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THE CHEAP WAY TO CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF A HEAT PRESS

February 8th, 2011

Steve Conde

For years, we have talked about this method of checking the accuracy of a heat press temp gauge. The problem is, the device we recommend is darn near impossible to find. Well, here’s a source and how to use it.

The device is usually referred to as a simple candy thermometer with a metal stem. The problem is, I have looked in kitchen/cooking stores for years and have NEVER seen one. I knew they were out there but where do you find one? Well, you can find it at www.amazon.com . Who would have thought? The gadget isn’t called a candy thermometer however, it is a Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer and costs $11.32 plus shipping. It can be found here.

As you probably know, most thermometers don’t go high enough to work with a heat press but this one goes to 450° F (most products need 400° F for sublimation). To be sure, this $12 device isn’t going to be as accurate as the Contact Digital Thermometer we talked about in our previous blog: “HEAT PRESS MAINTAINANCE: WHEN IS 400° REALLY 400°?” but it is probably much more accurate than an infrared thermometer, especially if you take several readings around your heating platen (2 on each side is ideal).

To use this little wonder, just place it in the heat press as far as you can with the digital readout sticking out the side and close the press. Let it stay in place until it stops increasing in temperature and write down what it says. Repeat this process, taking at least one reading in each corner (two per side is even better) of the press and writing down the results. If the results are all close (they should be), just average them for a final reading and adjust your temperature gauge accordingly. If you find one reading more than say 30 or 40 degrees different than the others, take the reading again to be sure of accuracy. If you get the same reading, it may indicate a hot or cold spot in the heating element. This is unusual in newer presses (past 10 years or so) but can happen. If you bought a Geo Knight press from Condé, the heating element has a lifetime warranty. Call technical support at Condé for assistance in making sure this is really the problem and for a solution.

Remember, this is a $12 test instrument and not the $85 Pyrometer instrument talked about in my previous blog and won’t give the same kind of accuracy. For just a quick check however, it should get the job done just fine.

One other note: Should you find a cold reading in one or more corners of your press, check the pad on the lower platen or “stage” of the heat press. This pad should be spongy and resilient. If it is hard, cracked or has depressions in it, the pad needs to be replaced (call Condé Technical Support for assistance).

Remember, although sublimation is really fairly flexible about variations in temperature, the more accurate your heat press, the better the results and the more consistent your products will be.


HEAT PRESS MAINTAINENCE: WHEN IS 400° REALLY 400°?

February 8th, 2011

Take a look at your heat press? What do you see? If it’s turned on, you probably see a readout on the top of your heat press that says “400°”? You depend on that device to always tell the truth but does it?

When most heat presses come from the factory, they are set so the readout is accurate no matter what temperature you set it at but don’t assume that is always accurate. The truth is, that temperature readout device is tested and set by a person and people sometimes make mistakes. Even more so, presses can, over time, change. These are, after all, just machines and like all machines, they occasionally need their vitals taken, a shot of oil here and there and an all-round check-up.

Perhaps the most important item that is given the least amount of attention is the temperature readout. When your heat press reads 400, how hot is it really? I have seen presses drift as much as 100 degrees up or down from what the readout says it is. Now a few degrees, even 10 or 15 degrees will make little difference in most products but wider variations will make a huge difference in the quality and consistency of your work.

Over the years, I have tried a dozen of ways to get an accurate reading from a 400° press and it ain’t as easy as it sounds. For years, my best method was to use an infrared digital thermometer but I knew that wasn’t giving accurate readings – I still don’t understand why not but it was clear that that method wasn’t good enough to get the accurate readings I wanted.

Another method was to use a heating/air-conditioning thermometer, you know, the ones made like candy thermometers with a metal tube with a dial on top. If I placed that on the stage of the press with the dial sticking out, and closed the press, I could get a fairly accurate reading but even then, I would have to take several readings and average them together. I wanted something better and so did everyone else.

