A tip for you . . .

Project the shelf life of your transfers like this . . .

 

 

To test the shelf life of your transfer prints, place the transfer in a hot box or a hot room for 100 hours at a temperature of 50 degrees C (120 F). This simulates a year of aging on the shelf. After the 100 hours, take it out and allow it to cool to room temperature and transfer it in the usual manner in a heat press. How it transfers will give you insight into performance after a year on the shelf.

Time to pay attention to the tension on your screens?

For most Canadian textile screen printers the slower winter season is here. This means that there is time to do some maintenance tasks usually neglected in the busy summer season.

One of those tasks is attending to under-tensioned stretch-and-glue screens. When production is going full tilt it’s too tempting to use under-tensioned screens and get away with a few more jobs before facing the cost and hassle of re-stretching. Sooner or later you have to deal with it though because of the direct correlation between screen tension and print quality.

Tension meter

So why not schedule a screen tension testing project for the slower season? All you need is a tension meter – if you don’t have this vital item of basic textile screen shop equipment, now would be a good time to talk to Stanley’s about getting one.

Go through all your screens, note their tensions, and mark or put aside the ones in need of re-stretching. You don’t have to have them all re-stretched at once but going through this exercise will give you a much better idea of the state of your screen inventory and enable you to develop a plan to bring it up to snuff.

An inventory of properly-tensioned screens will be another step taken in the pursuit of excellent prints.

A tip for you . . .

Use your lids.

Use your lids.

In all the discussions about getting the most out of the ink dollar, something that’s incredibly important but hardly ever mentioned, is the container lid. Leave it off a water-based ink and you risk evaporation and contamination. And while plastisol ink doesn’t evaporate, it will certainly become contaminated with all the stuff that floats around in a textile shop. And then there are those clumsy spills that can end up in an open ink bucket. Oh, and what about the company pet? Do you really need colourful paw prints on your new office carpet? It’s easier to just make a rule that lids always go on containers.

The importance of monitoring curing temperatures.

I’m going to take issue with a piece in this month’s Images magazine that advocates using a laser temperature gun for checking the curing temperature of ink.

The author recommends using the gun to check the temperature of the ink film as the garment exits the dryer. I’m suggesting that by then the film of ink is already cooling and is no longer at the optimum curing temperature the manufacture recommends that it must reach for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe - Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe – Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

There’s a better way to do it – a way that will tell you when and where in the dryer the ink film reaches the required curing temperature. And that certainly won’t be once it’s out the chamber. The better way of monitoring the temperature of the ink film is to use a donut probe (commonly known as a Thermoprobe) rather than a laser infrared temperature gun, temperature strips, or any other method.

Not only will a Thermoprobe confirm the temperatures encountered by the ink film as the garment progresses through the dryer, but it will also indicate cool spots in the dryer. A laser temperature gun will not do all that for you, particularly if you’re checking the temperature as the garment exits the chamber. How do I know this? Well, if you use a Thermoprobe to plot the ink film temperature every 5 seconds as it moves through the dryer, you’ll end up with a bell curve which is turning down by the time the garment is exiting the chamber.

A Thermoprobe has a “donut” across which is strung two thin wires in a cross formation. The donut connects to a digital readout by a long wire. You place the donut on the ink film with the cross wires on the ink surface (the critical temperature measurement is that of the ink film) and monitor temperature on the digital readout as the garment moves through the dryer.

Now, of course, the Thermoprobe can be about four times more expensive than an infrared laser temperature gun so the decision is yours – do it cheaply or do it properly. But either way, do it regularly. At least two or three tests a day will help avoid curing problems.

A tip for you . . .

Don't unplug the Roland . . .

Don’t unplug the Roland . . .

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a Roland printer/cutter in your shop, do this now. Make two signs that say “DO NOT unplug this machine!” Take no chances – attach one sign to the machine where it is in full view, and attach the other to the power cord where it plugs into the wall. Why? Because even when you’re closed for the holidays and the Roland is idle, it recycles the ink every twelve or thirteen hours to prevent clogging. If someone unplugs the power, it can’t recycle the ink and you could come back to clogged jets. A couple of signs could save you a lot of hassle and expense.

Are you like the drunk looking for his keys?

