Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knowing your conveyor oven

Brown has produced conveyor ovens for over 30 years. Many of the steel beasts are still in production. That is why we have a reputation of building some of the finest equipment in the industry and we have repeat customers. However, with so many of them in the field we take an amazing amount of service calls daily. Here are some tips for maintaining and using these dryers.

In all Brown and Harco brand dryers that have thermocouple heat controls the t-couple is located under the center heater and is designed to read the air temperature of the chamber at belt level. That means that you should have your dryer set at about 340. This is the oven temperature, not the temp of your garments. These temps are based on time within the chamber. Just like baking a cake, you have to leave the shirts in for the proper amount of time.

Many of our competitor's units place their t-couple inside a heater element. With these units your temperature settings need to be higher, maybe as high as 800. Remember you are reading the temp of an element, not the chamber. If an element goes out, you will not know it on your digital control but your shirts won't cure.

What I am telling you is that if you set your Brown or Harco dryers at 500+ your will be wasting power and not getting any control over the heat. Turn it down already.

Power Fluctuations:
We get calls, usually in the summer months, that dryers are suddenly not curing. After checking out the dryer we determine that it is functioning properly. What has happened is that the power companies are altering the amount of power going to the facility and the dryer has less power to keep the heaters hot. Very common when all the air conditioners are running. But this makes the dryer run cooler and react slower to shirts being fed into it. All you can do is slow down, wait a day or so, and then the power will be restored.

Working heaters:
Older dryers did not have indicator lights for the heaters. Newer dryers do. The lights are designed to blink on and off when the heaters are working. If they are on all the time, there is a problem. If they do not turn on, you have another problem. Either way, call the manufacturer.

For older dryers, when you notice a drop in heat (like when your shirts aren't cured) then you need to check the heaters manually. Here is a cheap test. Use a 2x4 that will go through the chamber. Staple toilet paper the length of the board. Raise the board to within 1" of the heaters and prop it up so that the belt will run. Leave it in position for 30 minutes. When you remove the board, you should have a scorch mark for each heater. Call us with your findings.

Belt and fan motors:
Get over the fact that you will need new motors about every 10 years. If the fans do not work, the air flow in the dryer will be affected and the heat will fluctuate.

With belt motors, you need the motor control too. Suck it up and spend the $300. Lasts 10 years and if you don't you will keep replacing parts every year and a half.

Final suggestion:
Nothing against electricians. Do not call one. They are usually household type and have no idea what they are looking at. Textile dryers are simple to fix. Most of the time, an operator and a phone with a few tools and you are good to go. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer's service tech.

We look forward to your calls. Sometimes, we will tell you that your unit is too old. There is no such thing as Hospice care for a conveyor oven. Not worth the money and there aren't any sentiments attached to the thing. Good tools require maintenance and occasional replacement.

Keep in mind, we take trade-ins.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


BrownMfg is a member of many industry forums. Even on our competitor's sites. However, I will admit, we are trolls. We lurk, we watch, we even reply with emails. Many would say that it is bad to troll, but I believe it is better. Let me continue.

As a member of these sites, we are able to read and respond to all the posts. Most often the items posted do not contain content that we are experts on. Many times they are in parts of the industry that we have nothing to do with. Ok, we just read as many of you do.

However, many posts are counterproductive to earning money as screen printers. These, all I can do is shake my head. As examples, making equipment instead of buying. Posters want an opinion as to whether they made something worth using. My first response is that the time they took making the equipment should have been sent selling print jobs. They could have sold enough jobs during that time to pay for a really nice press that will give them quality work.

I am sure I have mentioned that we are in this to make money, not play with power tools.

Other posters want an opinion on a product. As a manufacturer, how can I respond to that? We will not bash a competitor.

Then there are the postings that comment on our products. As the manufacturer, we cannot get into a conversation online without risking our reputation. We often know who the post was written by. They have chosen not to call us or have decided that we are not willing to service them to their demands. How can we comment on any of that.

A good reason to be a troll.

So, for those who wish more active participation by manufacturers, take a look at the reasons we are silent.

Contact us directly, please.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too busy for trade shows?

