Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Master Printer series: a tune up, or a clean up?

Is your shop tuned up and cleaned up?  

Maybe you are ready for a check up?

In our continuing series of tips from our master technician, we like to cover what makes a shop function at its best.  The highest functioning production departments are typically the most profitable and have an edge on the market because of their efficiency, product quality and willingness to expand into new techniques.

Facilities that are clean and well organized can add new techniques and products into their flow because they are know where there is room and how it will affect standard operations.  Also, these facilities know where all their tools are located and those tools are in great working condition so that changes can happen when urgent situations happen.  Finally, the product quality is spot on because when everything is very clean and organized, items can ship in perfect condition and nothing gets misplaced.

So, look around your shop.  There are tell tale signs of production issues.  If these signs are here then there is a good chance that your machinery, as well as your facility needs a good overhaul.

  • Are your squeegees totally clean and organized on a rack by size or durometer?
  • Are all your screens organized by what stage of the prepress they are in?
    • Ink cleaning station
    • Strip or dip tank station
    • Ready to coat
    • Coated and ready to expose
    • prepped for the upcoming jobs
    • extras sorted by mesh count
    • old jobs stored together by job or customer
  • Are your inks and prepress products on clean tables and in clean containers?
  • Are your machines wiped down so that there is minimal lint and no ink on it?
  • Skip the production floor... how does everything else look?
    • Cafeteria or break room
    • Shipping and receiving
    • Trash cans
    • Work spaces
As a tip, if you would feel a need to clean it up to show it to your Mom, then clean it anyway.

Cleaned up, so now what?

Service contracts are available.
Once everything is shiny and new looking, then the flow of your production and the operating precision of your equipment can be evaluated.  Like HVAC equipment, printing machinery needs yearly maintenance.  Our technicians are trained in the installation and upkeep of Brown and BrownDigital equipment.  They are available for tune-ups as well at printing training on a scheduled rotation.  While they are in your facility, they check all of your Brown equipment:
  • Electrical connections and functions
  • Motors and drive systems
  • Registration systems
  • Wear points
  • Machine leveling
  • and much more...
And while they are there, they are available for printing and production flow training and advice.  Contact Brown Mfg for availability and pricing for your list of machinery.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Master Printer series: Greenery is important

From our Master Printer

As our Master Printer visits customers to install new machines and to help improve the production at our existing customer's locations, he notices things that may help all who are interested in keeping up with the best production techniques and the latest technology.  This is the latest in the series of observations.

Spring is a time of upkeep

Spring is here and we've set our clocks accordingly and replaced the batteries in our smoke alarms..  If you have read previous spring cleaning posts, you have already done the suggested maintenance for all of your equipment.  If you are interested in a technician doing some maintenance on your machinery, just give us a call or send us an email.

However, there is another level of spring upkeep, Pantone® books.  Pantone is a universal way of conveying color to different vendors across a vast array of products.  These colors are referenced in all manner of marketing and printing and Pantone is a color palette in artwork applications.  Just for fun, the Pantone color of the year for 2017 is Greenery, number 15-0343 and hex code is 88B04B.  If you aren't familiar with what these numbers reference, you might check out our latest e-blast because it is the background color.

So how does any of this apply to a textile printer?

Most community based customers have an image in their head or a previous print job in their hand that they are trying to match.  Do NOT let them use a Pantone book to match these colors.  This is where your handy color book from the ink supplier is best applied.  These are standard colors that will suit most situations and will make your life easier.  Keep one of these handy for all your sales conversations.  Typically, these are actual prints of standard colors that are glued into place.  They will give the best representation for the customer.  And for your own production simplicity, try to lead a customer to the colors you already own and stock 2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows. This reduces your inventory costs and future headaches on repeat orders.

The best representation is a key word here.  Computer monitors are not all the same.  What appears scarlet red on your screen will appear differently when you send a PDF mock up for your customer to approve.  Also, the output device that you print from will give different results than one at the customer shop and will be different than the final print.  This is where the true color card is important.  

If a customer refers to a Pantone color and has had other items printed with that color, then it is advised to use exactly that color.  This is where your own book comes in handy.  These books fade with time so a new one should be ordered every few years.  Also, these colors are shown in matte, coated, and uncoated.  This refers to the offset printing process.  However, most textile printers refer to the coated color to match due to the final finish of textile inks.  Be specific when with your customer because the uncoated colors are darker with less "pop" than the coated.

