Be Careful Who You Ask for Advice

What do Band-Aids and screenprinting have in common? While the textile segment of the screenprinting industries may not hold the record for the usage of the term “Put a Band-Aid on it!”, they certainly have taken advantage of it.


Bill Hood, ASPDT Fellow

In 1886, three brothers – Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson – founded the company, Johnson & Johnson, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Originally, the company was formed to create sterile surgical supplies, household products, and medical guides. Among their first innovations was the omnipresent sanitary napkin in 1894.

Earle Dickson was a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson, when married his wife Josephine in 1920. Josephine was quite accident-prone, suffering from cuts and burns around the house. Thankfully, Earle had a ready supply of cotton he could use to make bandages for Josephine. The couple made the prototype of today’s ubiquitous Band-Aid. They begin by laying out a long strip of sticky surgical tape and applying small bits of cotton to create the pads. This was overlaid with crinoline dress lining to protect the adhesive sections from becoming stuck to each other until the strips were needed as a bandage.

Johnson & Johnson used Dickson’s invention to create their Band-Aid product. Their marketing plan included distributing an unlimited supply of Band-Aids to the Boy Scouts of America and the “Put a Band-Aid on it!” slogan became ingrained into the minds of individuals. Johnson & Johnson estimate that they have manufactured 100-billion Band-Aids to date.

What do Band-Aids and screenprinting have in common? While the textile segment of the screenprinting industries may not hold the record for the usage of the term “Put a Band-Aid on it!”, they certainly have taken advantage of it. A Band-Aid in screenprinting is simply applying a quick fix until the problem can be resolved. Unfortunately, most individuals never get around to resolving the problems and end up with dozens or hundreds of Band-Aids that rob the organization of margins.

The textile segment of the screenprinting industries is the easiest to gain entry into, and the quickest way to lose your savings and reputation. Each year, there are new groups of individuals who will invest as little as possible into starting a screenprinting business. Unfortunately, the textile segment is not the fastest-growing segment, due to their great number of business failings. It does make one wonder if the failures are due to the Band-Aid solution they so quickly grasp onto.

This failure has been dominant for decades and those few who were successful in spite of their inability to grasp the basics of scientific knowledge of the screenprinting process. Now, the first wave of Band-Aiders have grown up and can be found giving advice to others in online forums. And, unfortunately, some of those now work for manufacturers and distributors who allow these individuals to continue to spread the myriad myths that defy any basis of scientific inquiry.

Example No. 1

One manufacturer’s representative has been moving from one manufacturer to another for the past 20 years as a representative despite the fact that he has no hands-on experience as a printer. In a recent one-hour webinar concerning emulsion and chemicals, he made 127 false claims. This amounts to 2.1 incorrect statements per minute over the course of the hour. I would not have believed it was possible if I had not been registered and listened to the webinar for myself.

A couple of choice statements were:

If you maintain a low relative humidity of 32% and use a small heater to keep a consistent temperature of 70°F -75°F degrees, screens will dry quickly and thoroughly.”

Correction: Relative humidity registered the amount of moisture in the air, which at 32%-RH, is holding 50% moisture. Emulsion (whether direct liquid emulsion or capillary film emulsion) is only dry enough to expose when the moisture level at less than 4%. And, to reach this the moisture must be removed from the drying cabinet or immediate area. An emulsion kept at 32%-RH will never dry to a 4% moisture level unless the moisture is evacuated. The warmer the temperature the more moisture that can be held in the warm air.

Press washes that have a flashpoint of 140˚F are considered non-flammable.

Correction: The flashpoint of a liquid is the lowest temperature at which the liquid gives off enough vapor to be ignited (start burning) at the surface of the liquid. Sometimes more than one flashpoint is reported for a chemical. Since testing methods and purity of the liquid tested may vary, flashpoints are intended to be used as guides only, not as fine lines between safe and unsafe.

Flammable and combustible liquids are liquids that can burn. They are classified, or grouped, as either flammable or combustible by their flashpoints. Generally speaking, flammable liquids will ignite (catch on fire) and burn easily at normal working temperatures. Combustible liquids have the ability to burn at temperatures that are usually above working temperatures. According to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, flammable liquids have a flashpoint below 100˚F (37.8°C), not 140°F. Combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 200°F (93.3°C). Unbelievably, all press washes sold by the company that employs this individual are above 100˚F (37.8˚C) and are not only flammable but combustible as well.

Telling people that liquids with a flashpoint of 140% are not flammable is a very dangerous statement to make.

Example No. 2

A textile printer printed metallic silver plastisol on t-shirts, but the print was more of a gray color and did not have the metallic “shimmer” that was expected. On asking what went wrong, he received information in an online forum from the manufacturer’s technical representative that had been a printer early on but apparently was incapable of applying any scientific thought to give correct answers. The representative stated that the metallic flakes were reflecting the infrared energy and that the belt speed had to be slowed down to ensure curing. He stated that the metal flakes would oxidize when exposed to air and thus their needs to be an underbase and a top clear coat to seal the flakes from the air. Additionally, he recommended that the shirts be run through the dryer multiple times to properly cure.

1. The metallic components in the ink are dispersed in a clear liquid plasticizer, a gray pigment, plastic resins, and perhaps some fillers. All ink should be stirred from the bottom to the top of the container before being placed on the screen. In the instance of ink that uses aluminum powder versus plastic particles to produce the “shimmer”, the heavier metal components settle to the bottom of the bucket during storage. Inadequate stirring brings the metal particles back to the top, but not enough to create the necessary shimmer.

2. While it is true that aluminum will oxidize when exposed to air, in the case of metallic plastisol inks, the particles are completely ensconced in a clear plasticizer and are not exposed to air. The idea of printing an underbase and an additional clear coat of plasticizer over the previously printed plasticizer has no basis.

3. Curing plastisol happens when the resins in the ink reach the curing stage and absorb the other components and then cool to become a solid plastic film. The temperature needed is relegated by the size of the individual resin particles. It is true that the metal will reflect the heat, but in a dispersed solution each component acts individually to the infrared energy and the resin components will absorb heat and cure. If the statement were true that the energy that was reflected from the metal when how would one possibly ever cure the other components at any temperature?

4. You cannot possibly create a cure by running plastisol at a temperature lower than the required heat to allow the resin to absorb the other particles. The first time through the dryer at a lower temperature will not sufficiently soften the resin. Heat is not accumulative, and the resin cannot be softened to the proper absorption rate by making multiple trips through the dryer. The resin either reaches the correct temperature or does not.

More than likely, the ink was not stirred well enough. Then it was printed through a 110 mesh that had mesh openings that were too small to allow for a sufficient number of metallic particles to be transferred into the ink deposit. And the dryer heat needed to be increased to effectively cure the ink. Different colors of ink require different amounts of heat to cure properly because of absorption.

Those who know better and could easily discredit the false statements hold their tongue rather than be attacked online by others as they attempt to defend their false beliefs. And that is why you do not see a greater number of true experts helping others on social media. If you are looking for great answers to your questions it is far better to ask someone who is extremely knowledgeable rather than random people on social media.

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