I received a call from an organizer for one of our industry's trade shows. They wanted our opinion on adding another show to the schedule. Where, when, and the silly questions, why? The why question got me a bit ticked off. Not at the expo person, but at the attendees.

Please, let me explain.

Trade shows are regional events. They last 3 days and offer opportunities for the attendee and the exhibitor. In questionable economic times, all avenues for advancement should be explored. We need new ways to grow our business including new products, marketing ideas and production tools. Where do people get this information? From trade shows!

For the attendee:
At a show, which for each attendee is really only a 1 day visit, you can meet a number of people who can help you. First, there are industry expert, and those who claim to be, wandering the floor and offering seminars. Next, there are vendors. Listen to their pitch, you might learn something and get a new idea. Finally, there are other people like yourself. Do not commiserate, ask questions of what is working. There are real gems out there that you could apply to your business and increase your sales and margins.

As a thought, you are never too busy to get more business. Summer is no different than fall. The baseball season is no different than Christmas. If your business cannot handle you learning something new for 1 day, then you have other things to worry about.

For the exhibitor:
Quit your belly-achin' about how many shows you have to do. When else are 2000+ people delivered to your lap for possible sales? You can't get that kind of traffic with anything else, especially face-to-face intervention. Trade shows are a huge creator of product interest and customer service. Get out there and talk to the people on the floor. It is well worth your time.

For the expo company:
Ok, we know you are in this for profit. We all are. However, you will get a bigger draw if you look like you have a bigger show. If you rented a hall and you did not sell all the booths, hand out a few free ones you didn't sell and the exhibitors will bring more stuff and you will look bigger. Costs you a little carpet and the attendees will get more out of the event.

As for your expansion, look for new markets. The eastern seaboard is full up. So is Florida and Texas. Have you noticed that the rest of the country is full of textile decorators? You are putting on regional shows. Pick a new region. Try the bay area, maybe Arizona. The midwest is great, but Chicago's been done. Come on, mix it up a little. That is the only way to get new attendees.

Now you know how I really feel. It is the attendee's "too busy" response that irritates me. It is the exhibitor's "too many shows" response that irritates me. It is the expo company's "same-place-same-stuff" concept that irritates me.

I have mentioned before, we all in this to make money. We want to earn enough to enjoy life. The best way to do this is the sell more at real margins. Selling more means offering new products and new ideas. Real margins mean good tools and understanding the flow of business. All of this is found on a trade show floor. So attendees, wipe the ink off your hands; exhibitors, put your stuff on a truck; and expo companies, show some flexibility.

Hope to see all of you at all of the ISS, NBM, DAX, SGIA and NNEP shows. Let's look for more opportunities in the future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pre-registration devices

I have spent the morning redesigning our layout grid for the Set-n-Go product line. Everyone here has an opinion, of course. What we all agree on is that every shop needs a pre-reg device. Either a home-made version or one purchased from a manufacturer. The one from a manufacturer are probably more accurate but they are all necessary.

Why? you ask. Because, as I have mentioned in earlier blogs, we are in this to make money. Not to play with screens and art.

What should one of these systems do?

The point of a pre-registration system is to make the location of your art to screen accurate from color to color. This is to make you faster. If you can load your screens onto the press, have almost immediate registration and never adjust the location of your platens, you will be faster. If you are faster, then you make more money.

This speed applies to one-color jobs as well. When you load a screen with a one color design, you want it to always be placed in the perfect spot to print. Not low, high, or crooked. Don't laugh, you have exposed an image crooked.

What should be part of one of these systems?

You have to start with the artwork. The registration marks on your artwork should be located in the same place on every job. One-color jobs too. These marks register colors to each other, square artwork, and they locate the art onto the garment. A template in your computer should have these marks that print onto all separations.

These marks then need to be on a fixture. This fixture can be a stand alone light table or on the glass of your exposure unit. The fixture should feature 3 points that your frame will seat against. Line up the registration marks from your art to the marks on the fixture.

When you are finished, the artwork will be in the same location on all screens. This is very fast in the darkroom and on press.

How does this make you money?

Time is money, right? If you spend time compensating for messed up screens then the labor cost for your job goes up. Even if you don't count your own labor (which is a whole different topic) wouldn't you rather be golfing?

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