New ink passes the test

Nick Lewis (centre) pictured with some members of his team

In recent years, Derby-based DS Screen Prints has been exploring ways of becoming a more eco-friendly business. Among other things, this meant trying and using eco-friendly water-based screen printing inks. But these had their limits. That was until GIF Supplies suggested an interesting alternative. Here Nick Lewis, director, picks up the story.

DS Screen Prints was founded in 1990 and is headed up by myself and my brother Chris. Over the decades we have built a very successful worldwide alternative clothing brand, and so took the decision to expand the business 15 years ago to offer our extensive print and design experience and knowledge to others.

We now provide screen printing, embroidery, direct to garment printing, dye sublimation and vinyl printing services to a broad range of people including large established clothing brands, corporate clients, specialist sports companies, charities and events managers.

Passion for print

Our close-knit team have a real passion for print so we love to work closely with new brands, helping and advising. In the last 18 months we have noticed a large increase in new brands looking for eco-friendly inks and garments and sustainable printing companies, which is something that is very close to our own hearts.

In our push to become a more eco-friendly business, we look to actively reduce our C02 and electric running costs. Last year we invested in solar panels that generate all of the electricity that we use in our factory. We also invest in equipment that has the smallest C02 footprint and where we can we recycle waste, wash rags and carry out cardboard recycling.

Traditionally, producing water-based prints on to dark garments has had its limits. We have been trying eco-friendly water-based inks that are opaque, however in our print shop we find they need lots of additives to prevent drying in and help the curing process, which means shelf life is limited and ink wastage higher This inevitably increases the costs for our customers and slows the print process in our factory.

A few months ago, a local Derby brand called Reworked 348 approached us. They were looking for a cost-effective, but environmentally-friendly print for their latest range of reworked tees. These tees were originally produced in the 1990s in Kentucky, USA, using 100% combed cotton for the US army. They arrived from a European supplier still in their original packaging having never been worn.

As a company, Reworked 348 has built a very successful business reworking vintage clothing in their bid to reduce the impact the global clothing manufacturing industry has on the environment.

Water-based inks would have been too expensive for their budget so we researched into the latest PVC- and phthalate-free alternatives.

We have been a customer of GIF Supplies for a number of years using their range of plastisol textile inks. Mark Priest, GIF Supplies’ business development manager, suggested we test Uras Chemical’s PPF range of inks.

The Reworked 348 tee that was produced by DS Screen Prints

High standards

These inks do not contain PVC or phthalates and have been manufactured to conform to the highest ecological standards.

So far, we have been extremely impressed. We have run this ink range on a few jobs and find it prints better than regular plastisol inks. There is very little waste. It is easy to use and store as it behaves like a plastisol ink. It cures well with a bright smooth finish. The ink has a lovely soft feel and looks great.

Reworked 348 told us they were really impressed by the quality of the prints on their new range of reworked tees. They commented on just how great the prints feel to touch. But most importantly, they saw the PVC- and phthalate-free inks as the perfect balance between cost and sustainability.

Francesca Novilla, co-founder, added: “DS Screen Prints are literally around the corner from our design studio and are the greenest printers we could find locally, so perfect for the ethos of the brand. DSS were super helpful and supportive in finding us the most sustainable and eco-friendly method for Reworked 348, they really understood our ethos from the very beginning.”

As for us as business, in the next five years we would like to improve our C02 emissions further. This means replacing our current gas driers with more efficient models. We would also like to invest in an LED light box for exposing screens. We have already moved all factory lighting to LED tubes and have seen a significant saving, with the initial investment repaid within three years.

It is estimated that the global fashion industry accounts for around 20% of global clean water pollution and 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can see a big future in a more environmentally friendly approach to clothing manufacture and decoration, and at the moment we are very much enjoying being a part of it.

Key facts about Uras Chemical’s PPF range

  • The range consists of 11 colours and six fluorescent colours.
  • Also available are white inks, clear bases and special effect inks.
  • Oeko-Tex Eco-Passport certified, Global Organic Textile Standard certified and ISO 9001-2015 certified.
  • Manufactured up to ZDHC Level 3 using Nanoparticle Technology.
  • Cure at 160°C for 15 minutes.
  • Print with a silk-screen made between 43-120 mesh. Clean screens afterwards with a synthetic thinner.

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