Friday, December 6, 2013

2013 Year in Review

The year in review.  It is all about product innovation.

For those of you who know us well, you understand that we are always about new ideas and innovations.  It is what excites our staff and increases our sales.  When our customers present new production issues or new opportunities become available, our creativity is sparked and the whole company starts looking for solutions and ideas.  2013 offered an array of production situations that have spurred the development of new products and enhancements to existing products.  

Take a look at the entry into a new market.

Not only did we create new products, we created a new division.  BrownDigital directs its efforts toward digitally printed garments.  Not the digital printers, but solving the production problems that have arisen from that new technology.  The idea of digitally printed shirts is growing but making them faster and in less of a hobbyist style is what BrownDigital is all about.

The first product line created in the new division is the DragonAir line of curing systems.  These units use DragonAir Core Technology to created a heated chamber to cure the pre-treat and the ink from digitally printed garments.  These units are also proven to cure conventional inks, water based inks and discharge inks.  

Here is a look at product innovation.

The excitement of the year started with the TRX software development that drove the DragonAir line.  This touch screen curing system control software offers amazing features and benefits not found on any other system.  TRX and TRXi units allow repeatable production environments, analytics on that production and access to control from remote locations.  This software was merged with the production proven UltraSierra X-Series line of conveyor ovens to create a new line of curing systems.

The next product that our engineers tackled was adding Sniper LazerLoad to the ever-popular NumberPrinter.  This enhancement is for simplifying the shirt load process.  Double digit numbers that include a "1" and single digit prints have always been a challenge for shirt-loading in high volume shops.  This new features gives line up guidelines to make the printing easier and faster.

The final enhancement that our engineers have worked on is the new wrench-less, quick-release squeegee and floodbar system for the ElectraPrint automatic textile printers.  This feature makes screen changes faster, squeegee load faster and pressure adjustments unnecessary.

Thankful as ever.

We are forever thankful for our loyal customers, our new customers and our awesome staff.  With new questions from our customers, our engineers get to design new stuff, our plant staff gets to build new things and our sales people can talk about new solutions.  It is a great circle and we look forward to what 2014 will give us the opportunity to create.  Keep asking and watching and you will see some cool stuff.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Athletic numbering. Worth the hassle?

Athletic numbers are difficult. 
Athletic numbers require a lot of patience.
Athletic numbering jobs are everywhere.

Anyone you talk to in the industry will agree that athletic numbering is one of the most difficult jobs to do. This explains why it seems to be a vanishing breed.  We understand why people get frustrated and decide to use transfers, contract the job out, or order the uniforms numbered by the manufacturer.  But avoiding numbering jobs, or finding the easy way out, costs many shops easy money.

Let’s take a look back to when you were first opening your shop.  Why did you open a screen print shop over a retail transfer shop?  There were probably a couple of reasons:
  •  The final look of the garment
  • The feel of the garment
  • The longevity of the final product
  • Customer satisfaction
Now with that being said, when shops receive their $45.00 Dri-Fit Jersey how can they justify placing a transfer on it?  How do you match the colors?  The look, feel, longevity of the final product will decrease customer satisfaction.  Not what you were looking for when you started this business.

Next comes the ordering of the transfer!  The average print shop has at least one high school in their   That means at least two sports per season with 2-3 teams.  So let’s call it 6 teams with 15 kids each.  And, of course, they all want to pick their own numbers,  Gone are the days of 1-15.  Oh yeah, and at least one of the teams wants an off the grid color.   That makes a total of 90 athletic shirts plus the parents that will want one!

Sounds confusing doesn’t it? ….. So let’s take a look at what we need per team.

Alright, Team A needs home and away shirts with Kelly Green 8" numbers on the back and 4" on the front.  This would be your order to the transfer people.
  • 9 - #1’s
    • two  8” packs of 5 for a total of $7.30
    • and two 4” packs for a total $7.30
  • 2 -#2’s 
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 2 -#3’s 
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65 
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 3-#4
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65 
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 1-#7’s 
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 2-#8’s
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65 
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 2-#9’s 
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65
  • 2-#0’s
    • one 8” packs of 5 for a total of $3.65 
    • and one 4” packs for a total $3.65

Freight   =$4.95
Total cost  = $65.70

And now it is time for Team 2…. Don’t worry we won’t go through that again.  You get the idea.

