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Maintenance for a Screen Printing Dryer

Taylor Landesman is the vice president at Lawson Screen & Digital Products Inc. Previously, he worked as an attorney for the State of Illinois, Department of Insurance, handling regulatory and litigation matters. During law school, he was a Senior Editor on the Journal of Law & Policy at Washington University in the St. Louis School of Law.

Proper maintenance is key to extending the life of your screen printing equipment. Fortunately, an electric tunnel conveyor dryer requires little, if any, daily maintenance. This makes it one of the least fickle screen printing machines in your shop. And while a dryer may be low maintenance, a few small habits will go a long way in maintaining your dryer for the long run.

KEEP YOUR CONVEYOR BELT IN GOOD SHAPE

Keep your belt clean. A dirty belt can mark up your shirts as they go through the tunnel. Cleaning your belt is simple and does not involve disassembly. Get a wet sponge or rag and scrub the belt as it goes around your dryer, stopping it for a thorough cleaning where needed.

In addition to a clean belt, keep sharp objects away from the belt to prevent tears. A hole can spread over time, forcing you to either replace the belt or get a patch repair kit. 

IS YOUR BELT TRACKING CORRECTLY? 

Most new dryers have an automatic tracking system featuring a silicone bead on the belt edge, and a corresponding groove cut into the rollers. If your dryer has this feature, make sure the belt guide is securely in its slot. If it pops out, the friction can cause the belt to wear out prematurely.

If your dryer is older or does not have an automatic tracking system, your conveyor belt should be centered and 'tracking' in the middle of the rollers, not 'walking' back and forth. Keeping the belt straight helps to extend its life. A belt that hangs over the roller will cause rapid fraying, forcing you to buy a replacement. Before tracking your belt, ensure your dryer is level. 

Pro tip: It is easier to track your belt when it is warm.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE MOTOR BRUSHES

If your dryer has a direct current (DC) motor (high-quality dryers do), you should replace the motor brushes every 1,000 hours of operation. Not performing this quick and inexpensive maintenance item can lead to an expensive problem down the line. If you do not replace the motor brushes, they will eventually wear down to nubs and can cause an electrical short in the motor. A motor short would force you to buy replacement digital belt speed indicators. Suddenly, you might have to replace multiple expensive parts because you avoided changing your motor brushes.

CHECK WIRE CONNECTIONS

Wires can compress and loosen over time. Arcing (an electrical spark) can occur if a wire is loose. You do not need to be an electrical engineer to know that an internal spark is a bad thing for your dryer.

PERIODICALLY CLEAN THE EXHAUST FLUE

As garments go through the tunnel dryer, the dyes in the shirts evaporate as gas and can condense back into a liquid inside your exhaust. Over time, the dye hardens and sticks inside the exhaust lines. This dye has the potential to catch fire and is one of the most frequent causes of a dryer fire. Having a regular cleaning schedule helps to prevent any buildup. As for your exhaust, check the wind cap if you evacuate your exhaust to the outside. Over time, the wind cap can dislodge, causing a backdraft and a fluctuation in your dryer temperature.

TEMPERATURE CALIBRATION

You want to ensure your shirts are coming out of your dryer fully cured. Use tools like a donut probe or a temperature gun to ensure your dryer temperature is reading correctly and your prints are getting adequately cured. 

Following these basic conveyor dryer maintenance routines will keep your dryer running for a long time.