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.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Flash cure options. Which is right for your production?

A must-have

One essential machine for any textile printing production line is a flash or spot cure unit.  These machines are essentially heaters on a stand that gel under layers of ink so that additional layers can be printed on top.  This process is necessary for white inks to pop and specialty inks to shine.  However, the technology, sizing, features and price tag can vary from unit to unit.  So which one is best for your production?

Cal-rod or Firebrick style

These are the type of unit that the majority of print shops own and use every day.  They have a stable heat source that stays hot continually and is durable and reliable.  The temperature is typically controlled by adjusting the distance from the garment and the length of time heat is applied to the print.  

One factor in the intensity of the heat is the size of the heat area in relation to the power supplied.  Many community print shops like machines that only require 120V power.  So, to provide the best unit at that power level we designed the FF-1616.  This unit has a heating area of 16" x 16".  Some of our competitors offer a similar unit with a heat area of 18" x 18".  The 120V power distribution through a larger space can cause a cooler overall surface area.  

For 208V-240V power supply, the heating area can get larger.  The Brown FF-2020 is a 20" x 20" heating area.  Again, there are some that are 24" x 24" but the heat intensity may reduce with that large of a surface area.

This style flash units often have limited controls and features.  Since these heaters are not quick to respond but hold heat well, simple temperature controls are best suited.  The Brown FastFlash comes equipped with rheostat style controls and also wheels for easy relocation on the production floor.

There are some units are available with motorized heads that will rotate the heater on and off the platen for a set amount of time.  This reduces the possibility of garment or platen scorch and offers a more consistent gel of ink.

The biggest feature of this style flash unit is the price.  Because of the heater style and limited controls, these units are the most inexpensive type.  They ship UPS or FedX because they are light weight and they last for years.  

Quartz style flash units

videoOriginally designed to mount on automatic t-shirt printers, these are rapidly becoming the standard for both manual and automatic production lines.  They are instant on/off and are quickly react for temperature adjustment.  They are very hot but, since they are quartz bulbs, they are not as reliable as the cal-rod style.  

These type units will typically come with temperature controls.  The type of controls affects the final cost of the unit.  They also will vary with the number of bulbs and how tightly they are mounted.  The more bulbs in a smaller space the hotter the unit.  But also, the more bulbs, the higher the power requirements.

Distance from the garment is still a factor.  The heaters are very intense and the heat distribution uses reflectors and the distance to the garment will balance the intensity.

The QuartzAir Flash from Brown balances the heat requirements with reasonable power supply needs.  They can be connected with an ElectraPrint machine or as a stand alone unit for any manual printer.  The units equipped to print on manual machines come with a timer that is activated by a foot switch or a laser sensor.  

The price tag is the final issue.  These units start 3x than the price of a cal-rod style.  However, they are hotter, faster and give a more reliable result.  This is a worthwhile investment when printing higher volume or temperature sensitive garments.  

Anaconda™.  Wait!  What's that?

With the advent of direct to garment printing, the look of the finished garment has changed.  Also, digital print heads are now incorporated into automatic textile screen printers.  This has changed the base requirements for a flash unit.  

The Anaconda is a flat heater encased in teflon that a roller presses onto a print.  The goal is to fold the fibers into the base coat and gel the ink.  This process is done manually on DTG machines and it creates a cleaner finished print.  Now that look and process is demanded on automatic presses.  The Anaconda will mount onto any manufacturer's press and a roller is substituted for the squeegee.  The shirt is flashed and pressed for the next layer of ink.
These units are highly controlled, offer quick reaction to temperature regulation and give the crisp print desired in the latest fashion market.  What is amazing is the price.  These units are similarly prices as the QuartzAir units.  

So what is right for your shop?

That is the real question.  The factors of production speed needs, power availability, finished look requirements and bottom line budget are what drives this decision.  For today, we still see most community printers with cal-rod flashes being the mainstay of the production floor.  The quartz style rule the automatics today and are edging in on the manuals but the Anaconda flash has an interesting future.

If you are not sure and want a bit of personal guidance, give us a call.  616-249-0200

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New technology coming to SGIA

SGIA is approaching fast and our engineering staff is working on new and innovative technology for introduction at this event.  With advancement in curing, lighting and software, there is a whirr of activity surrounding the entire department.  So what new items will you see?

Beginning at the manual machinery, the Set-N-Go™ preregistration system for the MasterPrinter™ now comes equipped with the LED pinpoint lighting system that has been an integral part of the system on the ElectraPrint™ automatic textile printers  These LED indicators light up when the screen is in the proper position, giving confirmation to the operator that the screen is ready to secure.  Speed, simplicity and accuracy are the keys to this great product.