After all, if your press isn’t heating to the same temperature every time you set it or if your readout is saying one thing and the press is actually something else, you are going to have problems. I once had a guy in Canada tell me he could make a perfect FRP name badge in 20 seconds while it took me a full minute to do the same job. His press was so “fast”, in fact, he had trouble controlling it. Items that normally required only 20-30 seconds were just burning up. I suggested his press was too hot but he assured me the temperature was accurate and his press was just faster than anyone elses.

Now, I never got to take a reading on that press but there is no question in my mind; his press was 100 or so degrees too hot. Sure, the readout said 400 but it wasn’t calibrated accurately. READOUTS MUST BE CALIBRATED BEFORE THEY WILL BE ACCURATE. Now, if the factory does this and does it correctly, you’re set to go and we usually assume that to be the case but….
In my own case, I have one press that when tested accurately, was 35° too hot. It isn’t a huge amount but it made my times vary from one press to another (I have two presses in my shop). What worked on one press didn’t work on the other. Isn’t 400° the same on both sides of the room? Apparently not.

When I discovered an accurate way to read the temperature of a flatbed heat press, that all changed. Now, I can do the same job on either press and it looks the same, takes the same amount of time and is always consistent no matter which press I use or how long a period of time passes between jobs.

The bad news? This isn’t going to be free. The good news? An accurate measuring device costs less than $85 and is available from Condé or George Knight, a heat press manufacturer. The device is referred to as a digital contact thermometer or pyrometer. It comes with a special surface probe (called a thermo-couple) that is pressed against the surface of a heat platen to obtain a more accurate reading. By adjusting the temperature being called for by the heat press until you get a consistent 400° reading at the center of the heating platen, you can then re-calibrate the readout on your press. Instructions on how to do that on Geo Knight presses are included in the instructions.

THERE IS NO WAY anyone can produce quality-sublimated products with any consistency if they don’t have an accurate readout on their heat press. Over the years, I have helped solve many a sublimation problem by adjusting the temperature of a heat press up or down 10, 20, 30 or more degrees. For years, it was just a guessing game when a press went out of calibration. Now, presses can not only be fixed but maintained to reflect highly accurate temperatures and boy, am I glad. Best $85 bucks I ever spent.

Have questions? Contact your Condé representative. They will be happy to help you and if they can’t, they will refer you to the person who can.


WHAT HEAT PRESS SHOULD I BUY? SWING-A-WAY OR CLAMSHELL?

January 26th, 2011

By: Steve Conde

One of the most common questions from someone just going into the sublimation business is always, “Which heat press should I buy?” And surprisingly, the answer almost always ends up the same.

Most people who enter the sublimation business want to do so on a shoestring, so they look at all the presses on the market and they hear every salesperson’s opinion who promises that theirs is the best for one reason or another and they just end up confused. Truth is, those who are real-life experience in the industry will almost always recommend the same model. But why?

There are two types of presses on the market: Swing-a-way and Clamshell. The argument for a clamshell press is that it is much cheaper and a good press to get started with and that 400 degrees is 400 degrees so what difference does it make?

Well, 400 degrees is 400 degrees but that’s where the similarities end. Clamshell presses were fine when there wasn’t anything to make but shirts and a few metal products but in today’s market, there are thousands of products to offer customers and almost all of them are easier and more profitable than shirts! Why would you want to limit yourself?

For those who don’t know, the mechanical differences between the two presses are obvious. A clamshell press opens like a clam with the heating element rising to 45-90 degrees so a product can be placed on the “stage” of the press. A swing-a-away differs in that the heating element lifts up parallel with the stage and swings completely out of the way. This greatly reduces the danger of burned knuckles but that is the least of the advantages of a swing-a-way over a clamshell. In fact, the swing-a-way is far superior in every way except for weight and price. Clamshells are about half the weight and half the cost and it is the cost that becomes so alluring to first time buyers.

First, let’s talk about cost: Sure a clamshell is half the price, maybe less but is that a good investment? Absolutely not! There are a host of products a clamshell CANNOT make, regardless of what some salespeople might tell you. They are a light duty press made for shirts, not the stuff that makes real money for a sublimation business. Some argue that one should start with a clam and upgrade later – bad idea. Heat presses last for 20 years or more. That means the investment difference between the two presses is about 10 cents per day. If you buy a clam and then upgrade you have just wasted the cost of the clamshell because believe me, once you use a swing-a-way, you will never use the clamshell again.

