Monday, December 11, 2017

2017. A year of innovation.

What an amazing whirlwind of a year.  New technology and innovation moved Brown and BrownDigital into new segments of the garment decorating industry.  This addition brings new energy and enthusiasm to existing projects as well.

So what's new?

That's a big question.  Around our facility it feels like everything is new.  New curing systems, new printing technology and completely new product lines.  

Expanded Anaconda™

The Anaconda system is a flat heater that combines with a roller in an automatic printer to flatten fibers into ink to create a smoother print surface and, hence, brighter prints.  Originally, this was developed to use a 23" x 31" M3 roller frame support platform to fit into an standard automatic textile printer, like our ElectraPrint Stealth.  The excitement for the Anaconda has grown and we expanded the possible press sizes for it.  Now it can be mounted on a 21" x 24" MZX roller frame support which allows it to fit into smaller automatic presses like our ElectraPrint Junior.

The creativity of our customers as to how this product can benefit production is exciting.  We see the Anaconda applied to prints on polyester with dye migration issues, on water base or discharge inks to activate the cure and smooth out the print and on fibrous shirts for a crisper finished print.  The options are exciting.

Synergy™ pretreat system

BrownDigital moved deeper into the world of direct to garment printing.  The Synergy pretreat module system is a high production pretreated that ties directly into the FireFly™.  This unit offers more features and sprays pretreat more evenly and at higher speeds than competitive machines.  The exciting connection to the Brother GTX line of printers allows for pod style production growth with minimal labor costs.  Check out our recent blog about these pod systems.

This system also puts more information in front of the garment loader.  There is always a concern that what is pretreated is not the correct garment for the required order.  The projection system that is included with the Synergy displays an image of the shirt required and the image that is to be printed.  This gives confirmation to the operator that the are loading the correct product.  Features like this make this the leader in pretreat technology.

Linx™ Control System Integration

What is Control System Integration?  It is complete production software that ties your orders to your pretreat, digital printer and shipping software.  A barcode control system allows for inventory control and complete tracking of goods within your production facility and into shipping.  This product has quietly expanded and is running in facilities throughout the US.  BrownDigital views this as an essential component to online sales and digital printing.  This is a lead off for 2018 and it is an exciting direction for our corporate growth.

Brown Mfg and BrownDigital are looking forward to 2018.  The expansion of market areas from our existing product line and the development of new items is exciting.  Keep watching this blog for updates.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Synergy pretreat in action

In our last blog we introduced the Synergy™ Pretreat Module.  This was presented at SGIA and combined with the Brother® GTX direct to garment printer.  This combination allows for versatility and speed for any medium to large production shop.

Synergy + Firefly All-In-One Production System from Brother DTG on Vimeo.

If you have additional questions about the specifications of this system or how this might also work on any different brand of digital printer, contact our sales department at

You can also look at our BrownDigital web site.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Synergy™ pretreat module offers speed and growth

Ok, so this is what the word means but ....?
SY36x84 Synergy with FY2x36-45 FireFly

Combine the FireFly™ patented technology in curing inline with BrownDigital's new high volume pretreat module, Synergy™, and the production rates go up while the labor requirements go down.

The Synergy™  Industrial Pretreat Module is designed for high volume digital decorators and connects directly to the FireFly™ curing system, allowing for rapid evaporation of pretreat solution and a quick turn around to the digital output device.  The flow of the operation continues with reverse transport of the garment back to the original operator.  Complete multi-variate control of each garment.

Pod systems for production allow for flexibility.

Using the production flow shown, two operators can process the full operation.  One person is the pretreat loader and the final product packager.  A second person runs 4 Brother GTX machines.  High volume, low operating cost.

90-150 units per hour

Pod designs can scale for additional production.   

240-300 units per hour

450-600 units per hour 

Speed and flexibility with minimal personnel make the Synergy and FireFly combination a must have for those shops who need to step up their direct to garment volume.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Green technologies inspire new solutions

Visit Brown in booth #3301 and #1845
The upcoming SGIA show offers opportunities for any decorator to see amazing advancements in technology and innovative solutions for existing production issues.  The world of digital printing on garments was presented over a decade ago at SGIA.  Now the industry is moving into creative garments that have tech and communications woven into the fabrics.  Products that are better uses of resources, both environmental and economic.  Products that are immediate, offer rapid change and can be efficiently produced.  These new challenges have driven BrownDigital to create new lines of products that give flexibility to production, for both function and application.

FY-2x27-45 extended
The FireFly™ curing system was originally developed to address the direct to garment printing industry.  It was designed to speed up curing of digital inks and pretreat.  This technology has also been applied to similar printing inks such as discharge and water base ink lines.  The FireFly has proven that it can cure these ink lines in smaller space with equal results compared to traditional curing units.

Knowledge of what the FireFly can do has led BrownDigital into other, newer printing production arenas.  Water based ink transfers and silicone ink transfers have rapidly become high volume contenders in garment decorating.  Water based ink lines offer an environmentally cleaner alternative decorating option and silicone inks solve problems with durability and color bleed.  The FireFly can cure these transfers in 18 seconds as opposed the the traditional cure time of 42 seconds.  This time reductions increases the capacity of an auto feed sheet line by nearly 80%.  This means more production in less space and reduced power consumption.  Production line size reduction of 50% and a total energy reduction of 80%.  Greener tech for greener products.

Additional information on the SGIAExpo and the BrownDigital FireFly can be found online or contact the Brown Manufacturing sales and technical staff.  Visit our booths #3301 and #1845 at SGIAExpo for a full demonstration of all of the FireFly benefits.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New products for new industries

Like all forward thinking businesses, Brown is continually looking for new markets to expand into.  Where can we take the knowledge we possess and apply it to other areas that will expand our revenue?  This process needs to be an expansion, not an overreach.  New products and ideas that can be explored with some risk but without exposing the core business.  This is the premise that allowed for the creation of the FireFly™ which has moved us into the direct-to-garment industry and given us connection into other decorated products.  One of the newest ventures is into curing UV printed items.

The introduction of the Vega™ UV/led curing system was a quiet launch last fall.  BrownDigital created this system by combining our knowledge of UV lighting, our knowledge of printing and the software capabilities from the FireFly™.  In addition we have combined the Vega and the FireFly to allow for curing of any substrate at any time.  This is groundbreaking.

For those in the textile printing world, UV printing is alien.  The process is similar, still screen printing and the inks do not air dry, just like plastisol.  However, the curing properties are very different.  UV inks cure with the direct application of UV light.  The light must be at a specific point in the spectrum and distance will alter the intensity.  Production speed is much higher than textile and specifications are rigid.

The Vega offers UV/led light modules in both 365NM and 395NM. The light modules are available separately so that they can be installed onto existing curing lines or as a full curing unit with software or combined with the FireFly for a multi-functional curing production system.  The variety allows for the Vega to fit into any shop.

Vega with FireFly
The software for the Vega is similar to what is on the FireFly and when the two machines are paired, it is a combined system so that both curing units are displayed on the Linx™ Command Center.  This software allows for 36 saved program profiles, 18 stored maintenance tasks and built in diagnostics.  A complete set of controls at your fingertips.

The Vega moved Brown into new markets and introduced us to new customers.  Maybe Brown can help you move into the world of UV printing.  Contact us today for additional information.

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.