If you're looking to add a new dryer to your garment-printing shop, this article can help you narrow your selection.
With all the equipment choices available today, selecting the right dryer for your garment-printing operation shop can be a complicated proposition. You have to determine whether a dryer's performance specifications will satisfy your current production needs and be able to keep pace as your company grows. And the dryer actually has to fit on your production floor! Fortunately, dryers are available in a variety of sizes, configurations, and prices to meet the needs of all kinds of garment screen printers, from start-up businesses to high-output operations. This article discusses some of the key features to evaluate when making purchasing decisions.
Heat generated in a dryer causes ink to set and bond to the garment. Dryers are designed to deliver this heat either electrically—using infrared (IR) heat—or by way of combusted fuel gas (propane or natural gas). What's the difference? After all, heat is heat, right? Well, sort of. It's true that the 320°F necessary to cure most plastisol inks is still 320°F in an electric IR dryer or a gas-fired model, but the real difference is in how the dryers reach and maintain that temperature and apply the heat to screen-printed garments.
IR dryers use radiant heat generated by electrically powered panels or tubes to cure the printed garments. The substrate and ink film must absorb the radiant heat in order to completely cure the print. IR dryers are often favored by small- to medium-sized shops because they typically cost less to purchase and take up less floor space than gas-fired models (Figure 1).
IR dryers can be used effectively when they're carefully set up to accommodate the ink type and printed thickness, as well as garment weight and moisture content. They are used primarily with plastisol inks, which harden or cure when exposed to the proper temperature for an appropriate amount of time. To achieve a proper cure, the entire ink film, as well as the garment surface, must reach the ink's curing temperature.
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