Seasonal Maintenance for Direct-to-Garment Printing
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Seasonal Maintenance for Direct-to-Garment Printing

When it comes to protecting your capital equipment investment for your business, nothing could be 'smarter' than putting your equipment at the top of your maintenance calendar schedule. You will drastically reduce the need to work 'harder' to keep your printer performing at peak levels.

By AnaJet

How many times have you heard this before: "Work smarter, not harder!"

Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

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  • As we change through the seasons from coast to coast, these myriad of weather changes change the working environment in your shop. You may be experiencing extreme heat, freezing temps, snow, monsoons, extreme humidity, thunder and lightning, high winds and dust storms, etc. These conditions all play a major part in the durability and operation of your digital garment printer.

    The task of preventative maintenance far outweighs the painful consequence of repair costs - and production downtime that can easily be avoided. Here are the top five most critical preventative maintenance procedures to help you get through the changes all the while keeping your garment printing business in the money-making mode rather than being a money pit.

    1. Environmental Conditions: Daily
    Maintain your humidity! Keeping the right ambient humidity levels is one of the greatest key factors in producing dark shirt graphics. Depending on where you are located and your local weather conditions, you may need to add a non-condensing humidifier (or in rare cases add a dehumidifier). It is recommended to maintain a minimum 45% relative humidity. Your optimum humidity levels are in the 50% - 70% zone. You can easily measure this by placing a hygrometer near or on your printer. These levels will fluctuate as the weather changes; you will need to make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

    2. Clean the Wiper Blade: Every Few Hundred Prints
    The wiper blade is part of the maintenance station that functions to keep the nozzle plate clean during the printing process. This is the only tool that is allowed to actually come in contact with the nozzle plate. When cleaned on a regular basis, it plays an integral part in minimizing clogs within the microscopic openings that deposit ink onto the garment being printed.

    Think of your printer's wiper blade as one of your car's windshield wiper blades. When not maintained, they do a terrible job at cleaning your windshield when it rains. The same holds true here. If your wiper blade looks clean and is nice and shiny, it is the main indicator that the blade needs cleaning. Your wiper blade should have a flat black color to it and be rather flexible. Use the medical swabs provided combined with a little cleaning solution to remove any build-up from the blade. If this does not adequately remove the ink build-up, try gently scraping the blade with your fingernail to lift and peal any dried ink deposits. Do not at any point use any sharp tool to scrape the deposits from the blade as this will inherently cause damage to the blade and counter act your efforts.

    Action item: You should always keep on hand a spare wiper blade. You shouldn't have to experience any downtime as a consequence of cleaning your sole wiper blade.


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    3. Clean the Maintenance Station: Every Few Hundred Prints
    The maintenance or capping station of the printer is the workhorse of the entire ink-delivery system. Its purpose is to create a vacuum seal around the print head nozzle plate and draw ink through the system via a pump. The pressure from this action helps to keep the nozzles clear from drying ink. The second function of the maintenance station is performed by the wiper blade as previously described.

    The maintenance station is another vital component to keep clean. This process involves cleaning around the area the print head sits on. Ink can build up in this location similar to the wiper blade, and in time, create a poor seal. The loss of pressure will make the pump action ineffective, leaving microscopic debris within the nozzle openings resulting in poor head cleans. The proper cleaning process is identical to that of the wiper blade as described above.

    4. Drain the Waste Ink Tank: When Indicated or More Often
    The waste ink tank is the collective reservoir used to capture ink and cleaning solution during the auto/manual cleaning cycles. The tank has built-in indicators alerting you when it is time to be drained. However, the longer ink sits in the tank, the more the ink will coagulate and become difficult to remove, especially during warmer summer months. Draining this more frequently in the summer will help to eliminate spending more time clearing the drain opening due to thick coagulated ink deposits. If it has been a while since you last drained the waste ink tank, consider adding hot or warm water to the tank and allow it to soften any ink build-up prior to draining.

    5. Break Down the Ink System for Vacations: As Needed
    Your printer prefers to be printing rather than sitting idle. However, we all need a break from time to time. A little "pre-flight" maintenance will go a long way to a hassle-free return. To ensure you do not miss a beat after an extended absence, properly flush the entire ink delivery system.

    The most cost effective procedure is to simply remove the ink cartridges from the ink bay and replace them with cleaning solution cartridges. Then, print a few promotional sample shirts that you can use for marketing while on your vacation (maybe even write off your trip as a marketing expense, if appropriate?) until the ink remaining in the ink delivery lines and printed head become mixed with the cleaning solution. The next step is to power the printer off from the control panel only and then activate the pumping feature to begin a complete flushing cycle. A thorough cleaning cycle will take 5 -10 minutes.

    To ensure the print head has been thoroughly cleaned, power the printer back up. Locate the print purge function and purge all channels simultaneously. It is best to print this purge directly on the print table. In doing so, you can clearly see if all ink has been completely cleared of the ink delivery system. If not, repeat the procedure until so.

    Once all ink has properly been cleaned out, power your printer down completely and enjoy a cold beverage of your choosing by the pool-side.

    Adapting these simple preventative maintenance procedures will help you keep your cool while producing some cold hard cash. You do not need a great deal of time to maintain your printer properly. Simply "work smart" and run maintenance!


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