Winter is Coming
Our headquarters in Minnesota is preparing for its first snowfall, which is a good indicator that the cold weather is ready to settle in for the winter. A lot of unique challenges come up in the winter – from supply availability, to inks’ working characteristics, to digital equipment problems. With a little bit of prevention you can save yourself a lot of headaches.
Many of the backbone products you use in your shop are not freeze-thaw stable, meaning they go bad if they freeze. If you are a screen printer, emulsion is going to be the main thing you will need to stock up on – but you should also check if your waterbased inks are freezable, as well as anything else that has a high water content. Dye sublimation inks are also not freeze-thaw stable, so be sure to have enough inventory to get you through the holiday rush!
Keep Your Ink Loose
Even in warm weather, white plastisol ink can be difficult to work with when it’s fresh out of the bucket. Cold weather only exacerbates the issues you run into with your ink’s stiffness. At the beginning of the day or at the beginning of your print job, be sure stir your ink with a spatula or mixer to make sure your white ink is smooth and loose. You can also keep the ink in a warm spot to keep it loose and workable, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot – you don’t want the plasticizers in your ink to start binding. Check your preferred ink’s tech sheet to see the best storage temperatures. Rutland Premier LB White, for instance, recommends a storage temperature of 65°-95° F, while International Coatings recommends up to 90° F.
Humidify Your Digital Rooms
When the winter is at its peak in Minnesota, every time you touch a doorknob you will get a little electric shock. Low moisture in the air causes discomfort on your fingers, and it can cause real problems on your sensitive digital equipment. Reducing static electricity on your equipment is going to keep your print quality great – static charge can make it so your ink doesn’t land where it should, or various other print quality issues. Second, digital equipment generally likes to be in a room with 40-60% humidity (Mimaki recommends 35%-65% on their solvent printers, Mutoh says 20%-80% on their dye sublimation printers). If you are running your equipment in too dry a room, you can start losing nozzles on your print head.
A simple evaporative humidifier can keep your digital equipment running well. If you are looking for a silent option, check out ultrasonic humidifiers, but be sure to use purified water (RO or distilled water) to ensure you don’t end up with a layer of grey dust throughout your room. You may also find that evaporative humidifiers more effectively humidify your whole room than an ultrasonic humidifier can.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to preparing for the winter. Stocking up on supplies will ensure you don’t have to shell out for expedited shipping (or have to wait until SPSI can ship product out to you!). Ensuring your humidity level is right means your print quality will stay high – and you won’t need techs to come out to replace spendy print heads.
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