I have two swing-a-ways, the same ones Conde sells. One is a 16×20” George Knight KD20S and the other is a Geo Knight DK-14 Combo press, I use for making hats, plates and as a back-up press should by DK20 ever bite the dust (so far, the only time it was down was when a fuse blew and it took a couple of days to get a replacement. I have used my press at least weekly for almost 10 years now and it is just like a new one.)

The biggest advantage of a swing-a-way is the fact you can imprint products up to about 1” thickness. Clamshell presses can print very thin materials up to UNISUB Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) which is 3/32” thick if you are careful but they’re not made to do plaques, tiles and a host of other products because they can’t close down on a thick product in such a way that the heating platen is perfectly flat against the surface of the product. This will result in an image that looks good on one end but fades to nothing on the other. Even if you are just making shirts, you can do a much better job if you use a sublimation pillow – something you can only do with a swing-a-way press.

What all this boils down to is that a clamshell for a sublimation shop that is going to make anything but shirts is a bad choice and false economy. In the end the shop will end up with two presses and one will probably become little more than a doorstop.

The key to opening a business on a shoestring isn’t buying the cheapest equipment possible, it is buying the right equipment the first time out – especially when that equipment is going to serve for 20 years or more.

In later blogs, I will discuss how to test and adjust the temperature of your press, what you should remember about heat press warranties, how to care for your heat press, and accessories.


Using Condé Photoshop Templates

December 16th, 2010

1. Files types:

software for extracting files.

Click here to go to Winzip Official Site

To download templates go to www.conde.com/support/templates. The download will include formats for CorelDraw, Illustrator and Photoshop. Once the Conde template is saved to the desktop or in your desired location, it will need to be extracted (Extraction software is required (ex; Winrar (www.rarlabs.com), Winzip; Zipeg, ect..)).

When using Photoshop the formats will be one of the following extensions:  .eps; .psd; .pdf.

.PSD

2. Preparing image first:

Keyhole

The printable area.

Put thought into the image and image placement first. Size the image so that it will fill the template area. The templates are a “keyhole” that shows how the image will appear on the sublimatable area. It will not reform, re-size or reshape the image in any way. However, you will be able to re-size and reposition it. More on that in step 6.

3. Open the template in Photoshop:

a. Right click on the .psd, .eps or .pdf; left click on “Open With”.  Select Photoshop. The template will open in the application; Orb. From Photoshop; left click on “file”; left click on “open”; then from the browser, find and select the image you’ve prepared.

4. Select the background Layer to Place the image:

Selecting the Layer

Selecting the Layer

Choose the background layer under the layers to the right of the page. It should say “Click here to place image or graphic”. It is important to choose this layer for placing the image behind the template layer.


5. Place the image on the background layer:

Click on "File"; "Place"

Click on "File"; "Place"

Click “file”; “place” for the image to go to the selected layer. When placed inside the template it will have an X across the image and a bounding box around it. This is the editing box that enables you to resize it by …

6. Click and drag the editing box:

click and drag to fit

Left click and drag the corner of the editing box to do any final resizing of the selected image. Also, the image can be repositioned by placing the courser over the image and hold the left button down while dragging. Then left click on the green check mark to complete the placement of the image onto the background layer. Or, left click the red “banned” circle to delete or undo the placement of the image.

In addition, you will find other awesome videos for sublimation and heat transfer by the support team at Condé by visiting Condé TV, Condé Facebook Page and Condé Twitter. Look for more upcoming videos and informative blog entries to be added for successful sublimation and maintaining your Condé DyeSub System. If there is something that you think would be better said in an instructional video or blog posting, then we look forward to hearing your ideas.

