Monday, March 2, 2015

Machinery maintenance

Almost daily, a customer will ask us for a maintenance schedule for one of their pieces of Brown machinery.  This call is a positive sign of customer preparedness and we are happy to answer any questions.

However, on this question, most callers are dumbfounded as to our answer.  Keep the machine clean.  Which, for most manual shops is the only maintenance necessary.

This appears to be a simplistic approach to maintenance but it is the one basic necessity and it is not as commonly followed as you think.

But let us give you some examples.  All of these photos are from machinery that we have taken in on trade.  Many of these pieces are within 10 year old.

Based on these photos of registration gates of manual and automatic presses, how are the machines supposed to hold register when the gates are full of lint, spray adhesive and rust?  Since the registration and the pivot sections of the print head are the most vital parts, these should be clean and greased.  

The other sections of any textile printer that needs maintenance are the micro registration areas and the screen clamps.  These parts are touched by the operator during a print run and they should be kept clean so that the shirts do not get ink or dirt transferred to them.  Also, if the micro systems are kept clean and greased, then they will be more functional and the set up time for the operator will be less.

Think of the money you will save on operator time and finished product packaging!

Here are photos from ovens.  Oh, my....
Let's start with the fan filter.  All of the electronics need to be cooled using air flow.  If the fans and air ducts are full of lint, what happens to these controls?  They burn out.  That is expensive.

Then comes the heat baffle.  If this is an indication of the whole shop, how does anything run through the oven without getting dirty.  Wiping the lint off flat surfaces doesn't take much time and will save garments.  

The oven frame full of lint is very common for us to see.  The clean dryer belt that is pictured is unusual.  A monthly run of a shop vacuum on any of these machines will keep the lint under control.  Also, if the dryer frame looks like this, what life will the drive motor assembly have?  A short one.  And that is also an expensive package to purchase.

Clean means money saved.

We do get clean trade-ins.  These machines are retired after 15-20 years of production.   The machines were wiped down on a scheduled basis and all of the moving parts were greased.  They are nice to see and they will be great buys for other printers in their second life.  The one pictured below is much newer, but it is a sign of how well this shop maintains their machinery investments. 

Can you blame it on the spray adhesive?

Spray adhesive does coat a machine with sticky residue.  This residue attracts the lint from the shirts and presses can quickly become fuzzy.  A quick wipe down at the end of each week is all that is needed to keep that from happening. 

The lint that is found on and in ovens is not spray adhesive related.  That is just a build up of lint from product run on the belt.  It is the easiest to clean up.  Once a week with a shop vac and it is gone.  Every 6 months it is wise to open the control panel and clean out any lint that may have settled in through the vents.

One industry change that is helping keep shops clean is the reduction of spray adhesive.  Many shops have switched to spreadable platen glue.  This reduces airborne particles that stick to the machinery.  The adhesive is water based, so it wipes off printers quite easy.

So what should you do?

Take a step back and look at your print area.  Does your machinery look like it has cotton candy stuck to it?  Or is there fur?  Then pick up a broom, shop vac, and cleaning rag.  You will have longer lasting equipment, easier set ups and a nicer looking finished product if you do.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No dyno grays? Really?

Yes, really.  The new FireFly curing system is the answer to zero dye migration.  It is the answer to flexible production.  It is the answer to reduced power consumption and reduced floor space.

It is the future of curing decorated textile garments.

So, how can we make these claims?  Easy.  By having these claims proven in production in large production houses around the US.  But enough bragging.  What exactly are we saying.

Let's start with the size of the oven.  The one pictured above has 3 belts that are 27" wide.  The total length of the oven is 15'.  So the final floor space is 12' x 15'.

That does not appear to be anything to get excited about.  But wait.

The production rates on a unit of that size is what gets attention.  
  • Plastisol  400 pieces per hour
  • Waterbase/Discharge 200 pieces per hour
  • Kornit 150 pieces per hour
  • Digital 85 pieces per hour
Yes, small but powerful.  But wait, there's more.

Size does matter, but flexibility is the key.

We understand that these numbers are impressive for a unit this small.  However, what really catches attention is what each lane can do.  Typical with split belt ovens, the chamber is at a constant temperature and air volume.  The only change available is the belt speed.  So if you set a chamber air temperature of 350F, then the operator can adjust the different belt speeds to accommodate white shirts versus black ones.

