A flash cure unit should be a screen printer’s “go to” dryer for the following reasons:
When printing light colors on dark shirts, printers often like to perform what is called “print-flash-print.” This is the process of printing one layer of ink, flashing that layer, and then printing a second layer of the same ink on top of the existing. This will create a brighter, more attractive looking print.
When your print job requires you to print colors on a dark garment, you’ll need to first apply a layer of white ink called an under base. Printing an under base creates a scaffold on which to print your colors. First you apply the under base, then flash, then apply your colors.
Depending on your screen printing skills and graphic design capabilities, you may want to flash between colors when attempting butt registration. The more experience you gain – and the tricks that you learn – will eventually render this scenario unnecessary; however, flashing between colors could save you some heartache until you reach that point.
If you’re just starting out and can’t afford a conveyor dryer, you’ll probably find yourself full curing with a flash cure unit. While this is not done in higher production settings, it is common for screen printers to “cut their teeth” in the industry this way. We’ll talk more about this in a later blog post.
What To Look For When Buying a Flash Dryer
Value versus Price
Like most things in life, you should stay away from extremes. In this case, extremely expensive or extremely cheap. Both the cheapest and most expensive units are full of empty dreams. The cheapest units tend to give you fits when they work, and more fits when they break. The most expensive units may have some bells and whistles but will flash a garment similarly to units 1/3 their price. When looking at the cost of your new flash heater, remember this: Spend too much and you will probably never see a good return on investment. Spend too little and you will have a lemon on your hands, causing you to spend more money in the long run. Treat it like you’re buying a car – don’t buy the Lamborghini, but don’t buy the Pinto, either.
Even Heat Distribution
This is the BBC advantage! Because even heat distribution is the key to a quality flash, you will want to look for a flat panel emitter with filament spacing as narrow as possible. On a continuously moving conveyor dryer, hot and cold spots can be hidden because your garment is constantly moving. However, if your flash does not distribute heat evenly, these hot and cold spots are set points, and since your garment is not moving, you will experience over-cured and under-cured areas on your print. Units that use cal rods and quartz are notorious for this due to large spaces in the heating filament and dirty reflectors. Your best bet is to look for a flat panel emitter from the start, and save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
If you’re new to the industry, you may be asking “how do I know which companies are reputable?” Good question! The best thing is to call around – ask other shops what they have found works best. They can help point you toward a company with a longstanding track record of producing high quality, high value products. Additionally, don’t buy a product based on the warranty they offer. Long warranties are usually filled with company friendly loopholes. Plus, if you buy a product expecting to use the warranty, you’re probably buying the wrong product.