accommodate tagless label printing, and what innovations can be attributed to Inkcups?

Ben Adner: Pad printing itself is a very flexible process. We did not have to make many changes to the equipment. However, we spent a lot of time fine tuning the process of pad printing each step along the way. As an example, we established the proper depth of etch for the plates. Deeper plates give you better opacity on the garment. So, a typical depth is now 1.2 mils to 1.4 mils for white over dark.

We established inks to pass industrial washing and improved opacity. We developed a specific special dry printing pad material which would not pull up the fibers of the garment. This is our Instaprint pad material which is ideal for tagless pad printing. We developed tooling fixtures that make the garments easy to load and unload.

We also developed tooling fixtures for automation with automatic hold down for larger garments and things like pockets. Again, we developed a laser plate maker which allows you to much easier make printing plates for the pad printing process.

Stevie: Mike, some of our listeners have had a chance to look at the various machine on your website and perhaps have even seen the video on YouTube about tagless t-shirts. Perhaps you can zoom in a little on some of the special features of Inkcups' machines and details about what some of the pros and cons might be.

Mike Bissel: Well, Inkcups Now offers a wide variety of equipment for tagless printing. Everything from simple tabletop one color machines to automated systems that incorporate special tooling. The machine size variations will accommodate larger size ink cups that can handle the larger size artworks as the demand requires it.

Our equipment has an automatic function which helps loading and fine tuning a special production rhythm into the process... We have air blowing systems, which help assist the ink drying in multicolor applications. The equipment is all heavy duty. Right from the tabletop model on up, they're industrial grade and designed for ease of operation and simplicity.

Stevie: Now Pete, we're going to turn to you and have you talk a little bit about the specific inks used for tagless label printing and what makes them so different?

Pete Baxer: Well, there are two specific inks that work exceptionally well for tagless printing. One is the MB series and one is the SB series. Both are very durable. There's multiple wash tests that have been run and they're very resistant to it. They both resist cracking very well. The MB is slightly more opaque and the SB works better on stretchy fabrics, meaning fabrics that have some elasticity.

Stevie: Are different inks used for printing tagless labels on different kinds of garments? Explain some of the details.

Pete: Yes. As I just noted, the SB series does work better on garments that are not organic, sometimes on polyesters. The MB series works better on darker garments where overprint is required. Both are very fast drying inks. Both work exceptionally well when overprints are needed.

Stevie: OK. So, let's take a moment and focus on the more technical side of the process itself. Perhaps Ben you could explain to us what kind of plates are used, what kinds of pads are used, and how the images are transferred to the garments.

Ben: We'll start from the beginning where you've got a typically a digital image which is then transferred to a printing plate either by a film positive or by the laser. We mix the ink and what happens in the process is, it's a solvent based ink, a very little bit of the solvent evaporates, which makes the top layer of the ink sticky - the printing pad picks it up and lays it down on the garment.

The specific plates... we've talked about are our laser plates. There are polymer plates which come in two forms: those that are developed by alcohol and those that are developed by water.

And there's printing pad material, of which we've got about seven different types of silicones. We find that the driest version of the silicones works best particularly for tagless printing. Specifically, we developed Instaprint for that application. That's it in a nutshell.

Stevie: OK, for those of your listeners that have been on your website at Inkcups.com, perhaps have even used the amazing pad search feature on your site, still, there's a lot to choose from and I'm sure there's a right way and a wrong way to approach this. Mike, take us through the different pads that can be used and why the selection process is fundamental to success.

Mike: Well, printing pads are sometimes confusing to folks who are just beginning with the pad printing process but by and large, the pad printing search feature on our website will help eliminate selecting pads that are of the wrong size and height.

Basically, our machines incorporate ink cups... As Ben had said earlier, we developed the Instaprint material which is a dry material and wonderful for tagless printing as proven by our success with this application. Printing pads for tagless printing, typically want to be of the harder variety and of course, the printing pads have a correlation in size to the type of machine that's being used, available height for a particular machine and size of the ink cup. In general, we like to use a rule of thumb that for rectangular art, we typically like rectangular shaped printing pads. We all have to remember that we are picking an artwork off up of a flat frame plate and so the printing pad is designed to actually roll down over the image and peel away, much like a squeegee would do, when you are applying ink and utilizing your off contact process for screen printing.

So, there are a lot of similarities there for people who are common. So, printing pads typically have some angle for tagless printing. We're looking for something that is typically harder, and a nice material, such as the Instaprint to be successful with very fine text.

That's basically about it. The pad selection feature helps to marry up the appropriate sizes of pads and for people who are just beginning; we offer technical support in those areas, as well.

Stevie: It's a great segue. So, for your prospective customers who are considering getting into the industry or for those who are looking to retrofit their current facilities, Ben, talk to us a little bit about Inkcups' technical support, both here in the United States and abroad.

Ben: Thanks, we have five direct sales people around the country, all of whom can print and all of whom are knowledgeable about the process. They're traveling the country daily and generally help out on new startup applications.

We've got very strong support staff in the company who always pick up the phone. Pete Baxer, who we just mentioned, is our lead ink specialist. We've got people who can answer questions at any time at this office in Danvers and also in our office in Ajax, Toronto.

There's a lot of production facilities down in Central America. For those folks, we've got good support. We've got a full time person, Victor Uzarraga, who has been printing for many years and speaks Spanish and can solve a lot of problems there.

Both Victor and Pete have done installations in Central America and lately we've developed relationships with some folks in Guatemala who are able to do training. And, typically, the most difficult thing about pad printing in Central America is how you get the inks there. I think we've now conquered that goal. We've got very good working relationships with shipping companies and very good relationships with a stocking dealer in Guatemala.

Stevie: Thank you all very much. You have been listening to Tagless Podcast #2 with Ben Adner, Mike Bissel, Pete Baxer and Bill Christensen with Inkcups Now of Danvers, MA. This company has been an innovator in the field of pad printing for many years and recently has adapted their technology to the printing of tagless labels and clothes. I want to thank you all for speaking with us today.

For those of you who are new to pad printing and/or tagless label printing, I invite you to go to their website at www.inkcups.com. I also want to direct you to their help desk that has many brochures and technical documents that will help you learn more. In addition, Inkcups also offers help in Spanish by calling (520) 682-8246.

If you want to learn more about tagless label printing, please listen to the next podcast regarding tagless printing. Thanks.
Team Inkcups Local Sales & Tech Support
We have direct sales people in the US (MA, NY, CA, IA, GA), Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras. We also have respresentatives in Colombia and Dominican Republic.

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