The FireFly is very different.  These units see every job as its own production item.  Each job has its own set of parameters that are programmed in.  Each garment has a bar code that will match its proper program.  The bar code is scanned and the oven lane will change all variables for that one garment.  Time, temperature, air flow is all modified for each garment as it is fed into the chamber.

Wait, what?  Read that again!  Time, temperature, air flow is all modified for each garment.  

That doesn't seem possible.  However, with the latest technology in thermal imaging cameras and our own software, the FireFly does just that.  Custom cure each garment.  One right after the other.

So how does that save power?

If a lane is idle, such as a job switch or break time, the machine heaters power down.  So, instead of running a large oven during lunch break making the dial on the electric spin, the oven would sit cold.  When the first garment of the next run appears, the lane will run a short pre-warming cycle and then allow the garment to enter.  Crazy stuff, right?

Also, if one lane is needed but the others are not, then only the one lane is hot. 

So the big question.  How does all this eliminate dye migration?

Dye migration is caused by the temperature of the garment getting high enough to reactivate the dye.  This dye will travel into other liquids, like plastisol.  So how does the FireFly fix that?  Each lane has a constant monitoring system that reads the temperature of the garment. The garment's allowed temperature is programmed into the software and the heaters are cycled on and off to stay within that temperature range.  If the temperature of the garment is kept below dye activation temperature then the dye migration is stopped. Bingo.  No Dyno inks needed.

Seriously!  This is all possible.

So, if the FireFly can do all of these amazing things, why doesn't everyone make them?  Well, that little secret is why this is a patent pending product.  But it is also the reason why you should own one. 

Call today for additional information.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 show season begins

FireFly demonstration
2015 has kicked off to a roaring start!

And welcome to a new season.  We are loading our trucks this week for upcoming events and we hope to see you there.  We have many new things to show you and we are very excited to hear your reaction.

The first event of the season was the PPAI show in Las Vegas. We displayed 2 amazing machines at this show.  The ElectraPrint Junior and the FireFly Curing System.  The speed and small size of the ElectraPrint makes this a great addition to any print shop.  The versatility of the FireFly is a perfect curing option for shops with direct-to-garment machines, athletic printers who print on performance materials and any shop who is trying to feed from multiple print operations onto one belt.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We've been nominated!

Nominated for a Reggie!  How exciting!  

Now all we need is a little help from our friends.   

Best New Product - 2014

This category is for products that have made an impact on our industry in 2014 that are relatively new to the market place. It maybe have been around for a few years already, but really affected our industry in 2014. 
So what are we asking?  For you to vote.  Follow the link and vote for the FireFly.  The voting is anonymous but we believe that the FireFly deserves this recognition.

Monday, November 3, 2014

BrownDigital FireFly introduction


This October, BrownDigital, a division of Brown Manufacturing Group, Inc. introduced the FireFly line of curing system.  The DragonAir line was expanded to include the new modular Griffin and the upgraded Fire models.  The SGIA introduction was a huge success.

 DragonAir Fire


The DragonAir Fire units feature TRX software with touch screen displays and DragonAir Core Technology.  The Fire is designed for high volume of discharge, direct-to-garment and water based printing. 

 DragonAir Griffin


The DragonAir Griffin units feature the TRXi software on a larger 10” touchscreen and internet connectivity.  These units provide the production of the DragonAir Fire with the mobile control needed in today’s fast paced world.  The added feature of modular design provides growth flexibility to any shop.

Finally, the FireFly, a patent pending machine, was shown in the Kornit booth and provides unique thermal imaging software and quartz heat technology for reduced floor space requirements, increased production volume and higher quality final goods.

As was proven at SGIA, the FireFly is the future of curing for digital print on textile.  If you have interest in this product line, please contact us for additional information.

Thank you for considering BrownDigital.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The evolution of garment curing solutions.

We are going to take a trip back in time.  

Let's go back to the 80's when t-shirt printing began its meteoric rise to the behemoth the industry is today.  Before that time, very few people had screen printed shirts.  These shirts were printed with air-dry ink that did not have durability.  The development of the conveyor curing oven and plastisol inks changed everything.

Harco was and early leader in the new plastisol curing market.  Some of the first items were small, clever and efficient.  The Shuttle Flash was well received and handled the volume of many manual printers of that era.  However, conveyors were needed to speed things up.

Harco became the manufacturer of many brands of ovens.  The same oven was painted brown, blue and green.  It had at least 3 different logos that were printed on them.  These ovens offered unique features not found in others, such as cal-rod heaters, fan cooled temperature controls, thermocouples that read chamber temperature and variable temperature control.