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

Sometimes when I discuss money management with screen printers they remind me of the story about the drunk crawling around under a street lamp outside a pub. A cop turns up and asks him what he’s doing. The drunk points down the road and says that he dropped his car keys somewhere in the dark and that he’s looking for them. The cop asks why he’s not looking for the keys where he dropped them, and the drunk replies that he can see better under the street lamp.

So when printers obsess about the cost of ink (which is a minor expense in the overall scheme of things) instead of examining the big ticket items like labour cost, maintenance, rent and other overhead expenses, they’re kidding themselves by looking where it’s easier to see.

But if you feel that you have the cost of your big ticket items optimized and now want to check your ink costs, Dave Roper offers three steps for calculating your per-print ink cost in this month’s Images magazine. He says: (1) establish the per-gram cost of the ink; (2) weigh the garment before printing; and (3) after printing but before curing, weigh the garment again.

The difference between the weights in grams taken at steps (3) and (2) is the weight of the ink used. Multiply that weight by the cost per gram determined in step (1) and you have the cost of ink per print.

Now, for the big question . . .  When you find out how little the ink per print really is, ask yourself why you’d risk using a cheap ink when a great ink will still be a very low cost per print.

The cost of your ink per print will never be the difference between business success or failure. But uncontrolled big expense items could be.

The keys to cost control probably aren’t in the light – try looking in the darker places. It might take more effort but it will yield better results.

Looking for a new profit centre?

Off in a corner printing money . . .

Off in a corner of the textile screen shop printing money . . .

Many years ago, I had a large manufacturer of wood cabinets as a client. They had a factory (probably about 15,000 square feet) full of woodworking machines and stacks of wood. It was a noisy, dusty and dangerous place. Have you ever climbed in and out of a helicopter while the engines are running and the main and tail rotor blades are turning? Well, the wood factory was noisy, dusty and dangerous in a similar way.

But off in one relatively quiet corner of the factory, away from the main activity, stood a solid, metal, heavy-looking machine about the size of a small car. It had a slot just over four feet wide at about waist height into which an attendant fed thin sheets of what looked like 8 x 4 plywood. The machine sucked in the sheet of wood at the rate of about a foot at a time.

Inside the machine a heavy metal dye thunked down on the sheet of wood. After every thunk, about a hundred wooden ice-lolly sticks slid down a chute into a container and another foot of wooden sheet was sucked into the machine. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. It continued relentlessly all day without a pause.

Wooden ice-lolly sticks was not my client’s primary business, but it was his best profit centre. He had a market for hundreds of thousands of lolly sticks with a few ice cream factories. The machine was as ridiculously profitable as it was simple to operate.

So what has this got to do with textile screen printing? Well, what if you could have a small, self-contained machine standing off to one side printing say, labels, gloves, sleeves, or socks? It wouldn’t interfere with any of your existing profit centres but could be the most productive few square feet of your shop. It could open up a whole new niche market for you.

Worth looking into, don’t you think?

Give Stanley’s a call; ask them about the idea.

Share your fascinating technique.

It’s old hat to you, right? Nothing too special. It’s something you do every day. In fact, you could do it in your sleep.

You take a design, burn it into a screen, slap it on the press, grab some ink, make a few strokes with a squeegee, pull the Tee off the pallet, and drop it on the conveyor belt. What’s the big deal?

Well maybe it’s no big deal to you, but what about people who’ve never seen the process of creating a printed Tee? What about your customers who have no idea what goes on behind that door with the unfriendly sign: “Employees Only”? What about Joe Public who could become a customer?

You can do that? I had no idea!

You can do that? I had no idea!

People are fascinated by production processes. People are fascinated by the creation of graphic images. People are fascinated by fashion, by wearable art, and by clothing that makes a statement. T-shirt printing is all these things. It’s fascinating.

So why not show off your production process? Why not show all of it from the creation of the art to final quality control of the print? I’m obviously not suggesting a daily parade of bus loads of school kids or tours by the local retirement home, but rather selective showing to customers and potential customers.

It’s the ultimate way to demonstrate confidence in your production process and the skill and creativity of your employees (instilling confidence in your customers is a sure way to keep them coming back).  But, even more than this, once they see how the process works and what you can do, it’s bound to stimulate their creativity. And that could mean more orders.

Think about it. Get rid of the “Employees Only” mindset. Share the fascination and reap the benefits.