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Backing Fabrics

What are backing fabrics used for?

Backing fabrics are often (but not always) non-woven interlinings. Like many other products, you will find that there are different types, weights and qualities available and of course you will also find that the cheaper products may not be as good as other higher priced products.

In embroidery, backing fabrics are used as a stabiliser - to hold the fabric securely in place so that it doesn't move during embroidery. Why? Well, that's because if the fabric moves during embroidery then the embroidery design will be out of register. That means different parts of the design like outlines and borders won't match up with the filled areas.

A good backing fabric should be very stable (non-stretch) in both vertical and horizontal directions. It should also be stable enough to hold the embroidery during wash & wear so that it does not become distorted.

What are the main types of embroidery backing?

Non tear or cut-away backing - When I first started in the embroidery industry (and before you ask - NO there were no dinosaurs then) it was extremely rare to find an embroiderer using anything other than good quality, non-tear, cut-away backing.

The simple reason is that a good quality non-tear backing provides the best possible support for embroidery.

  • It doesn't stretch
  • It doesn't perforate around the edges during embroidery
  • It doesn't turn to mush in the wash

Non-tear backings can be used with most fabrics but are highly recommended for normal stretch fabrics.

Tear-away backing - This type of backing has become popular sinmply because the excess backing can be removed quickly and easily from around the embroidery.

This might appear to be a cleaner / neater finish on the inside of the garment but it brings with it some problems that can make life much harder for the embroiderer and for the digitiser.

As mentioned earlier on this page, tear-away backings have a tendency to perforate around the edges of the embroidery whilst the machine is running. Once this happens, the backing can no longer hold the fabric securely in place and if the fabric begins to move around during embroidery then the different parts of the design will not be in register.

Usually this kind of problem is thrown back on the digitiser to rectify and that's a 'very big ask'. After all the digitiser is very often not there to watch and work out exactly where and why the problems are happening.

Iron-on (fusible) backing - This is best suited to stretch fabrics and/or large, complex designs that are likely to produce severe fabric push / pull. The backing itself is usually very stable and once it has been fused to the top fabric then there is very little chance of movement. bear in mind that once it has been heat pressed onto the fabric it will not be easy to remove it.

Adhesive backing - Filmoplastic is one example and is very suitable for use with high stretch fabrics and for embroideries that have to be stitches close to or even right to the edge of the fabric.

Water soluble backing - This product is used to hold the fabric during embroidery but then after embroidery has been completed the item is emersed in cold or warm water and the backing will disolve completely.

Water soluble backings are often used for embroidered lace designs and can also be used as a topping to hold down the pile when embroidering loop towelling.

Thermo destructible backing - Thermogaze is such a product and is commonly used to manufacture embroideries that can be heat pressed onto fabric/garments.

How it works: Thermogaze is a natural coloured, woven fabric that is used as a base to embroider onto. A special, heat fusible bobbin thread is used.

After the embroidery has been completed the embroidery is cut out as a square and is placed onto fabric and heat pressed.

Two things happen in the heat press:

1. The Thermogaze fabric turn a grayish colour and becomes extremely brittle

2. The bobin thread melts, sticking the top thread in place.

One the fabric has cooled down you simply brush the reverse side and the Thermogaze fabric will crumble and fall away easily.

What's causing my sew-out problems?

If you are experiencing problems with designs that don't look so good then you need to go back to basics:

  • Are you sure that your machine is capable of stitching out high quality designs? In other words have you stitched out similar designs before with good results?
  • If you have - then what has changed? The machine? The fabric? The backing? or The design?

Let's assume that the machine is known to be good and capable of high quality work. You need to start with a best case scenario so use a stable, woven fabric and a good quality non-tear backing and make sure that they are hooped up well. That means that both the backing and the fabric must be tight in the hoop.

How does it look?

Now try stitching out the design on a knitted fabric with the same non-tear backing

Now experiment with either a thinner non tear backing or maybe even a medium weight tear away backing.

If the last change brings about problems with stitch-out quality then you know what to do to rectify it.

Embroidery Hooping

What kind of hoop will hold fabric most securely

Well, that would be a round hoop because the round hoop provides a strong gripping pressure all the way around 360 degrees. Rectangular hoops grip very well at the corners but not nearly so well along the sides - so you need to do most of the fabric tensioning at the corners.

Having said that, if you are running a big design with lots of stitches you will find it quite a challenge to stop the fabric from becoming loose along the straight edges of a rectangular hoop.

You can try wrapping a strip of coarse fabric around the straight sides of the hoop to provide a little extra grip or you may have to use better quality backings or perhaps even an iron-on backing.