All of these features are still used in current ovens.
The technology has advanced but the benefits of these basics has remained constant.

Moving into the future.

The t-shirt business morphed into a large industry that includes athletic printing, community printing and garments in every retail store in the world.  Volume is key.  The electric oven is the standard in most community printer shops and the electronics in these units has advanced into solid state controls.

Volume production has been set up around the world.  Shirts are printed in bulk in 2nd and 3rd world nations as the labor is less expensive and regulations are light.  The large production houses have added gas heated ovens to their print lines to increase volume.  Gas in many parts of the world is less expensive than electricity.

Harco never sold gas ovens in volume.  The ovens were created and sold but the majority of the company's time was spent helping community printers expand their business and understand the changing garment and ink technologies.

What happened next?

Yes, this is a history lesson.  But there is a point.  Hold on.

The TRX is now the top of the line textile dryer in the industry.  It still has all the features of the ovens from the early days but it offers much, much more.  Digital technology in a touch screen interface puts this model at the top of the game.  We could brag about this for another paragraph or so, but this is a history lesson.  So if you need more information, click here.

New industries create new challenges.

So the t-shirt printing world is ever changing.  The direct to garment printers were first introduced in the early 2000's.  We saw the first one at the ISS Long Beach show and knew that they would change the way garments are decorated.  It has taken a few years but this technology is the future.  So how has the curing of printed changed?

First transfer machines were used.  These garments have to be handled a lot before they can be shipped.  That problem is being resolved at an exponential rate.  The curing answer is the DragonAir series of dryers.  Again, we can tell you all about them here but it is faster if you visit the web site.

The future?

Ok, so why did you read this history lesson?  What was the point?  

The point is that this industry is ever changing.  We have engineers on staff that are constantly researching the changes in garment printing production and are creating solutions to new problems.
What does that really mean?  Visit us at SGIA to find out.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Expanding your business with on-site printing

All businesses, large or small, are looking to expand their market potential.  While repeat customers must be catered to and require constant attention, developing new business is how a business grows.  For many companies new business is created by the development of new products but another option is to expand into new markets.  At Brown, our engineers are always creating new and exciting products.  But additionally, we are now expanding into the global market and showing at new events.  This is expanding our product line and our customer base.

What are your expansion options?

One possibility is by offering products on-site at events.  These events can be festivals, markets, sporting tournaments or maybe your front side walk.  Summer offers this opportunity for those in colder climates and tourism feeds economic growth.  What are your options for printing on-site?

  • pre-print goods for the event.  In this way your are prepared and there is no initial on-site stress.  When you sell out, you go home.  The stress comes in 2 ways.  You either run out too soon, or you are stuck with inventory you cannot sell.  
  • Create or order heat transfers that you apply on site.  This is a great way to manage inventory.  You only press what you sell and the transfers are inexpensive to throw away.  There are two negatives.  One is that many people do not like the feel of heat transfers and, two, you do not generate a feeling of excitement within your booth.  You could have sold more.
  • The final option is to print on-site.  You only print what you need.  Customers receive a printed shirt, which many people feel is a higher quality than a transfer.  And you create an excitement within your booth that people want to watch the garments being printed and may buy more.

So what is involved in on-site direct printing?

First, if you think you should pull the equipment from your shop and set it up at a new location, think again.  That is a quick way to frustrate yourself and lose money.  The shop needs to be left alone to produce the work it was set up to do.

Second, if you think you can print on any used stuff you find cheap, then remember what it is like when your press doesn't hold register and your dryer breaks down.  Frustration and no money.

The answer is an inexpensive and portable set up that is designed to roll in and out with easy power hook up and real printing capabilities.  The size of machine you decide on is determined by your budget and your vehicle size.  

There are many options.  Just remember that you need the basics.  A multi-color printer, a tunnel oven and a flash dryer.  Unless you own a generator, then plan on all these items needing 120V power that you can "borrow" from the event.  You can start with table top machines that are small enough to load in a hatch back, or scale up to a PonyXprs that loads into a pick up or a small trailer.  With either of these options, there are profits to be made.

Your only final decision is where to start.  

If you have a business in an area with heavy foot traffic, how about starting in your parking lot.  Like a tent sale, only with new stuff.  The next option is to find the next street fair in your town.  The cost to show is minimal and you will pick up long term customers there as well.  Once you have tried on-site you will see the benefits and the increased customer base.