Awards & Engraving

August '19

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A&E AUGUST 2019 • a-e-mag.com 53 When dealing with real leather, it is essential that adhesion testing be done as some leathers have oils in them that can cause adhesion challenges. The fix may be as simple as cleaning the area to be printed with an alcohol wipe down, or as extreme as moving on to a different type of leather. Thinner leathers present more chal- lenges as the leather wants to "move" as it is heated by the lamps, which can cause misregistration between print layers or distortion of artwork. In these cases, the utilization of a vacuum bed or custom- made clamping jigs to minimize movement of the material during printing is helpful. BENEFITS OF FLEXIBLE INKS ON FAUX LEATHERS On the same line as leather are the faux leathers, or "pleather." This material can be used for a number of the same applications as leather, but it is prominently used in the manufacture of sports balls like baseballs, basketballs, soccer balls, and volleyballs. Artwork printed onto these items needs to be able to handle the abuse of being hit, kicked, bounced, slammed, and swatted, often into hard substrates like wooden and synthetic gym floors, rims, backboards, and goals. For most of these items, the secret isn't so much about adhesion as it is about positioning and finding the "sweet spot" for printing on a curved surface. This can take time and patience but eventually, you can determine the maximum size that each type of ball can handle. For example, a basketball may allow for a 2 1/2- to 2 3/4- inch diameter logo, while a baseball may be limited to 1 inch. Trial and error allows you to dial in these numbers. Common sense also helps. If the num- bers above are your limits, then it makes sense to start off at 1 1/8 inches or so on a softball and maybe 1 3/4 to 2 inches on a volleyball. PRINTING GOLF BALLS WITH FLEXIBLE INKS FOR DURABILITY While we are on the subject of sports balls, we need to mention the most commonly embellished sports ball out there: the golf ball. Historically these have not been done with flexible inks, but our research has shown that eventually, rigid inks begin to crack and flake off. For the casual weekend hack, this is not an issue; these players can lose the ball or mar it beyond usability long before the logo cracks. But for the more experienced player who might play an entire round or even more with one ball, cracking and chipping can be a concern. Enter flex and hybrid inks to the rescue. Their ability to conform to the odd shapes that a golf ball morphs into when hit means less likelihood of chipping and cracking. FLEXIBLE INKS IN SIGN MAKING In the sign-making world, materials that might be rolled up like small banners and magnetic signs perform better when directly printed with flexible and hybrid UV inks. This can also apply to materials used for building paintball bunkers, and wind and sun screens. Natural materials like muslin and coir can be decorated with flexible and hybrid UV inks. Items such as party favors and merchan- dise bags and even doormats can be printed with flexible or hybrid UV inks. Bags made from muslin (a lightweight cotton material) hold the inks well, and the inks will not crack when the bags are folded or stuffed with goodies. Coir doormats endure a lot of abrasions, and rigid inks more readily crack, especially when exposed to the limited surface area of the coir fibers. Flexible and hybrid inks are more abrasion resistant and thus stand up to more abuse than traditional rigid UV inks. Artwork printed onto pleather sports balls needs to be able to handle the abuse of being hit, kicked, bounced, slammed, and swatted, often into hard substrates like wooden and synthetic gym floors, rims, backboards, and goals.

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