The formula guide for the color is printed on the book.  Those rations will give you great results if you have the mixing colors in house.  If you need small quantities, your local supplier can mix the color for you.  If you have customers who refer to custom colors often, then a mixing system in-house would be a good investment.

Why would I want to mix my own colors?

In addition to customers who refer to Pantone colors there are other reasons to mix color in-house.

ShortStop Athletic Numbering System
We are sure that you have already run into the problem that your little league heat seal numbers do not match the direct print ink that you are printing for the logo.
On a sales note, that is one reason that Brown sells athletic numbering systems.  But, moving along.
How do you fix this in your current shop?  Many customers will custom mix these colors and keep them separate from the stock colors.  Use your Pantone book to match to the vinyl and mix your direct color based on that formula.  Again, we would really suggest direct printing the numbers as well, but you might still have to match to individual player names.

How does this pay out?

Pantone books have a bit of a sticker shock until you realize how often they are used.  Also, color mixing seems daunting until you have done it a few times.  However, quality prints, done quickly for happy customers make for profitable businesses.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anaconda flash cure features

The Anaconda is the latest option for the ElectraPrint automatic t-shirt printer.  This system uses heat and a roller to flatten the fibers of a garment into the base ink layer.  The effect is sharper prints that pop off a shirt and feel softer and smoother.

Simple in design.

Using the structure of a Stretch Devices M3 roller frame, the Anaconda utilizes teflon sheeting as the base support that is in contact with the garment.  A flat, flexible heater is placed in the squeegee side of the teflon.  A digit temperature control with a thermocouple will keep the heater within 7° of the set temperature.  A silicone pad is placed on top of the heater for friction protection.  A roller is used in the squeegee system to press the heat onto the shirt.  Typically used in conjunction with a standard QuartzAir flash, this process offers startling results with quick speed.

Not just for Brown presses.

Because the frame structure is a standard 23" x 31" M3 roller frame, the Anaconda can be used with any automatic press.  Roller systems are available for all press types.  

Reasonable cost and simple install.

The Anaconda is no more expensive than our QuartzAir flash systems and they require only 120V, 17A of power, installation is quick and simple.  These are a great addition to any shop.  

For additional information call us today.  616-249-0200

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trade show goals

The Brown event calendar is full of activity.  We are traveling to over 20 trade shows in 2017 and that means 2-3 per month.  We invest in these events because, unlike traditional advertising, trade show floors give us the opportunity to talk directly with our customers.  And it allows potential customers to see for themselves what products are the best choice for their business.  You can access our upcoming events on our website.

Many people avoid going to shows for many reasons.  Often, they do not want to take themselves out of their day-to-day operations for concern of decreased production.  Additionally, many believe that their production flows well enough so they do not need improvement.  Or, some folks are intimidated by the atmosphere of a convention hall and they think it is money wasted.

What can you get out of it?

Let's start with the money issue.  All of the shows that we display at would prefer that customers pay for something.  However, as vendors, we have paid for the hall space.  All of the vendors offer "get in free" passes to the convention floor.  This is a priceless resource.  Though it will not get you into seminars, it does give you the opportunity to create your own seminar as you walk.

Huh?  My own seminar?  Yes.  

Let's say your shop recently struggled with a certain job.  Either the job came back from a dissatisfied customer or was not the quality you would like.  Maybe the profit was too low.  Now is the time to develop a plan for the next time that kind of job comes in.

Your best resource are the vendors on the floor.  These people are trained in the newest techniques available.  Many of them have been in the industry for a while and they can give advice as to what really works, both old and new tech.  Additionally, their job is to talk to people.  For those who are uncomfortable talking with people, all you have to do is to get them started talking and then listen.  You will gain tons of information.  Yes, maybe a sales pitch will be thrown in to the mix.  But, don't let that intimidate you.  It is your wallet.  You control how that part of the conversation progresses.

Another resource wandering the floor are the people just like you.  Sit down for lunch and chat with someone you don't know.  Trust me, these people are all in the same situation.  They came to learn something and see what will help their business.  Your experience may help them and vice versa.  And, though the food is expensive, you will want to sit and rest from time to time.

