Maintenance Heat Press
Take care of your heat press and it will take care of you. The last thing anyone wants is a down machine in need of repair. Time is money and lost production time is money straight off of the bottom line. Spending a little money and taking some extra precautions on the front end will certainly save a lot of time and money in repairs on the back end. Follow these tips, and that heat press will be in it for the long haul.
A clean upper platen…
Having a clean, smooth surface is a key factor in a successful application process. Therefore, it is a good idea to get into the routine of cleaning your upper platen regularly to prevent excess ink buildup that can result from improper application of a heat transfer, curing direct-to-garment inks or other factors. A clean platen, free of ink buildup will help keep the temperature and pressure even, while also keeping garments clean.
To clean the upper platen after usage, first power off the machine. Once the upper platen is cool, apply some mineral spirits to a soft cloth. Gently wipe down the upper platen with the damp cloth to remove any residue. Do not use anything rough (i.e. Brillo pads) to scrub residue off the upper platen, as this will damage the Teflon coating. Since mineral spirits are flammable, use caution and keep away from sparks, flames or hot platens.
Protecting the Teflon coating
Just as Teflon-coated pots and pans prevent foods from sticking and make cleaning a breeze, Teflon coated upper platens help prevent inks from permanently sticking to the platen’s surface. Deep scratches in the Teflon coating can cause areas of uneven heat and pressure on the platen, which can prevent parts of the press from releasing from its carrier paper. This will leave an uneven laydown of ink on the garment.
To keep the upper platen scratch-free, avoid placing zippers, buttons or anything with sharp edges on it. Interchangeable lower platens help here. For example, if applying a left chest logo to a jacket that has a zipper, drop in a 6″ X 6″ lower platen. The area of the jacket that is going to be applied will be draped over the platen; the small platen size allows for the zipper to hang off to the side, leaving only the 6″ X 6″ area exposed to the upper platen.
If you have a heat press machine with an upper platen that is not Teflon coated, one option is to use a Teflon cover to protect the platen. Doing this has its pros and cons. Pro—a Teflon cover will definitely protect the platen from ink buildup and, if it gets dirty, it can either be cleaned or easily replaced at a low cost. Con—by using a Teflon cover over the upper platen, you are adding a layer between the heat and the transfer, running the risk of the Teflon absorbing some of the heat that is supposed to be directed at the transfer. If you do decide to use a Teflon cover on top, keep in mind you may need to increase the temperature a few degrees to compensate for what is being absorbed by the Teflon.
Protecting the rubber pad
Protecting the rubber pad on the lower platen of the heat-press machine is an important part of general heat press maintenance. The rubber pad (also called the silicone pad) plays a large role in the machine’s ability to provide even pressure. The simple act of loading and unloading garments from the machine can wear down the edges of the pad over time, eventually affecting the pressure on the outer edges of the press. Pressure can also be affected if the rubber pad gets punctured from the use of hard/sharp objects like zippers and buttons.
The solution is a simple one: use a Teflon cover on the lower platen. The Teflon cover protects the pad by helping garments slide on and off with ease and by making it harder to puncture the rubber. Using a Teflon cover will greatly increase the life of your pad and will help ensure even pressure from the center of the platen out to all edges.
To prevent unnecessary stress on the pivot points of a heat press, it is a good idea to grease the machine regularly. Lubricate all pivot points approximately once a month or more if the machine is heavily used. If the machine is not greased regularly, pivot points can dry out, causing friction and wear on those linkages. The machine will also become more difficult to operate as pivot points harden and become resistant to movement.
With constant use, grease can build up on the exterior of the machine. To prevent soiling garments, always wipe any excess grease off of the machine prior to use.
Working from the center of the platen
One of the most important practices in preventing an expensive repair and protecting the machine is quite simple—always work from the center of the platen. It is important to place all substrates in the center of the platen during application because the force from the pressure system is exerted from the center out to all four corners.
If done repeatedly, printing off to one side of the platen can cause unnecessary wear on the machine’s guide post bushing and can even cause the guide post itself to bend. When the guide post is bent, the upper platen will no longer lay flat, making even pressure during application unlikely. Uneven pressure can cause certain parts of your transfer to not apply correctly. It is of the utmost importance to always work from the center of the platen to maintain the integrity of the machine’s pressure system and its components.
Keeping the air system clean (automatic machines only)
Automatic heat press machines operate with the use of air compressors. These air compressors pump air pulled from the environment around it into the air system of the machine. If not maintained properly, particles of dirt and moisture present in the air can take a toll on the machine and cause its air system to leak.
Check the air filter element to ensure it is clean; replace it when it gets dirty. The frequency of replacement will depend on how dirty the air system in the facility is. If the filter gets too dirty, it can lose the ability to strain out air particles which can clog the machine’s air system.
Another important factor is keeping the machine’s air system dry. When moisture builds up, it can clog the filter and even cause air leaks. Using a desiccant air dryer, which can be purchased from your heat press manufacturer, on your air pressure regulator can help extend the life of your machine’s air system by pulling the moisture out of the air before it enters the air system. If moisture does start to build up, be sure to drain the bowl regularly.
Follow these simple precautionary measures to keep your press running in its prime.