When I try to embroider thick fabrics like towel or horse blankets the hoop will sometimes pop open part way through the embroidery

Barudan hoops have extra deep sides that are slightly concave so they hold together better on thicker fabrics.

If a standard hoop just doesn't work for you then you might like to consider the Mighty Hoops that are held together by super strong magnets. They are fantastic and provide another benefit as well. Because they have an upper and lower hoop surface rather than inner/outer, they don't leave marks on the fabric.

Is there a way to embroider on a pocket that is still attached to the garment?

Yes, there are a couple of options now that work better on some machines than on others. The Barudan cap frame has an optional attachment that allows pocket embroidery.

In order to embroider on a pocket you have to be able to slide the pocket over the cylinder bed of the machine - so the bed is actually inside the pocket.

If your make or model of machine has a large cylinder bed, or if the pocket is very narrow then there won't be very much room for the pocket to move from side-to-side so you will be restricted to a very small logo.

How do I hoop very stretchy fabric like Lycra

This is more a matter of correct backing than hoop type. Due to its high stretch nature this type of fabric is best embroidered using a stick down backing like Filmolastic, which holds the fabric firmly in place during embroidery.

Embroidery Machines

What's the difference between a good quality commercial embroidery machine and a home/hobby machine?

Well of course there are differences and depending upon the make and model, those differences can be very significant. There is a good reason why a high quality commercial machine costs more than a home/hobby type machine.

Home / hobby machines have gotten better and some makes like Brother PR have great features that are not included in commercial machines.

They are designed for light to medium home/hobby use only. The internal parts are moslty metal but the outer cases are generally made of plastic. The motors for driving the machine and the hoop movement system are designed to operate only up to a certain speed and have a power rating suited to a light weight embroidery machine.

This is most noticeable when you run a design that has longer stitches. When the stitch length increases past 2 or 3 mm then the machine speed will decrease quite significantly. A commercial machine has much stronger mechanisms, more powerful motors and advanced electronic control systems that allow it to continue running at high speed even on much longer stitches.

Commercial quality machines like Barudan are not necessarily for everyone

You might not need the speed, the flexibility and embroidery quality provided by a commercial machine.

A good quality, commercial machine can quite literally be run for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and if maintained well should last well in excess of 10 years or more.

Whilst some of the home/hobby machines do have some very useful features like automatic needle threaders and cameras, they tend to have a much smaller embroidery area, run much more slowly (especially on designs that have longer stitches and are not nearly so versatile when running tricky products like caps with centre seams.

Finally I would make mention of warranty. Typically a home/hobby machine will have a 12 month, back-to-base warranty whereas a good quality commercial machine like a Barudan can have up to 7 Years, electronic and major parts warranty and up to 7 Years stitch quality guarantee.

If you're running a business then the last thing you want or need is an expensive break down (especially when you are in start-up phase). A 'world's best' embroidery machine warranty gives you that protection and peace of mind.

What about Japanese made machines versus the lower priced machines from China - Are they comparable?

The short and simple answer to that is a very emphatic No - They are not!

Japanese machines

Established companies like Barudan has been designing and developing advanced embroidery machines for more than 60 years. They have many of the major developments in computerised embroidery to their name and they continue to build using high quality steels and aircraft grade alloys - in Japan.

Barudan's custom designed, Japanese-made electronic control systems and motors are powerful and are built to withstand extreme work-loads and power conditions in countries all over the world so when their machines are used in a stable, reliable, power supply like ours here in Australia . . it's like a walk in the park.

That's why there are so many Barudan machines still in use today that were first installed 20+ years ago and of course many more new models too.

Local parts supply - reputable machine manufacturers rely on reputable, local distributors who like us, maintain an extensive stock of spare parts, have a large team of well trained technicians.

World class warranty

- A very quick and easy way to determine the quality of a product and the confidence of the local supplier is to find out what warranty and guarantees are offered. Are they offered up front without your request or are they hidden on some obscure page, written in small print with disappearing ink and 3 pages of warranty conditions.

Chinese-made machines

At the time of writing this article there are as many as 50 companies who assemble copy embroidery machines in China.

Now you'll notice that I said "COPY" and "ASSEMBLE".

They don't research and develop.

They don't innovate and improve.

They simply copy what is now very old Japanese technology, using low quality electronic and mechanical parts with inferior assembly too. The majority of Chinese-made embroidery machines that I know of here in Australia broke down within the first year or two and were simply pushed into a corner to gather dust.