While you are resting, take a look at what is in front of you.  And while you stroll, look in each booth.  You can casually look away and think, "I don't need new shirts" but you never know what you might want next week.  So look at the new products in all the booths, machinery as well.  You may not have a capital expenditure on your to-do list, but new tech might help you.  And, your competitor may be looking so be aware of what is possible.

Take a seminar.  They are beneficial.

Finally, if you have time a a little cash, take some classes.  As a suggestion, do not get too technical with a class.  If you do not offer 4 color process, don't overwhelm yourself with that information.  However, new information on printing that you do often is always helpful.  Additionally, don't use all your time in seminars.  The floor time is often more useful and practical than what you learn in a seminar.

From the vendors point of view... what not to do.

We have over 30 years of trade show experience.  We have seen all types wander the halls.  There are a few things we are pretty sure of.  First, all those catalogs and brochures you are picking up will probably get filed away and never looked at.  You might take the time to put them in a file cabinet, but typically they will all end up in a box and then in the trash.  Not because it was not well intended information but you can get too much of a good thing.  In our day of technology, access to the web will get you all of this information and more.  So skip all those bags and only collect the items you are truly interested in.

One type of attendee avoids conversation.  They are either intimidated by what they do not know, or what they cannot buy.  Let's start with the idea that you are there to learn something.  So if you are unsure of your knowledge, ask a question.  Someone will provide information that will be helpful.  As for what you cannot buy, that can change.  So be prepared and look at future purchases.

On that note, please remember that the industry is full of experts.  Always get more than one answer to your question.  Compare the information and do what makes sense.  Also, if you are just looking, please ask some questions.  Gather some information that will help you in the future.  However, remember that these people are there to talk to everyone and typically are there to sell something.  

And they are there to sell something.  Do not get fooled by bells and whistles.  This is your money and your business.  Look at the best way to spend your hard earned time and money.

Speaking of your time and money...

Enjoy yourself.  Relax and take a stroll down cool new-stuff lane.  Your shop can run for a day or so without you.  If it can't then use this as an opportunity to learn ways to fix that.  Have a nice dinner afterward and talk about what you saw.  If you are there for more than one day, use this dinner to plan the next day's endeavors.  These are fun events with friendly people who truly want everyone to do well.  

So stop in to see us at Brown.  We have plenty of new tech to show you as well as advice from a group of people who have been doing this for 3 generations.  You might learn something and have a laugh at the same time.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Manual printing options

There are so many options available to screen print a shirt.  The different machinery levels can be confusing and the options available are essential to some but unnecessary to others.  Let's break down the machinery levels and what all of those features can do for the press operator.

CP-42R ClassicPrinter
There are some basics to begin.  Beginner presses are typically designed to be mounted on a bench or table.  They also only allow for a maximum of 4 colors to be printed.  And they do not have features for micro-registration or rotary load platens.  However, they print shirts and have a low initial investment which means that the ROI is quicker and higher.

Whoa... some technical terms were tossed about there.  Slow down, what do those mean?

  • Micro-registration is an adjustment feature on each color head that keeps the screen secure in the clamps but the operator has dial adjustment to move the screen small amounts.  This comes in handy when registering multi-color jobs.  Though, this is not a require item on a press, it makes the press faster to operate so jobs are produced quicker.  Time is money.
  • Rotary load platens is also referred to as speed tables.  The print boards rotate as well as the print heads.  This allows for flash curing between colors while you are still printing.  It also gives the opportunity for additional people to load and unload shirts while the press operator is printing.  
PP-64 PonyPrinter
Moving up the ladder of printing machines, we add some basic items.  First, these typically are mounted on a stand.  A stand designed for the press tends to make the whole operation more stable.  Unlike bench models, the entire design of this level press is heavier and designed for a longer life span.  These units may start to have some extra features like more colors,micro-registration and rotary platens but they are typically rear clamping.  The micros are usually not as tight as higher end machines and the platens are made of wood.  Again, the initial investment is lower so the ROI is quick.  They tend to be more durable than table top types so they will provide that return for years.

Stop!  Another new term!  

