Curing prints is a crucial step in screen printing, and it's one of the last steps for a reason. Ink must be cured properly to set into the garment; otherwise, it will crack, fall apart, and won't last for long. If you're a printer, you need to use one of four devices to cure inks: heat guns, heat presses, flash dryers, or conveyor dryers.
Using a heat gun may be inexpensive, but it's not always effective. Heat guns are ideal for prints on small areas like the chest, but they make it challenging to maintain heat consistency across the entire print. Moreover, it's tough to understand the temperature the heat gun emits, which means there's a high chance that the inks will not hit their cure temperature. So, if you're using a heat gun, make sure you're careful.
A heat press is essentially a conveyor dryer without a belt and provides a stable heat source, making it a fantastic way to cure inks. Set the heat press to be 20-30 degrees above the curing temperature recommended by the ink label, use light to medium pressure, and place a heat-resistant non-stick sheet on the print. Press for 20-30 seconds, perform a wash test and double-check that the ink has fully cured.
Flash dryers are a common way to cure shirts, and they're much more consistent than a heat gun. They're both compact and relatively inexpensive, making them ideal for screen printing businesses just starting out. However, you need to consider several variables such as the room temperature, the type of t-shirt material, the kind of flash, the type of platen, and the temperature of ink, shirt, and platen.
Finally, if you're handling high-volume orders, then a conveyor dryer is the way to go. Conveyor dryers run multiple shirts through at a time, speeding up production. Adjust the speed of the belt and heat it according to the garment and the ink you are using, but remember to test and test again to ensure that the dryer has the correct settings.
So, whether you're using a heat gun, heat press, flash dryer, or conveyor dryer, always test the curing process. Keep in mind that thicker ink deposits will take longer to cure because of more mass. Testing will help you adjust accordingly and run a smooth production.