Now that's not to say that things won't change for the better in future but let me tell you that I've been watching the embroidery machine manufacturing industry in China very closely for almost 20 years and I have to say that whilst the machines look better now externally - What I see once the covers have been removed still fills me with much concern

So pleeeeeease - If you have some cash you'd like to throw away - throw it in my direction. I need it :o)

Now all jokes aside - Don't expect to pay peanuts and get a quality made, reliable machine. I have been in this industry for the best part of 45 years and I have not seen anything to convince me otherwise yet.

All of the Chinese made embroidery machines that I have seen (and I have seen many) could almost be mistaken for being from the same factory. You see in a way, they are all the same. They all buy the parts from completely separate companies and just put them together. Believe it or not there are even report of farmers who have decided to supplement their incomes by assembling muti-head embroidery machines in there farm buildings. NOW THAT'S SCARY.

(Now you know where the straw in the packing case came from)

There are only one or two companies who make the control systems

There are a few other companies that make the chassis

Other companies make sewing head castings

Finally there are some others that make needles bars, presser feet, gears Etc. Etc.

Every one of those 50 or so machine builders buys the parts from a series of manufacturers and then takes them back to their own building where they go about assembling them and painting them different colours with putting their own name on the front of each sewing head. Of course they all claim that their machine is in some way far superior to all others. They are not!

They ship them out to different countries around the world where they are cheap but often run very badly with very high thread breakage and poor embroidery quality. They usually end up breaking down and the unlucky (or unwise) owners find that there are no spare parts locally - No technical support and as for warranty well that is in your dreams only.

What's the latest trend in Chinese-made machines?

Well, what has happened is that a couple of U.S. companies have decided to buy machines in China, paint them a different colour and put their own name on them. They don't actually say that the machines are made in the U.S. What they might say is something like "Designed in the U.S." or "Development based in the U.S."

That may or may not be true but it is to say the least, worded in such a way as to to suggest to the unwary that perhaps it is an American embroidery machine.

Embroidery Threads

I've seen that there are both rayon and Polyesters threads. How do I decide which one is best for me?

Once upon a time there was no choice. Rayon was the only product that provided the sheen and the wide range of pastel to rich colours. Then came polyester embroidery threads that were touted as being the next 'best' thing. They were not!

The colours were not bright, the thread had little sheen and it was much too strong. In fact it was (and some still are) so strong that the needle can break but the thread doesn't break so the machine carries on running and the broken needle blade tears a hole in the fabric.

Fortunately things have changed and now there is a very high quality polyester thread King Star. It has excellent sheen and colour. It is stronger than rayon so thread breakage is now rare and it is very dye-fast so is ideal for products that will be heavily laundered.

So - back to the question How do I choose?
If dye-fastenss and low thread breakage are important to you then consider King Star polyester. It is available in over 600 shades

If you prefer a thread that is a little bit softer (for embroidered lace) and you don't mind the extra thread breaks then consider a Paramount Rayon thread

My thread keeps twisting up in a loop and gets stuck in the thread stand or in the tensions - Whats going on?

Threads are made up of fibres that are twisted together to form a single ply. Two or more (usually 2) of those single plies are then twisted together to make embroidery thread.

When thread is twisted too much during manufacture is is what we call an unballanced thread. What happens then is that the excess twist causes the thread to try and un-twist itself as it comes off the cone. Any loose thread can then twist up into a loop which then gets stuck in the thread eyelets or tension discs. It is a pain in the butt!

I'm embroidering a small design with outlines and I find that even 1 runstitch outline looks too heavy for the design - Is there anything I can do?

There are a couple of things that you can do:

1. Try using a thread colour that is less of a contrast

2. Use a fine embroidery thread like King Star fine thread

Embroidery Problems

I'm not getting good quality sew-outs from my machine - What could be the reason

If you are experiencing problems with embroidery designs that don't sew out well and you want to find out why, then you need to go back to basics:

  • Is your machine capable of producing high quality designs? In other words have you stitched out similar designs recently with great results? If you stitch out that design again - does it still stitch-out well?
  • Are you still using the same digitiser? You know there are both skilled and not-so-skilled digitisers out there and the end result on your machine can be like chalk & cheese
  • Could it be the fabric you are using, the backing or the way the garment has been hooped?

If you're not sure then try a stitch out using a good quality, non-stretch, woven fabric with a good quality medium weight cut-away backing. Make sure that both backing and fabric are caught in the hoop and are hooped tightly.

Tip: Don't cut a piece of backing and then slip it under the hoop after the garment has been hooped. The backing must be hopped with the fabric!

If that works well then try that same backing with your knitted garment / fabric - once again making sure that both are hooped tightly.

If that works then you might try using a lighter weight backing.

Using this process you will eventually find the reason for the low quality stitch-out.

I'm having all sorts of trouble setting my bobbin thread tension - What could be the problem?

Correctly adjusted bobbin thread tension should always be the first step in setting up the needle thread tension on ANY sewing or embroidery machine.

Set the bobbin thread tension and then adjust all of the needle thread tensions so that they are balanced with the bobbin.

If you are finding it difficult to set the bobbin tension then there are a number of possible reasons why :

A good, balanced bobbin thread tension should show up on the reverse side of the fabric as 1/3 needle thread, 1/3 bobbin thread and 1/3 bobbin thread. Ideally those three should show up 3 balanced and even columns.

Here are the most common problems with the bobbin thread tension:

Low quality bobbin thread with uneven winding and/or slubs
This will typically show up on the reverse side of the fabric as a very irregular change in the amount of bobbin thread that you can see. As the slubs pass under the bobbin tension spring, the tension suddenly increases and this will show up as a sudden narrowing of the column of bobbin thread. REPLACE THE THREAD

Damaged bobbin - may have been dropped and is bent
When a bent bobbin case is used then what happens is that the bobbin touches the bobbin case once every revolution. This shows up as a very regular change in bobbin tension with an equal distance between the waves in the bobbin thread column. REPLACE THE BOBBIN

Damaged bobbin case - side is bent in catching on the bobbin
This may show up as similar to a bent bobbin but is likely to cause more changes and they may not be quite as regular and even. REPLACE THE BOBBIN CASE. The metal is very brittle - If you try to bend it it will most likely snap.

Lint or wax stuck under the tension spring making thread tension too loose
This problem would normally show up as too much boobin thread on the reverse side of the fabric and possibly even bobbin thread pulling up to the top surface of the fabric. Tightening the bobbin tension screw will not necessarily help because the wax or lint under the spring prevents it from pressing down any more onto the thread. REMOVE THE SPRING AND CLEAN UNDER AWAY ANY WAX OR LINT. CHECK AND ADJUST THE TENSION.

Here's the best advice I can give anyone and everyone. Invest in a bobbin thread tension setting device. They are so easy to use!

Thread tension setting is really quite simple but unfortunately some machine manufacturers suggest that it is TABOO to try and adjust the tensions yourself.

You know why? Because during manufacture, they set the bobbin tension perfectly to suit the bobbin thread that their own company sells, knowing very well that if you try another type of thread which is thicker or thinner then the tension will change.

If you have a small bobbin screw driver and a bobbin thread tension setting device then it is child's play to adjust the bobbin tension to suit your own thread.

Just take out the bobbin case with your current bobbin thread and put it into the tension setting device. Wind the thread around the tension pulley and gently pull out a few inches of thread. You will see the exact tension reading for your current thread as the tension needle moves up and down the readout scale.

Now all you have to do is put your new bobbin thread into the bobbin case and carry out the same test.

If the tension is different to your old thread then adjust the tension spring on the bobbin case a little. Try a 1/4 turn of the tension screw in the anti-clockwise direction to loosen the tension and clock-wise to tighten the tension.

Now test with the tension guage again. Try it! You'll be amazed at how easy it is to become a master of bobbin thread tension.

What do I charge for embroidery

The cost to produce each embroidery depends upon how you choose to setup your embroidery service.

For example:
* Do you work from home or are you renting commercial premises
* Do you lease the machine or did you buy it outright
* Do you employ staff or are you an owner operator
* Do you digitise your embroidery designs or outsource them

Running your business from home usually offers the lowest cost as compared to renting commercial premises. The down-side is that you don't get passing trade. You have to rely on paid advertising and word-of-mouth.

It's also worth bearing in mind that should you ever decide to sell your business a prospective buyer will quickly work out that your profits are higher than normal because you are not paying commercial rent or wages.

Embroidery costing in its simplest form

1. Take the total, monthly overhead costs of your business and divide that by the number of hours that you work per month. Now divide that amount by the number of logos you can embroider per hour. Note: That will of course change depending upon the number of stitches in each logo.
2. Thread, backing and design digitising costs are then divided by the number of logos in the order.
3. Add the above costs together and you have your cost for each embroidered logo.
4. There is one more VERY important add-on to arrive at your sell price. You have to add on your wage or profit.

As an example:
Let's say that you can embroider 12 logos per hour and you want to make a $30/hour profit. You will have to add $2.50 per logo to arrive at a sell price that covers your costs and gives you a profit/wage of $30 per hour.

How much do you think you are worth?

Now I'm not about to tell you how much profit you should or shouldn't make, but might I suggest that for $30 an hour you ought to consider working for someone else instead.

Running your own business does offer a certain amount of freedom and flexibility but working for someone else provides benefits like paid sick leave, paid holidays, superannuation and long service leave which you don't get working for yourself.

So if you are going to work for yourself - pay yourself enough to make self-employment really worthwhile.

Ask yourself this question

Would I be happy to work for someone else for the same pay I am getting now and working the same long hours every day? OK I understand that during the early days of a new business you might be working extra hard and making sacrifices to build the business but if you've been running for a couple of years and your still on $30 an hour then maybe some changes are needed.

Choose your customers wisely

Don't try to complete with the big boys and girls in the embroidery industry. They are using multi-head embroidery machines that can produce 8, 12, 15 or 20 embroideries in the same time that a single head machine can do just 1. Their costs per embroidery might very well be less than yours so if you match their prices you might end up working very long hours and for very little reward.

Give yourself a point of difference

Target the smaller orders – the ones that are almost a nuisance to the big companies. Become a specialist at embroidering products that others don't want to do.

Offer brilliant service and excellent quality at a fair price for your skills and service. You will make more money and you will also attract customers who value the service that you offer.

Don't chase the penny pinchers who want to drive your prices down to the ground. You won't be happy. You won't make profit and you know what? The penny pinchers probably won't be happy anyway – that's just how penny pinchers are.

Use an embroidery costing program

The quickest way to get an accurate cost and sell price for every new embroidery job is to use an embroidery costing program like EPACC.

EPACC runs on a Windows based computer that has Microsoft Excel installed on it. The cost as at Dec 2019 $195.00 + GST for a single embroidery machine version

How it works

You simply enter the overhead costs for your business. Cost like rent, machine lease cost, wages, electricity, printing, accounting Etc. You can enter them individually or as one lump sum. Once that's done you can forget about it until your costs change significantly.

EPACC uses that information calculates what it costs to run your business each minute of the working day. You also have to enter your costs for consumables like thread and backing fabrics too. EPACC works out the cost of thread and backing based upon the number of stitches in the logo and the size of the hoop.

For each new job, all you have to do is enter:
Quantity required
Stitch count of the design (or an estimate)
Design digitising cost (if you outsource)
Hoop size

EPACC instantly shows you:
* What it will cost to produce each logo,
* How long it will take to complete the job
* How much you should charge for it.

The charge per embroidery is calculated based upon the mark-up that you want to add on top of your costs. You can also set three different levels based upon the urgency of the order.
* Regular service - say 10 working days
* Express service - say 3 working days
* Rush service - Next working day

Garment Printing

I have a product that I need to print - Which printer is the right one for me?

1. Direct to textile / fabric printer

This type of machine prints full colour images and logos using liquid ink directly onto the surface of the fabric. In some cases the ink is printed onto a transfer paper first and is then applied to the fabric surface with a heat press.

There are three main types:

* Machines designed to print directly onto finished garments

* Machines designed to print directly onto fabric from a roll

Uses limited to fabrics only

 

2. Vinyl printer & cutter

This machine prints full colour images and logos using liquid ink onto the surface of a white, flexible film which is nowadays made from polyurethane and not vinyl. After printing the machine then cuts around the finished logos, which are then heat pressed onto the fabric.

Uses: Can be used with special films for garments / textiles and with different, self-adhesive films for general signage for shop windows, trade vehicles, banners and more.

 

3. Laser printer

Laser printers allow full colour images and logos to be printed quickly onto a special transfer film after which it is then heat pressed onto the fabric

Uses: garments / textiles, paper, cardboard, wood and some other hard surface products.

 

4. UV (ultra violet) printer

UV printers have surged in poplarity because thay can be used on such a wide variety of hard surface and some soft surface products. The UV ink is dried / cured almost immediately on contact with the surface of the products and so printed products can be handles as soon as they are finished.

Uses: There are thousands of products that can be printed including:

Glass, Ceramics, Wood, Plastic, Control panel films, equipment panels, Component parts, Glass bottles, Metal bottles, Mobile phone covers and many, many more.

UV PRINTERS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR FABRIC

A unique benefit of UV printers

Because the ink dries so very quickly, a UV printer can print multiple layers thereby creating what is called a 2.5D print. The print suface can have texture just like a braille sign.

There is one further advantage and that is full 3D printing in colour. 3D UV printers are now being used to print 3D objects in full colour. Examples include: Models, Signs, Prototypes, Replicas of human body parts used in anatomy classes and many more.

