Temperature is one of the most important variables in screen printing. Here are some tips for measuring it!
With the importance of heat in your screen printing shop, you can’t leave flash and curing temperatures to chance. Like any heating appliance, flash cure units and conveyor dryers have hot and cold spots. Different curing units heat differently. And over time, heating elements can break down or lose power. That’s why you should be monitoring the heat in your screen printing shop.
Devices for measuring temperature around your screen printing shop
There are a few devices commonly used for checking the temperature of cured items in screen printing shops. All of the devices have positives and negatives, and it’s important to remember that all of the devices will tell you the temperature of your dryer or flash cure unit, or the surface temperature of your ink or garment. What matters when it comes to fully curing ink is that the entire layer of ink – not just the surface – comes to the proper curing temperature for the proper amount of time. For flash curing, you’re looking for a gelled surface on which to print more layers of ink, not a full cure.
- Laser temperature gun. A laser temperature gun, or infrared thermometer, allows you to take a quick reading of a garment or ink layer as it comes off the dryer or flash cure unit; you just point the gun and activate the laser to get a temperature reading. You also can use a temperature gun to check pallet or heating element temperatures.
- Donut probe. A donut temperature probe, or thermo-probe, can be set on top of a substrate, ink or the belt of a conveyor dryer to provide temperature readings along the entire length of the conveyor dryer.
- Temperature tape. Temperature tape, or temperature strips, can be stuck to a garment during curing. When the tape reaches a target temperature, it will change color so you know that curing temperature was or wasn’t reached.
When to check temperatures
Monitoring the temperatures of your flash cure unit and conveyor dryer is an important part of quality control in your screen printing shop. While it might not be practical to run every garment through the conveyor dryer with a donut probe or temperature strip, there are a few times that you should be checking temperatures in your screen printing shop.
- When you purchase new curing equipment. If you’ve purchased a new conveyor dryer, it can be beneficial to run a donut probe through the dryer at different speeds and at different points of the belt so you can get a feel for any cold spots on the belt, so you can verify that the temperature gauges on the dryer are accurate and so you can get a feel for how different temperature settings and different belt speeds will affect your cure.
- As you perform regular maintenance. Curing units can lose power over time, or heating panels can break down. As part of regular maintenance in your shop, you should be periodically checking the temperatures in your conveyor dryer and on your flash cure unit.
- When you execute a test run. Test runs should be part of every one of your printing projects. Temperature checks should be part of your test runs so you can be sure that your underbase and your final print have cured properly.
- As part of your quality control. Putting temperature strips on a few garments throughout your print run or having someone hit every few garments as they come off the conveyor dryer belt or out from under the flash cure can help you monitor the quality throughout your print runs.
Ensuring quality products with temperature checks
By using the right temperature monitoring devices at the right times can help you to ensure that you’re providing your customers with quality prints that will last. Monitoring temperatures is an easy and inexpensive way to save you from having returned items due to improperly cured inks.
For more information on properly curing your screen prints, check out these blogs: