Making the move from a manual to automatic garment press can be a daunting task. Davis draws from his own experiences to ease the transition when the time comes for your shop to upgrade.
By Rick Davis
Larger automatic-press manufacturers offer numerous features that either come standard or as options. Know these features and understand the influence they can have on making your automated production runs as trouble free as possible. Some of these include programmable sequencing of the printing cycle, shirt detectors that shut down individual printing heads should you miss the loading of a platen, adjustable offcontact for the entire press, and built-in memory that allows you to save and recall press settings.
You’ll also need to consider a new flash unit. Don’t assume that the flash unit on your manual press will work for your automatic. Odds are good that it will not be nearly powerful enough to allow for flashing at the speeds at which you’ll wish to run the automatic. Here again, there are a number of different flash units available for automatics. Plan to tack that critical accessory onto your shopping list. You may need two flash units should you be shopping for a press that prints ten or more colors.
The options from press to press and manufacturer to manufacturer can be overwhelming. Take your time in sorting out which ones will best suit your facility and budget.
New vs. used
Another option to consider is whether to purchase a new or used press. I recommend the purchase of a new unit for most manual printers who are buying their first automatic. You must have an extensive amount of experience with automatics to know what to look for in a used press. Otherwise, you can end up buying someone else’s problems. If you still want to look at a used press, consider the following:
• Was the press properly maintained since its original purchase?
• Was the press properly checked and reregistered on a regular basis?
• How many total impressions has the press produced to date?
• Are all of the adjustments (squeegee, flood bar, off-contact, etc.) totally functional?
• In what condition are the platens,
squeegees, and floodbars?
• Which platens come with the press?
In my case, I purchased a used press that was six years old and had printed only 100,000 impressions. Spray adhesive had never been used on the machine, so it appeared as if it were brand new. The seller also kept the press completely connected and operational for my inspection prior to disassembling and packaging the unit for the move. I believe that this situation is more often the exception than the rule, and I count myself as lucky to have found such a unit and a cooperative seller.
Another option is to look into manufacturer-rebuilt equipment. This is usually the best way to go when buying a used press, as you have the manufacturer standing behind the press’s performance. Your next order of business is to determine the additional costs that will come with the addition of an automatic press. We’ll discuss some of those costs in the second part of this series.
Rick Davis is the president of Synergy Screen Printing in Orlando, FL. A 27-year veteran of the textile-printing industry, Davis is a member of the Academy of Screenprinting Technology and has a background that spans production management, artwork engineering, application testing, and industry consulting. He is a frequent contributor to trade publications and a speaker at industry trade events.
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