 

5. Dye Sublimation printing?

An ink jet printer is used to print liquid dye onto a special transfer paper or in some instances directly onto a pre-treated, white polyester fabric. When the water has evaporated and the print is dry it leaves behind a thin layer of dye.

The printed sheet is then placed face-down onto white polyester fabric or onto any dye sublimation receptive surface and is heated to 190 to 200 degrees C for about 60 seconds or more. The solid particles of dye turn directly from a solid into a gas and because they are being pressed firmly against the fabric, the dye is forced downwards into the fibres or polymer film, penetrating into it and changing the colour permanently.

Uses: Dye sublimation prints are used widely for polyester work wear, sports wear, cushion covers, coffee mugs, beer glasses and many, many more dye sublimation blank products.

Dye sublimation prints on fabric are especially popular because they are easy to do, the equipment is relatively inexpensive and because the prints have no detectible feel. They don't seal the fabric and are extremely wash-fast.

When printers and graphic designers talk about 'Bleed' - what do they mean?

Bleed refers to the process of making an image slightly bigger than it really needs to be. Why would you need to do that?

Imagine this:

You have to print a photograph onto a blank jig-saw puzzle that is exactly 19cm x 27cm. If you make the print exactly 19 x 27 then you would have to align the printed image perfectly with the edges of the jig-saw? You'd almost certainly get some misprints in which there would be a fine line of white, unprinted jig-saw on one or two edges.

So, the solution is to create a bleed and that means that you make the image slightly bigger than the object to be printed. When you do this the alignment of the print and the jig-saw is not so critical. It can be a little bit out and yet the print will still cover the whole area of the jig saw.

If C = Cyan, M = Magenta, Y = Yellow . . . Why does K = Black ?

This originates from the word Keylines, which are the fine outlines used around drawings and graphic images to give them definition. They are almost always Black and so K became the letter used for Black ink.

What is a DTG printer?

DTG stands for Direct-To-Garment Printing. DTG printers are used mostly for printing full colour logos onto cotton t shirts but can be used on some other types of fabric and products too.

CMYK DTG printers have only coloured ink and can be used to print full colour logos onto white fabric. They can also be used to print onto some light coloured fabrics too but the colours that can be printed are limited because the colour of the fabric affects the printed colour.

For example: A pale blue print on a Yellow fabric would look Green.

CMYK+W DTG printers have white ink and colour ink. They can be used to print full colour logos onto any colour of cotton fabric. They are able to do this because they print a layer of white ink first, which allows the colours to show up brightly against the white background.

I heard that Laser printers are becoming more popular - Why is that?

Most types of garment printing are limted to one type of fabric or even to just white fabric. Others require some type of preparation or finishing process and that can slow down production, especially for complicated designs with lots of detail or a lot of internal areas that are not printed.

Another consideration is maintenance of the printer.. Some require regular maintenance that takes time and usually results in some wastage of ink.

Laser logo printers offer the following benefits

  1. Very fast printing
  2. Very low maintenance
  3. Can be applied to most types of fabric
  4. Can be applied to all colours of fabric
  5. Metallic effect images can be printed
  6. Can be applied to hard surface products like wood
  7. Can be applied to soft items such as soap or candles
  8. Printer can be switched off for long periods of time
  9. Local parts and service are feely available

Heat Presses

Why are some heat presses so much cheaper than others?

The reason is fairly straight forward. They are made in countries that have low labour costs and poor manufacturing standards as compared to Australia, Europe and America.  

  • Metal quality is often poor
  • Electronic control systems are made with cheap, low quality components
  • Quality control is often substandard
  • Presses are not always suitable for use with our 240 volt power

What to look for in a good quality heat press

  • Accurate and even heat across the whole area of the bed
  • Accurate and even pressure across the whole of the bed
  • Reliability
  • Access to local tech support and spare parts

 

Clamshell presses

  • Good for thin, flat products like fabric, mouse mats Etc
  • Auto opening models available without big price increase
  • Take up less space on the work table

** Not good for thicker products because back of the press closes before the front
** Easier to accidentally touch the heated top bed when loading / unloading

 

Swing away presses

  • Good for thin, flat products up to 30 to 35mm thick
  • Auto opeing requires upgrade to air operated model
  • better for press operation that require high pressure
  • Heated top bed swings to one side - so clear view of lower bed and much less chance of accidental burn from top bed
  • Air operated have both push button close and auto open
  • Very accurate pressure setting
  • Pressure does not have to be adjusted for different thickness products

** Usualy much heavier than a clamshell
** Auto open models are more expensive and require an air compressor too.

Vinyl Cutters

Blade Types & Troubleshooting

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

 

Roland vinyl cutter blade

Fixing Common Vinyl Transfer Problems

Here are the answers to some of the most common problems in 3 troublesome areas of t-shirt transfer.  They are :

  • Adhesion
  • Colour Migration
  • Cutting or Weeding

 

1) Problems with Adhesion

Mastering the adhesion process (that is getting the film to stick to the garment) can be difficult for the beginner and the veteran alike. The issues that commonly arise with adhesion can be split into 2 categories: initial adhesion and final adhesion.

 

Initial Adhesion: Issues with initial adhesion often occur when the liner is removed, and it ends up removing the recently pressed letters with it. Most of the time, the reason this will happen is because not enough pressure was applied via the heat press.

  • The heat press step requires 3 things; Heat, Pressure and Time. Most beginners will simply heat press the garment for longer, but this won't always work. Some films require more pressure, some less. If the film isn't adhering properly to the shift after it comes out of the heat press, try increasing the heat and/or the pressure.
  • Alternatively, initial adhesion might be prevented by a coating on the fabric. This coating might be an antimicrobial coating or a moisture repellant one. Tents and nylon raincoats often have a moisture repellant coating, and the coating can usually be removed by pre-heating the fabric with a sheet of Kraft / silicone paper - this will absorb the coating the fabric, and remove it. Performance apparel and excercise gear often has an antimicrobial coating. The best way to get around this, unfortunately, is to try to avoid working with those fabrics. There are pre-treatments that can help when working with antimicrobial coatings, but the effectiveness can vary.

 

Final Adhesion:

  • If an appliqué falls off laters after initially sticking, the most likely cause is an issue with layering or laundering. It is very important to always use the same kinds of peel films when layers; that is warm peels on warm peels and cold peels on cold peels. When it comes to metallic peels, the metallic peel should always be on top.
  • Another important thing to check is that you're applying to right film to the fabric you're working with. Films that work very well on nylon and leather may cause issues on cotton, polyester and blended garments.
  • The other likely cause of final adhesion issues is issues with laundering. This problem will unfortunately be on the end of your customers, so the best you can do is advice your customers to launder their garments like delicates; washing them inside-out in cold water. This is the safest way to ensure the heat won't cause problems with the garment.

 

Color Migration

Colour migration is when the dyes in the garment move from when they were initially applied to the garment. A lot of the time, this will mean that the dyes will soak through the garment instead of sitting on top, resulting in muted colours. For example, white graphics applied to dark polyester or cotton shirts might become grey instead. This is often the result of the black dye in the shirt becoming reactivated during a heat press, migrates to the film, and interfere with the transfer. There are 3 ways to deal with this:

  • Use a shirt that hasn't been decorated by dye sublimation, or hasn't been made with thermo-reactive dyes. Shirts made with thermo-reactive dyes tend to be lower quality shirts, so this can be solved by upgrading to higher quality cotton garments.
  • Use a film that blocks dye migration and preserves the colour of the face film. These films are often more limited in the range of colours they can use, but this can be rectified by adding another layer to the garment.

 

Cutting Problems

For the most part, heat transfer film is very simple to cut, as it is very thin and soft. Problems that can arise are probably a result of 1 of 4 things; incorrect blade, an extra liner, improper film loading or excessive blade wear.

  • Incorrect Blade. The thickness and density of a fabric determines which kind of blade you'll need to cut it. For most regularly garments, a standard issue 45° plotter blade is sufficient. For thicker and denser garments and fabrics, a 60° blade known as a "flock blade" will be necessary.
  • Extra liners. In order to protect some of the more specialised films, many come with an extra liner covering the face film. This layer is purely for protection during transportation and storage, and will interfere with cutting if it's left on. Carefully remove the extra liner in an area only large enough to cut the image and nothing more before you begin cutting.
  • Film Loading. CAD T-Shirt films are normally shipped with the liner facing outwards. This means that you'll be cutting the face film from the bottom when you load it onto a standard roll fed plotter.  If you aren't able to cut the fabric after loading the film, it might have been loaded incorrectly. In this case, flip it over and do a test cut. The liner is much tougher and thicker, so which ever side is easiest to cut is the side you should be cutting.
  • Blade Wear. If everything else is looking good; you're using the correct blade, the extra liner layers are removed, and the film is loaded properly, it may simple be the case that your blade has been blunted or worn down through extended use. Using softer polyurethane films will wear your blades down slower, but sooner or later all plotter blade will wear down.

 

Weeding Problems.

The most likely cause of a weeding problem is that you've cut into or through the face film, but haven't cut through the adhesive. Alternatively, you may have cut too deeply, which can occur when using a film on a paper liner. The best way to avoid either of these problems is to make sure you do a test cut. If the test cut comes out fine after weeding, only then should you send the job through.

A Test cut on the Q Series or Graphtec is a triangle in a square. The triangle should come out easily, so what you're looking for to evaluate the test cut is light scoring in the liner after you remove the square. If the liner is deeply scored, you've used too much force and/or cut too deep. If the liner isn't scored at all, you haven't cut all the way through the adhesive, which means you have cut too lightly and/or used too little force.

If you're still having trouble weeding the edges, try using a little more cutting force; that should do the trick.

 

In summary.

If it doesn't stick, use more pressure. Make sure you have the right film for the fabric. Don't mix hot and cold peel films in layers. Inform you customers about how to launder the garments.

If the color is shifting, get some better shirts, switch to SIR, or add a layer. If it's too hard to cut, make sure the film is loaded properly, make sure you're using the right blade, that it's properly installed, and that it isn't worn out.

Vinyl (roll) printers

Is there only one kind of vinyl printer?

No - there are four main types

  • Solvent ink printers
  • Solvent UV ink printers
  • UV ink printers
  • Latex ink printers

Solvent printers have been around for a long time and are still very commonly used both for sign vinyl and garment vinyl printing.

 

Solvent inks:

Basic solvent printers have four colours of ink (Cyan,Magenta,Yellow,K-Black)whereas the higher specification machines can have 6 or 8 colours including Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black and Light, light black.

The extra colours allow much more accurate colour matching, shading, skin tones and grays.

Some printers also allow the use of white and/or silver metallic inks.  The silver ink can be printed together with colours to produce different metallic colours.

Degassing Solvent printers have 1, 2 or even 3 heated plates designed to accelerate the drying of the solvent inks.  Typical heater temperatures are up to 40 deg C

Even with the help of heaters it is still necessary to remove the printed sheets from the printer and allow them to dry overnight. The dry sheets are then placed into an automatic cutter for contour cutting of the individual logos.

 

Solvent UV inks:

Solvent UV ink printing is a hybrid offering the fast drying benefits of UV combined with the high gloss finish of Solvent

The end result is prints that have a high gloss finish, vibrant colours and high scratch resistance

Prints can also be contour cut immediately after printing as there is no outgassing required

 

UV inks:

UV printers have powerful UV lamp arrays on either side of the print head so the inks dry almost instantly as they hit the print surface.   This means that the product is ready to be contour cut or used as soon as printing has been completed thereby saving time and speeding up turn-around times for new orders.

First generation UV inks were designed for hard surfaces only offering high scratch resistance but no stretch. Some manufacturers have now introduced high stretch UV inks and even metallic silver UV ink.

UV inks offer other unique benefits because they can be used to print textured images like like Braille for example.  Clear UV inks also allow a gloss to be printed over the entire image or just in some places (like raindrops on a leaf)

Because the inks are dried by UV lamps, UV printers do not need heated beds so the vinyl of media is not affected by heat and stays flat.

 

Latex inks:

Latex inks are water based and are dried just after printing (but still within the printer)by high temperature lamps that can reach temperatures of up to 125 deg. C

Thicker products, images that require more ink and higher print speeds all require higher temperatures in order to dry the ink fully.   As we know from solvent printers.....higher temperatures are more likely to cause curling or rippling of the media.

UV ink printers

UV printers have powerful UV lamp arrays on either side of the print head.  The lamps tun on only whilst the machine is printing and they dry the ink instantly as it hits the print surface.   

UV printers provide major benefits including:

  • Both flat-bed and print-from-a-roll models are available
  • Products can be handled and used as soon as printing has been completed
  • White ink allows full colour prints on dark coloured products
  • Textured (raised) images like like Braille can be printed. 
  • Clear UV inks also allow a gloss to be printed over the entire image or just in some places (like raindrops on a leaf)
  • Some UV printers can be used with an optional rotary print attachment which allows cylindrical object like wine bottles,sports drink bottles Etc to be printed up to 360 degrees.
  • Some makes/models allow one pass printing of double sided images with each side having the same image or different images (ideal for shop windows)
  • Choice of scratch resistant inks for hard surface products or stretch inks for flexible products
  • Metallic colours can now be printed with some makes/models
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205 Fulham Rd, Fairfield, VIC 3078
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