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Is "On-Demand" Screenprinting Feasible?

1441 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  wwpro
We've started a clothing company and learned how to screenprint. Our business model is to launch 10 new shirt designs every spring and fall on our website, then print the shirts as they are ordered. In the beginning we plan to only print on Fridays, and then mail them on Saturdays. We do not want to carry an inventory of "finished" shirts and hope to only purchase blanks as needed from a local supplier.

Our designs are simple, just one color. We are expecting to sell mostly white on black. I wouldn't say we've mastered the white on black technique, but we've gotten pretty decent at it. In the future we would like to expand to more colors.

The overall issue/concern coming up is: Will it be feasible to screenprint such small quantities (1-5 shirts per design) "on-demand"?

The little problems we have already come across are:

  1. Stencils/emulsion breaking up and pinholeing after only 3-4 "runs" due to washing them out after printing.
  2. Stencils/emulsion having a filmy residue after washing them out after the 1st print "run" which leads to no or limited ink passing through to the shirts in certain areas of the design in subsequent print "runs".
  3. The time/materials needed to setup and test print for an end result of just 1 or 2 shirts per design.
So with that said, is anyone else successfully printing very small quantities on demand and if so, what are some tips and tricks?

If not, what would be a recommended process to use (i.e. heat transfer, DTG) that has an end result of quality, durable prints on the shirts?

Thanks for any comments and suggestions!
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First, get your screen problems figured out. It sounds like you're underexposed. Second, get your white technique down to a point you are satisfied.

If they are just one color, registration is simple, so you don't really need to clean the screen out after every use, just keep enough ink in the well for a few prints. Keep the screens put away on a shelf, and print to order.

The only thing is that you'll need a screen for every design this way. But if you're only printing the 10 designs per season, 10 screens isn't that many. Just reclaim them for the next season's designs when that time comes.
What do you mean specifically by "washing them out"?

If using plastisol just scrape out the ink and wipe it down with a solvent dampened rag.
If it is Plastisol ink you are using I would print Plastisol Transfers . It sounds if it is the perfect option for you , you would need to purchase a heat press though . I print 40 Transfers at a time and then heat press a shirt as required , even one shirt it is easy to do . I use the Wilflex transoft Super White and T100 hotsplit Transfer paper am very happy with the end results on black shirts .
I don't know what kind of designs are you selling, but seems to me like heat transfer vinyl is the way to go for your model. Even if you don't have a vinyl cutter it would be a wise investment for you, if you consider you can replace the emulsion issue using sign vinyl as your emulsion if you're only printing a few shirts per run.
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