Also in the manual printing line, Brown has re-issued the ShortStop™ athletic numbering system.  This is an attachment for a MasterPrinter or for any rear clamping carousel press.  This system prints 2-color digits of 4", 6", 8" 10" and 12" numbers with the speed typical of rotary load presses.  Set up a team name, and print numbers in one shirt load using a standard flash.  If you need to print athletic numbers, Brown has the solutions to fit your shop.

In the automatic printing category, the Anaconda™ is a new and unique product.  This is a completely new concept in flash curing.  It combines the compression heat of a transfer press with the speed of automatic printing.  Imagine a flash cure that flattens the fibers into the underbase and flashes in just a few seconds. It gives the print a crisp look without sacrificing production speed.  This is the Anaconda.  Revolutionary.

Lastly, the curing world is ever changing.  With the development of the FireFly™ we have learned much about curing situations around the globe.  The advancements in LED lighting technology allowed the development of the Vega™.  Similar to the FireFly in its versatility, the Vega is a LED curing system for UV ink systems.  This system can be purchased for pre-existing curing lines, combined with a FireFly or installed as an independent system.  LED is the forefront of UV curing solutions and the Vega with Linx™ Integration Software is the leader in innovation.

SGIA is the event for presentation of new and innovative products.  We are excited to introduce all of these and give hand-on demonstrations of our full line of machinery in booth 2147.  See you in Las Vegas!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Numbering machine options

Adding a numbering printer to your production floor can be a confusing process.  There are so many options of customizing an athletic jersey that the research itself can be intimidating.  At Brown, we understand that you have a work flow that you would like machinery to fit into.  You do not want to change your methods to match a new machine.  So, in that thinking, we offer many ways for you to expand into the world of profitable jersey customization.

What are the options and why are they offered?

Athletic numbering is all about product quality with reasonable speed.  There are different job types in this niche market and each of these have their own production issues.  Let's start with the job types.

Recreational league or team printing.

If your or a friend has a team that needs a few numbers, that is a simple job that transfers are perfect for.  Fifteen to twenty shirts that need a front logo and numbers are a great reason to order in custom numbers from companies such as Transfer Express.  First, with this one job you did not plan on a high profit margin.  Second, this is a small run that will disrupt your shop.

However, if you are connected with the Athletic Director or the head of the Recreation Department, you need to consider this a profit center and find a fast, simple way to produce these shirts.  Many of these jobs are 700 - 1000 shirts and each one is custom.  We do not recommend occupying your carousel to print this job.  If you do, then your money making machine is tied up on a low margin job.  Find a better way.

Local sports teams starting in the middle schools and up to the older players.

These are higher end uniforms with very specific customization.  Even the youth club soccer and volleyball teams are offering the option for player to choose their own number.  These players often have multiple jerseys and matching shorts and accessories.  These consumers are paying extra money for these uniforms and are looking for high quality printing.  

This is NOT a transfer job.  These need to be direct printed or sublimated.  As manufacturers of screen printing machinery, we are not big fans of sublimation.  So we will let you research that option on your own.  

So, what are the options, anyway?

Let's go through the list of machine options that Brown offers and their price points.  Once you read through the product line, the best plan for your shop should be more clear.

Slider Carousel Kit.  $895

We are starting at the lowest price.  This is a master frame that mounts on rear clamping presses.  It allows for frame to pin into position.  These frames can have 4", 6", 8" or 10" numbers exposed on them and they will print in 1 or 2 colors.  This is less expensive than transfers and is easily stored and attached to your press.  

The benefits include:
  • low investment
  • 2 color numbers
  • team or sponsor name can be printed in the same shirt load
  • in-house flexibility of what you offer
  • high quality final product
  • low cost final product
The issues with this include:
  • Slow printing.  Only one number can be mounted into the master screen at any time.
  • Ties up the carousel
  • lots of screens to clean

Slider™ Athletic printing system.  $3,295

The next level takes the Carousel Kit and makes it a stand alone press.  This gives all the flexibility
but removes the required attachment to your press.  These frames can have 4", 6", 8" or 10" numbers exposed on them and they will print in 1 or 2 colors.

  • reasonable investment
  • 2 color numbers
  • team or sponsor name can be printed in the same shirt load
  • in-house flexibility of what you offer
  • high quality final product
  • low cost final product
  • stand alone unit that uses only 2' x 4' of space and 120V, 15A
Issues include:
  • Floor space during the athletic season is required
  • lots of screens to clean
  • Still slow because the operator has to wait for the flash and cool time on the garment and only one garment can print at a time

ShortStop™ Athletic printing system.  $3,695

The next level takes the Carousel Kit and makes it faster.  This gives all the flexibility and adds speed to the flash and load of the garments.  These frames can have 4", 6", 8" or 10" numbers exposed on them and they will print in 1 or 2 colors.

