This knowledge base will help you understand the important role that humidity plays in print quality and the machine's overall health.
What is humidity?
Humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor that is in the air. The higher the humidity percentage, the wetter it feels.
What role does humidity play in apparel printing?
Regardless of the type of apparel decorating that is done, the environmental humidity and temperature of your area are vital in ensuring that your machine operates properly, and your print quality stays consistent. The humidity level with water-based inks, such as the ones used in direct-to-garment and direct-the-film printing, will affect the rate at which the inks dry on the surface of the printer. This can control how fast a printhead could be clogged and the maintenance that will be required on the printer’s components.
What range of humidity does the printer require?
Most printers want to be above 40% humidity. A good rule to live by: if you are comfortable, the machine is comfortable. However, take into consideration that a direct-to-film printer utilizes a TPU powder which needs to maintain a lower humidity so that it does not clump.
What other environmental factors should be considered that the printer requires to stay healthy?
If your print shop is too hot, you'll notice that the machine starts performing more cleaning cycles than usual. This happens because the ink is used as a lubricant and a coolant within the printheads. Keeping your print area at the manufacturer-suggested temperature range will ensure that the machine and your inks work as designed. When setting up your print area or production area, make sure there aren’t any fans or vents blowing directly onto the printers. Keeping the room at an optimal temperature is needed but blowing air towards the printer can cause it to prematurely dry out. This will lead to nozzles not working properly and printing issues.
What should I do if the printer shows that there isn’t enough humidity?
Depending on the circumstances of your printing environment, it may be required to get humidifiers or dehumidifiers to ensure your printer is operating properly. Depending on the size of your print shop, a small unit from a DIY hardware store could be sufficient for a smaller print room. If dealing with a large commercial print shop, an industrial unit may be required. In some cases, it will be necessary to build walls, create new ceilings, and even tarp or tent the printing area to provide the correct amount of humidification and temperature control that is needed.
What should I do if my printer is showing that I have too much humidity?
Having too much humidity is seldom a problem, but if you do have too much humidity, you’ll notice that your shirts don't pop as much. The cotton of the t-shirt soaks up the humidity from the air causing the white ink opacity to decrease. On a microscopic level, the fibers of the t-shirt are wet, causing the white water-based inks to react differently to the pretreatment. If there is too much humidity in the room, pre-pressing your t-shirts on the heat press will evaporate the moister in the fibers. Pre-pressing will also help flatten the fibers back down to give you a dry smooth surface to print on.
If your humidity is too high for direct-to-film, the TPU powder will start to clump and stick to the film and areas on the printer/dryer. In this case, a dehumidifier will help bring down the humidity in the print area.
What can happen if I do not control the humidity?
Not managing the humidity and the temperature in the room will cause problems. On the low end, you'll just get some bad banding or a few missing nozzles. However, in more severe cases, the machine can actually be damaged which could cost thousands of dollars in repairs.
What should I do if I cannot resolve an issue I’m having with the humidity?
Please submit a Support Ticket so one of our technicians can reach out and troubleshoot the issue with you.