  • Rear clamping refers to how the screen is secured into the printing head.  Rear clamp machines typically have 2 knobs that hold the short side of the frame.  This positioning is quick for screen load but can offer issues during a print run.  Off-contact and screen warp are two of the most common.
  • Off- contact (yeah, we snuck that one in) is the distance between the substrate and the print side of the screen.  The screen should not sit directly on the shirt and the distance should stay stable across the print area.  In rear clamp situations, there is nothing to support the nose of the frame so off-contact shifts from back to front as you pull the squeegee.
MD-64 MidLine
Mid-line presses are the next level.  This is where you will see refinement in the design and durability of the machine.  Stands become bases, support shafts get stronger, micro registration adjustments get finer, and pivot mechanisms are more durable.  These machines are designed for community printers and for full shifts of printing.  They will be offered with 4, 6 or 8 color options and 4, 6 or 8 platens. Some of the presses are still rear clamp, while some have moved to side clamp for more stability. The price starts to shift upward but their set-up and features make the ROI still within a year.

See what we did there?  

  • Stand versus base.  A stand is a table designed to hold something.  In this case it is a durable steel structure designed to hold a 4 or 6 color printer.  A base is integral to the printer itself.  Often the design of the platen support hub is part of the base.
  • Finer micro-adjustment.  You just learned what micros are and now they change too?  Sure, like all tools they can get better.  The amount of movement with each turn is smaller and tighter on mid line machines.
  • Pivot mechanisms are what the print heads go up and down on and the print/platen hubs spin around.  In starter machines, these are usually wear parts made of bronze or plastic.  As the durability of the machine goes up, these parts become more solid.  At this level the presses start to have sealed bearings and hardened parts.
  • Support shaft is what all the hubs spin around.  The starter machines usually have some bot together parts with lazy susan bearings or a hardware spindle for the print and platen hubs to rotate around.  Again, these are wear parts.  In mid line machines, you will see a solid shaft that moves through the full mechanism of the press and some sealed bearings for everything to rotate on.
MP-666 MasterPrinter
Premium machines is where all these features come together.  This level of machine offers sealed bearings on all applicable locations, solid shafts, side clamps, tight micro registration, aluminum platens, heavy construction and extra options such as preregistration systems and interchangeable platen.  The price on these can get as high as $8,000 but they are designed for full shift production and long life spans.  One of these should last 20 years with the same quality print as when it was first produced.  ROI takes longer but the press will still be a profit center long after the depreciation is over.

Last call.

  • Aluminum platens are covered in a screen print resistant rubber.  These platens do not warp or burn and are a life time investment.
  • Interchangeable platens for what?  For the automatic printer that you know you want.  
  • Pre-registration systems speed up set up starting in the art room all the way through screen processing and press set up.  These systems cut set up time down to seconds for multi color jobs.  As we remind you, Time is Money.
So the final question is, "what do you do"?  That is all dependent upon money, space and function.  We have often suggested starter presses to big shops because of the function it will be used for.  And, if there is a premium press available on the used market, anyone should buy it if they have the space. Most machines on the market will produce quality printed shirts.  Stick with your budget and your space, because when you grow you will add new presses.  If you go in debt on a press then the ROI will take too long.   

Friday, December 2, 2016

Flash cure cost savings


We offer different styles of flash cure units for manual printing and athletic number printing.  FastFlash™ and SplitFlash™ are historically reliable and effective at their function.  The QuartzAir™ flashes for both manual presses and QuartzAir SplitFlash for athletic numbering systems have a higher initial investment, function just as well but offer long term cost savings that are often overlooked.

The less expensive version is designed with calrod™ style heaters.  The

The cost savings on a quartz style flash system comes in the cycle count and speed.  Due to the ability to reduce the heat between print cycles, the power consumption reduces and so do power costs.  One of the major benefits of printing with a quartz flash is that the flash cure time for each garment it a constant.  The flash cycles on when a garment activates a sensor and the the flash cycles to a lower temperature after a preset amount of time.  When the flash is at a lower temperature, its pose consumption is at a fraction of full.

This power consumption cycle differs from the FastFlash style because calrod heaters stay on at full capacity for the entire shift without any reduction for down time.  This is a 100% full current load for 8 hours.

So enough of the tech talk.  What does this mean for the monthly bill?

A customer recently sent us an email about their experience.