After all is said and done.  Each team will cost you anywhere from $40.00 to $75.00 in just the transfers.

If you are to screen print the numbers you have the ink that matches, the quality will be higher, and the time is the same.  The cost per print is $.06.  Total cost of materials for direct printing is $3.60 - $5.00.  
If it were up to us, we would gladly put the extra cash in our pocket!

The truth is print shops have struggled in the past to accomplish number printing by not having the correct set-up and decided that transfers are easier.   Unfortunately, it is most likely due to printers try to jig up a press, make our own stencils, or burn 15 screens to get the job done.  Any of these three options would make us look the other way as well.  Athletic numbering machines have made huge advancements and have finally made it printing numbers in house worth another look.  If you operator can walk up to a printing station as easily as he can walk up to a transfer press and produce the job for 1/4 of the cost, then the machinery is paid for quickly and you make more money.

Hey, making money was the real reason that you opened this crazy business.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is your dryer showing signs that it is time to upgrade?

CD-2411 Circa 1985

I walked through our south warehouse last week and noticed some screen printing dryers that appear to be a little older.  After checking a few serial tags I quickly realized the dryers are older than I am.  Many of these dryers still work and cure shirts as efficiently as they did in their prime, however, like hammer pants, that still function like they did in the 80’s.  It might be time to change your style. 

Disclaimer****If you are still wearing Hammer pants, using a pager, or believe the Internet will not catch on, please disregard the rest of this blog.

Curing technology and dryer efficiency has not changed much since the 80’s, and dryers are not featured on What Not Wear so how do we know if it is time to repair or replace our current curing system.

The following is a couple of questions you can ask yourself about your dryer and I will let you determine the results. 

Determine the Type

 Is your dryer gas or electric?
a.     If Electric continue
b.     If Gas we will tackle that in a later blog post

Size does matter

 Does your current dryer slow down production.
Simply put, drying technology is the same today as it was 25 years ago.  There are only two variables in the curing equation, Heat and Time. The higher you run the temperature, the faster you can run the belt. However this is a thin line, if you only cure the outside of the ink and not all the way through, the ink will fall off, or the shirt gets to hot and combusts.  In a perfect world we would like less heat and more time. If you cannot achieve a good cure at a slower speed it is possible you need a larger dryer. 

Driving a Fiero is not a good idea either

Do you constantly work of your dryer?

The cliché that time is money comes into play here.  If you dryer is not reliable or you constantly stop production to work it, you might want to look at a trade in. Or if jobs get returned due to curing issues this can easily damage your reputation as a company.  I could have kept the a Fiero running and saved a little money upfront but the continued repair and time lost was not worth it. As always in the end keeping the old running is more expensive than starting over again.

If you are reading this, chances are, you aren’t using a MACII

Will the electronic upgrade impact your business?

 If your dryer does not have a digital thermostat you have very little control.  It would be like turning the heat on in your house and never adjusting the temperature, simply opening doors and windows to achieve a comfort level.  The new digital style controls are not just flashy lights, they have function to:

a. Control the heat by turning on and off panels (More efficient)
b. Warn the user if a heater goes out or another part is not functioning correctly.
c. Allow for precise belt times in the oven
d. React to outside elements, by adding intensity or removing intensity from the dryer.

e. High End Dryers


  1. Remember and store programs
  2. Graph shirt profiles
  3. Run an analysis on every job
  4. Accesses for account and maintenance from off-site 
  5. and loads more stuff.

Even Madonna understands the importance of new fabric

How many new fabrics are you encountering?
As the consumer markets push polyester, wicking and many other fabric styles, your dryer has to keep up. 

  1. Belt Speed --  Items require very distinct belt speeds, is your dryer capable of 30 seconds and 5 minutes?
  2. Do you have adequate forced air?  
    1. New inks and fabrics require air movement to achieve a proper cure without burning the substrate. 
    2. It is equivalent to convection air in a oven. 
    3. A substrate can stay in dryer longer with air movement and not such direct Infrared Hear.

