Marco Zablockij, technical sales manager of digital products at M&R Companies, explains the benefits of the Digital Squeegee

What are the most exciting aspects of the Digital Squeegee and the hybrid printing process?

Other than 400 digital quality shirts per hour? The saving in set-up times: the Digital Squeegee DS-4000 set- up takes minutes compared with hours for screen making, ink mixing and adjustments on a 10-colour screen printed image. 

Then there’s image quality. Imaging a digital print on a screen printed underbase saves all the headaches associated with simulated process printing, and the final image can have details, smooth blends and image features that would be impossible using halftones through screen mesh.

Next is the saving on separation times and the reduction in on-press revisions that are typical with high colour-count screen printing jobs. A 12- to 14-colour screen print can take hours of separations and involve several screen revisions. The same artwork can be set up in minutes with the Digital Squeegee, it will likely require far less (if any) art manipulation, and the odds of an on-press revision are also reduced.

Another advantage is the time saved loading and cleaning up the inks from large screen printing jobs. With the Digital Squeegee all you have are the CMYK inks in the unit. You can replace an ink room with a couple of white and underbase inks and some special effects.

The Digital Squeegee from M&R

What are the hybrid-specific advantages to consider?

You can utilise variable data: with a common underbase you can have virtually unlimited variations on the digital overprint, as long as the graphic fits with the underbase print. You can have unique prints on every shirt, at an output rate of up to 400 shirts per hour. 

Hybrid printing also allows you to print on multiple types of garments – polyesters, blends, tri-blends and 100% cotton – in the same print run.

Another plus is that using a Digital Squeegee avoids the need for a pretreatment step, saving labour and the cost of pretreatment equipment. Finally, a huge advantage to hybrid printing is that you can use many of the special effects in-line and in combination with a digital print, without reducing speeds. Glitter, flock and even foil can be added directly to digital prints.

What are the curing requirements for Digital Squeegee prints?

As a general rule, you’ll use a gas dryer with a longer tunnel – similar to what you would use for water-based ink curing. The inks that can be used with the Digital Squeegee are variable and any printer that starts using hybrid should work with their ink supplier to make sure they are achieving a full print cure, including washfastness testing on different ink types. Adding special effects, a different underbase type and other factors can influence the curing time so proper testing is highly important.

What would you say to a printer who was thinking about moving from screen to hybrid printing with the Digital Squeegee?

Why are they waiting? Actually, adding any new method of decoration involves a learning curve and some adjustments in a printer’s operation, workflow and training for employees. When a screen printer is considering adding a Digital Squeegee they should know that we have seen companies of all sizes, from global apparel brands to single-machine start-ups, add the Digital Squeegee and have exciting results in a very short time.

Screen printers will already understand the screens and how the printing method works, so to add the DS-4000 printer to the process is pretty simple. In many cases they can be up and running in far less time than adding a totally new method. The industry is seeing a move to lower order quantities, which requires printers to deliver orders faster, with less set-up and artwork investment. Having the Digital Squeegee allows companies to oer higher image qualities, lower set-up times and prints with the durability of screen prints.