  • reasonable investment
  • 2 color numbers
  • team or sponsor name can be printed in the same shirt load
  • in-house flexibility of what you offer
  • high quality final product
  • low cost final product
  • utilizes the rotary load on the carousel for faster shirt processing
Issues include:
  • set-up of the attachment on the carousel
  • lots of screens to clean
  • ties up the carousel so that multi color jobs cannot be printed until the numbering jobs are done

NumberPrinter™ Athletic printing system with Sniper LazerLoad.  Starting at $3,995

We believe that this is the premium numbering system in the industry.  This is a stand alone machine that prints 1" to 12" 2-color numbers.  It requires only 4 screens per size and font.  It features the LazerLoad positioning system and a stainless steel indexing system for accuracy.  

  • 1" - 12" numbers
  • 2 color numbers
  • expandable to multiple platens and flashes to increase operator speed
  • only 4 screens to clean per job
  • high quality final product
  • low cost final product
  • stand alone unit that uses only 2' x 4' of space and 120V, 15A
Issues include:
  • Floor space 
  • higher initial investment than other systems

So, what should you do?  

This is still a lot of information.  However, the machinery that suits your shop should be determined by athletic printing volume, job complication, floor space availability, job flow and budget.  We suggest that teams be sorted only one time, at the beginning of the job, so that they can be boxed for delivery as they come off the dryer.  So, look at how many jobs you may have coming and how much space you have available.  If you see that one person could print numbers all day during the numbering season, then invest in a machine that will make that operator the most productive.  If you see that athletic printing season comes and goes quickly for your shop, then invest in a system that is portable.  Either one that is an attachment or one that is on wheels and can move out of the way when the season has ended.

Don't shy away from this profit center if the orders are available to you.  Invest in your business and growth will come.  However, do not take the athletic printing growth without being prepared with the right tools.  

For additional information check out our and research the specifications of each machine.  Or give us a call and we can help you decide which machine is right for your production.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spring cleaning is a good use of downtime

It is that time again.  Time to clean house.

We are talking about machine maintenance.  Not cleaning out the break room fridge or laying off employees.  Though, those might need to happen as well.  That is up to you.

Every spring, as the weather heats up, our service calls increase.  This increase can usually be linked to maintenance being postponed or operators making adjustments.  So, when you have a slow time there needs to be a to-do list that will keep your machinery in proper working order.

What should be on this list?

Every machine on your production floor has items that regularly need cleaning, changing or adjusting.  These items should be listed and this list should be kept for reference.  A log of when the maintenance was performed is a great idea.  This is a sample maintenance log for a vehicle but the idea is the same as printing equipment.  A list of required items is on one side with the dates of completion.  A list of unscheduled repairs in on the other.  

Each machine would have a different list and all of these logs should be kept together.

Conveyor ovens
TRX Conveyor Oven

  • Clean all fan filters
  • Clean and check all fan blades
  • Clean lint from all surfaces
  • Clean lint from inside the control panel
  • Clean and oil the drive system.  Adjust the chain tension if necessary
  • If the oven uses quartz heaters, check with the manufacturer for cleaning instructions and schedule 
  • Test all the cal-rod heaters
  • Clean the conveyor belt

Automatic printers

  • Clean all surfaces
  • Clean all platens
  • Check platen rubber for wear.  Replace rubber if necessary
  • Grease all moving parts
  • If this is an air machine, clean the lines and confirm the air connections
  • If this is an air machine, maintain the compressor
  • Clean all fan filters
  • Clean all fan blades
  • Clean lint from the control panel
  • Clean lasers 
  • Clean skippy sensors
  • Check the chain tension on each print head
  • Check carriage stiffness for each print head
  • Grease all knobs and replace any that are stripped
  • Lubricate the registration gates

Manual printers

  • Clean all surfaces
  • Grease all knob threads
  • Replace any broken or stripped knobs
  • Grease any open bearings
  • Lubricate registration gates
  • Check springs for wear and replace suspect springs
  • Check gas lifters for leaks.  Replace any leaking lifters
  • Confirm platen leveling to the print head.  Check with the press manufacturer for guidelines on this procedure

Screen room
LED Exposure System

  • Clean all glass with glass cleaner
  • Clean all surfaces
  • Clean all fan filters
  • Clean all fan blades
  • Replace any non-functioning fans
  • Replace any non-LED bulbs that are more than 2 years old
  • Clean vacuum rubber and replace if torn or worn
  • Clean washout sink.  Remove any built up emulsion

Notice a trend?

Yes, CLEAN is the main word here.  Most textile printing machinery will last for years with simple cleaning and maintenance.  We find that lint build up on fans and filters will cause early failure of electronic parts.  Also, unclean registration gates and pivot points will affect the registration of a press.  

While we appreciate all of the parts orders that we receive.  We know that your costs of downtime and spare parts are higher than your cost of preventative maintenance.  Every manufacturer will have a maintenance suggestion for their machinery.  If this schedule is followed in your facility, then the life span of your investment will be extended.