"So I have had the Quartz Air flash for about 5 months now and I wanted to give you some more info you could share down the road... 
I moved over from the FF2020 and it might just be due to the way that I approach printing - but when I am comparing print days BEFORE the Quartz Air and now - the savings is pretty substantial, or a lot more than I had thought. 
On an average print day I am using about $5 less electricity. 
Doesn't sound like a ton, but $5 for a 5 day work week is $1,300 a year. That's pretty substantial if you ask me. Not to mention the shop being much cooler and not having to wait for the flash to heat up etc. 
Now I know everyone's experience may vary but even just saving $500 per year would more than pay for the unit against a traditional IR panel flash over 5 years. 
I love this thing. Thanks for making it!"

 As for the Numberprinter QuartzAir SplitFlash we have more definite cost analysis.

Quartz Flash High Power
Quartz Flash Idle Power (50%)

Time at idle power (per minute):
Time at full power (per minute):

Average Quartz Flash Power

Average Conventional Split Flash Power:
Average Power Savings of Quartz Flash Over Conventional Flash:

Power usage per 9-hour day:
Electricity cost per KWh:
Cost Savings per 9-hour day:
Cost of purchasing Quartz Flash:
Number of days to recoup purchase price:
Number of 365-day years to recoup purchase price:

Everyone has a budget to purchase equipment. 

The choice of conventional flash curing equipment is a good one.  The final product produced will be high quality and the cost of running the equipment is well within a monthly cost structure.  However, when looking long term, consider quartz flashes for both the timer function on the heat and for the lower energy consumption.  A higher quality garment with a lower power bill.  Who wouldn't want that?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Save money by saving time.

What many of our customers fail to remember is that time is more valuable than products.  And if a shop wants to save money, they have to save time.

Most often, that wasted time is from trying to use low quality tools for any job.  In this case we are discussing screen frames.

Tips from our Print Master installer

Screen frames have more influence on how well and how profitable job are produced.  Yes, we are sure you have heard all the hype and looked at all the articles.  Yes, we know that screen frames seem expensive and they appear to last forever.  Yes, we know you can print through anything.  Been there, done that.

However.  The real expense is hidden.

Wood frames are the least expensive.  They are typically dipped in varnish to help to seal them.  However, even new ones, warp.  Yes, sure you can push down a corner when you are printing.  Yes, sure you can put them in the side clamps and they will flatten.  However, they do not hold register once they warp.  If you can lay a frame on a flat surface and they rock from corner to corner then they are warped.  They should be used at your next bonfire.

Once, a frames has warped, the movement of the mesh is inconsistent from when the screen is exposed to when the when the squeegee presses the mesh to the product.  This makes the set up time on press longer.  Hence, a time waste for your press operator.

Rigid aluminum frames are dimensionally more stable than wooden frames.  They also have their issues.  They are more expensive as an initial investment.  However, they are also considered equipment and can be depreciated.  Wood frames are considered consumable.

One of the biggest time wasters is due to the cleanliness of the frames.  Dirty hand means dirty shirts.  
Aluminum frames do not absorb ink or cleaning solvents.  These items stay on the surface of the frame.  The aluminum frame needs to be wiped down after each use to keep the press operator's hands clean.  

Both of these frame styles have one HUGE issue that needs to be addressed on a regular basis in every shop.  Mesh tension.  Yes, we went there.  We are not talking about high newton measurement but we are saying that if you can see a job have on the mesh from 5 years ago, chances are the mesh tension is too low.  Well, non-existent.  This causes problems with registration because of mesh shifting during the print.  The image is exposed onto the mesh when there is no pressure against it.  However, in order to get ink to clear, you have to apply high level squeegee pressure.  How can a job register when it has been stretched out of position?  

These static mesh screens can be remeshed at reasonable prices.  $10-$15 per frame and new mesh at a tolerable tension can be glued to your existing frames.  That is certainly less expensive than the amount of time your press operator spends attempting to make these jobs hold register on press.

We are going to take a side trip down the merry lane of retensionable screens.   Yes, we are a distributor, so we are happy to have them installed with any of our machinery.  However, our goal is to product high quality prints on our ElectraPrint and MasterPrinter presses.  These can increase the quality of the print and reduce the press operators set-up time.

Being profitable and producing high quality work takes some investment.

We try to have our assembly staff use good tools when they build equipment.  They move faster and get better results when the tools are high quality.  Our installers each have a brand of tools they prefer but they are very picky about which ones are in their bags.  And everyone knows that cutting a tomato with a dull knife is a mess.  So our suggestion to you is to take a look at what is in your shop. A small investment could save you time, which is the best way to save money.