If you're looking to add a new dryer to your garment-printing shop, this article can help you narrow your selection.
Dryers use conveyor belts made of stainless steel, Teflon-coated fiberglass, and other materials designed to withstand heat and wear. Belt speeds are measured in ft/min. and can be adjusted on garment dryers. The larger the range of possible belt speeds, the wider the variety of inks, garment types, and printing techniques that the dryer will support. Belt timing is important for avoiding over- or undercuring prints. This is why some dryers feature four-point tracking systems to keep belts aligned and traveling at expected speeds.
Belt width is another important consideration. You may be able to fit only one garment on a narrow belt, but a wide belt may allow you fit several garments side-by-side for higher volume production. Belts are typically available in widths from 18-86 in. A belt's height from the floor also can affect productivity. Belt heights range from about 28-36 in. You should select a height that minimizes the need to bend or overextend the body when loading and unloading the dryer.
Some manufacturers offer a split-belt conveyor system with independent controls and reverse drives. A split-belt conveyor allows users to cure dissimilar products at the same time. One belt can be set up to slowly carry heavy sweatshirts printed with a thick ink films, while the other belt can be programmed to quickly transport lightweight T-shirts with thin ink films. And when these two belts are reversible, several operators can work at the dryer at once to load and unload from both sides.
Modules and options
Not every screen-printing business is ready for a high-volume dryer today, but may need to upgrade to meet increasing demand in the future. For such shops, modular dryers are often beneficial. These machines let smaller shops start with dryers that fit their needs and later add features and functions as required. Modular components include such things as infeed and outfeed extensions, additional heating chambers and burners, and conveyor extensions.
Several options also are available to enhance a dryer's functionality. The split-belt conveyor mentioned earlier is one example. Other options include a choice of power systems (single- or three-phase power and a variety of voltage and amperage requirements), cooling sections and blower banks on the outfeed to make garment handling more comfortable, optic-sensor-based belt-tracking systems, high maximum heating temperatures and belt speeds, and more.
A lot to process
Sorting through your dryer options might seem daunting, but you can make the process a lot simpler with a careful assessment of your needs. Start by building a list of the inks you use (including manufacturers, formulations, and colors), the kinds of presses you have, and the types of garments you routinely print. Present this information to manufacturers as you hunt down the ideal dryer. They can use these details to help you select a model that will meet your existing needs and accommodate future demand.
A dryer may not be the most romantic piece of equipment in a screen shop, but it's the garment press's soul mate. If you take the time to carefully weigh your options, you'll find a companion dryer for your press that lets you maximize efficiency and quality on your production floor.
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