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Eye-catching 3D images on T-shirts became possible by incorporating microspheres into ink formulations several decades ago and have continued to gain in popularity ever since.

Now embossed, velvety patterns for wallpaper, luxury labels and packages are also boosting their visual appeal by enhancing brand identity and creative designs. Premium beverage labels and direct on-can printing, calling for a frosty or wet look, are other active application areas.

Typically, unexpanded microspheres are used in printing inks for screen and gravure printing to provide 3D patterns on paper, wallpaper and textiles. They can enable inks to provide a graphic edge with eye-catching images on designer clothing or a velvety look on wallpapers. These effects can also be applied for the packaging of luxury perfumes and liquours.

When used in printing inks, especially those that are waterborne, expandable microspheres are added to standard production formulations. Solvent-borne inks, plastisols and UV-curing inks also work well with the microspheres. Many of the commercially available polymer binders for printing inks are also suitable for expandable inks.

The print is applied by screen-printing; a well-known application is wallpaper. The amount of expandable microspheres should be 1–10% (dry weight) of the total weight of the formulation. The higher the amount of microspheres the greater the loft of the print.

By using microspheres with different particle sizes, the look and feel of the printed surface can be modified. Microsphere grades with a larger particle size give the expanded plastisol, or ink, a rougher surface than the grades with small particle size. When only a matte surface of the plastisol is desired, the amount of Expancel DU needed is about 0.5 to 1%.

We can provide thermoplastic microspheres in both expanded and unexpanded form, packaged into any volume increment or custom blended with dry filler materials.