Thanks,
Conde Systems Inc.
www.conde.com

Senior Support Technician,
1-800-826-6332
Vicky Waldrop


Condé Introduces LaserMPrints CTF Trim Free Transfer Paper

August 23rd, 2010

Mobile, AL – August 18, 2010 – Condé™ Systems, Inc. has added LaserMPrints™ CTF Trim Free™ Transfer Paper to its family of products for heat transfer. Developed for use with either oil-based or oil-less color laser copiers and printers, LaserMPrints CTF Trim Free Transfer Paper is a revolutionary single-step, self-weeding transfer paper designed for transferring full-color logos and artwork onto white and light colored apparel, tote bags, aprons, hats, and more. Engineered to leave ZERO background residue on the finished product, LaserMPrints CTF Trim Free reduces production time by eliminating the need to trim and discard the non-imaged areas of a printed transfer. Even intricate designs and text can be easily transferred onto garments without also transferring an unsightly background polymer “window”. LaserMPrints CTF Trim Free Transfer Paper provides professional results on 100% cotton, 100% polyester, and cotton/polyester blends and is available in 8.5”x11” and 11”x17” cut sheet sizes. Visit www.conde.com for additional information and pricing.

Condé is the recognized leader in the digital transfer market and offers everything needed to get into the custom imprinting business including ink jet and color laser printers, professional heat transfer papers, production software, and heat presses. Many have made a profession at heat transfer as a short-run solution to screen printing – others use heat transfer for in-house marketing, corporate functions, personalized awards, and customized gifts. Anyone who has access to a color printer can transfer full-color images and designs onto t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, ribbons, purses, mousepads, keyboard wrist rests, robes, team jerseys, aprons, shorts, and more. During all stages of product selection, sales, and post sales, Condé offers expert knowledge and superior customer support. Condé and DyeTrans are trademarks of Condé Systems, Inc. Other brands and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.


Working with Conde Templates with corelDRAW

June 21st, 2010

This video demonstrates where to find and how to import Conde CorelDRAW templates and use them with your unique artwork. Created and edited by Conde Tech Support Expert, Vicky Waldrop. Call us for your imprinting supplies: 1-800-826-6332, http://www.conde.com


Wrought Iron Tile Frame Products for Imprinting Businesses

June 7th, 2010

Condé’s Brittany Anderson presents the DyeTrans™ line of Wrought Iron products which frame sublimatible tiles. All the items shown are available at http://www.conde.com. The transfers are created using a Ricoh® GX e3300N printer with Sawgrass® SubliJet-R™ sublimation inks on TexPrint-R® Sublimation Paper, with a George Knight™ heat press. All products are available from conde.com, including the George Knight® DK20™ heat press used in the demo.


Condé’s David Gross’ Sublimation Business Tip #4

June 2nd, 2010

Condé’s David Gross talks about his favorite tips for the sublimator. Look for his article in the Sublimation Almanac. Here is with Tip #4: Keep Your Instructions Current & Updated. Check out http;//www.conde.com for more tips and business supplies for dye sublimation and heat transfer imprinting. Cond130′s instructions for sublimation are available for free to our clients at conde.com/support in Condé’s PartnerNet area.


Unisub® Mantle Clock & Dye Sublimation

May 24th, 2010

Using a George Knight® DK20™ Heat Press, Condé’s Brittany Anderson demonstrates the procedures for applying dye sublimation transfers to hardboard inserts for a Unisub® Mantle Clock and assembly of the clock.. The part number for this clock kit is U5756 at http://www.conde.com. The transfers are created using a Ricoh® GX7000 printer with Sawgrass® SubliJet-R™ sublimation inks on TexPrint-R® Sublimation Paper, with a George Knight™ heat press. All products are available from conde.com, including the George Knight® DK20™ heat press used in the demo.


Wide Format Sublimation Imprinting of ChromaLuxe™ Panels

May 17th, 2010

Using a George Knight® MaxiPress™ Heat Press, Condé’s Brittany Anderson demonstrates the procedures for applying dye sublimation transfer to Unisub® ChromaLuxe™ hardboard and aluminum photo panels. The part numbers for these products are U5880 and U5998 at http://www.conde.com. The transfers are created using a RJ-900 printer with Sawgrass® SubliM™ sublimation inks on DyeTrans® Multi-Purpose Hi-Resolution Sublimation Paper, with a George Knight™ heat press. All products are available from conde.com, including the George Knight® MaxiPress™ heat press used in the demo.