The above is only intended as quick thought, as complicated as curing technology sounds it is very simple.  I am not going to argue with anyone that a Fiero will not get you from point A to point B.  Just about any commercial grade dryer with function and properly cure shirts, however, sometimes limping along with the old one costs you more time, reputation and headaches than biting the bullet and replacing it with a new one.

I just finished lacing up my roller blades, strapped on my Walkman and am hoping that dancing on the hood of Billy Idol's car won't scratch the killer Firebird paint job.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our engineers do it again!

It is exciting when new technology takes a foothold in our industry.  The garment decorating business has been changed in the last 10 years by the strong emergence of the direct-to-garment digital printing.  This technology is presenting new challenges to the shop floor.  What makes this so exciting is that our engineers are presented with the challenge of creating something new to solve problems.

They don't get to do that very often in the garment decorating business.

So what is so different?

The requirements of the digital printing world are similar to the ones demanded by discharge printing and water-based printing.  These technologies have been around for years but, until recently, they have not been major factors on the production floor.

With the expansion of digital printing as serious production machines, the needs of the high-volume shop have shifted.  This is where the learning begins.  Our engineers have had to file away all of their knowledge of curing plastisol inks and delve into the problems associated with water-based curing.

Problems, you say?  No.  Challenges are a better definition.  Or maybe, in engineer speak, new parameters such as:

  • longer cure times
  • wet garments that are hard to get to temperature
  • scorching issues of 100% cotton
  • shrinking of 100% cotton
  • water vapor evacuation.

This is where engineering gets fun.  At least that is what they tell me.


So the crack engineers at Brown started with the UltraSierra2 X-series ovens and started testing.  First, they added the TRX software for more control.  Very cool.  So we now have TRX curing systems but they did not resolve all the problems for the specialty garment decorator.  

More air was essential. The DragonAir Core Technology was developed. The team added additional air flowing in the unit over the heaters.  This was great.  Better results, more production.  But still not right.
DragonAir Core Technology original
DragonAir Talon

The air was not staying hot enough and it was exiting the chamber with the water vapor.  Not very efficient.  The the Core Technology was enhanced with recirculation air and filters to keep the air clean.
DragonAir Core Technology latest revision

Ok, we were almost there.  But the production rate was still below our expectations.  These units have to cure large volumes of shirts for the discharge and digital people to see any improvement on the production floor.  The shirts were taking too long in the chamber.  Why, you ask?  Because they are so wet when they are placed on the belt that they can't get up to temperature fast enough.  And they cooled the chamber, so the heaters were working too hard.  Answer?  A heat bump.  More Power.

Final result?

Brown Manufacturing Group, Inc. has employed top notch engineers since they began.  Our people are known for producing curing systems that rate as some of the best in the world.  They are reliable, consistent and they do what we say they will do.  And this is no exception.  The DragonAir line of curing systems will cure digitally printed shirts, water-based printed shirts and discharge printed shirts at a serious production rate with solid results.  
DragonAir Griffin

And what else?

After messing around with our new toys, we discovered the other applications that it is a perfect fit for.  Specialty printing of plastisols.  With the ability to recirculation and filter air, cause a rapid bump in the garment temp, and have precise controls using TRX software the DragonAir is the answer to plastisol printing issues.  Think of how these features would apply to polyester garments that have dye migration.  What about foil and reflective inks or high-density and puff?  We see applications for this curing unit throughout the garment decorating business.

So we are excited.

Our engineers are almost giddy with the fun of developing a new product line.  Our sales people are telling anyone and everyone about the DragonAir.  They even created a division just for digital and specialty printing.  BrownDigital.

What size is right for your shop?  Call us.  We will figure out that problem as well.

Check out for more details.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Production solutions, for all print shops.

Brown Manufacturing Group, Inc. offers a wide array of products to increase production and profits for many types of screen printing shops.  For production solutions in printing, curing, athletic numbering or screen processing, we have it.

Ok, so how is this a blog and not a sales pitch?  Good question.  

It starts by asking the reader what area of their shop is a drain on production and not helping the bottom line.  That is a review all business owners and print shop managers need to ask themselves.  Typically, everyone gets wrapped up in the daily concerns of getting goods out the door and collecting money.  We don't take the time to look at the process and see what needs help.

OK, how do we do that?

Start by taking a step back from your daily operations and critically looking at your bottom line.  Ask some questions.

  1. Where are your costs higher than you expect?  
  2. Where are the bottle necks in the operation?
  3. What areas are requiring maintenance?
  4. What are your sales people asking for?
When you have looked at these and come up with a list of items to address, the analysis begins.  You remember Business 101?   Well, this is textbook stuff.  If any of these areas have red flags, you need to look at alternatives.

Business 101 refresher.

  • If your curing system is unreliable, get a new one.  Down time is expensive.
  • If your curing system is not fast enough, get a new one.  Really, I had to tell you that?
  • If you are thinking you need to hire more people to get the work out, don't.  Get an automatic.  It shows up everyday and can do the work of 40 hours manual printing in about 6 hours.
  • If your auto printing machines won't hold registration, call in a tech and get them fixed.  If you can't count on the machine, you won't make money.
  • If your manual printing machine won't hold register, do some much needed maintenance.  Really, there isn't much to these machines but they don't work if you don't take care of them.
  • Is your screen department too slow?  Fix it.
  • Is your sales staff telling you that they have solid customers for new products?  Listen to them!  These are the people who get you orders!
What is so amazing about Business 101 is that is applies to home-based businesses and large production houses in the same way.  The questions are the same, the solutions are the same.  Only the size and price tag changes.

Take a look at the options from Brown Manufacturing Group, Inc.

When you are finished with your homework, call us for some suggestions of what will help increase your production and your bottom line.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Curing solutions for Direct-To-Garment tshirts

The direct-to-garment (DTG) industry is a fast growing segment of the t-shirt decorating businesses.  It has potential to for great customer service and satisfaction due to the rapid turn around of finished goods and the limitless design possibilities.  However, it has some downsides in terms of profits.

We have written in previous blogs that the only way to make high profits in t-shirt decorating is to move product in and out of the production facility as quick as possible.  Labor costs are the real costs of t-shirt printing.  Whether you are talking traditional screen print or DTG.  Keeping your time down is how to keep your profits up.

What is the biggest time consumer in DTG production?  Curing.  Especially curing dark garments.  Let's talk about that production and a new way to resolve the bottle neck.

Typical production of DTG shirts
There are standard steps necessary to produce prints on dark colored garments.

  1. spray the shirt with pre-treat solution
  2. using a paper barrier, press the shirt in a transfer press to seal the fibers and dry the pre-treat
  3. print the shirt
  4. use a transfer machine (set to not touch) to cure the ink
What are we trying to accomplish?
The first press with the transfer machine lays down the fibers of the shirt so that the ink prints onto a flat surface.  This is necessary to get a clean print.  The second press is our curing system.  This can be accomplished in other ways that are faster and more efficient for both the operator and shop power consumption.  The traditional heat press ranges from 45-90 seconds pr/shirt for a full cure which is roughly 60 shirts per/hr.  With DTG machines capable of producing up to 400 per hour, an operator would need to utilize around 7 heat presses.  A single operator will not be able to keep up at that pace, and the power consumption of is crazy. 

What is the solution?  
A conveyor curing system that heats the water and has convection air to move the water vapor out of the chamber.  DragonAir Core Technology.  Ok, nice sales tag.  But seriously, this is the answer to increasing production and getting a consistent final product.  If you can pull the shirt from the printer and place it on a conveyor, then you open the transfer press for other uses and the operator has one less task.  Also, in a conveyor system, you can load from multiple DTG printers so that you would reduce the power required for the transfer presses.

So how and why does this work?
DragonAir Core Recirculation Technology

Think of convection ovens.  The idea is to move heated air around the product and to exhaust the water vapor out of the system.  The DragonAir does just that.  By utilizing filtered air and digital temperature control this unit effectively and consistently cures DTG garments.  

The final garment has a more vibrant look and it feels better.  The cure is consistent from shirt to shirt and the cost of production has dropped.  And isn't that what we are going for?  Production cost of goods to decrease, production to increase, and a great looking product.  

For more information, check out our BrownDigital web site at