What happens to my printer when I go on vacation?
Chances are that you already know what happens when a DTG printer is ignored for too long; clogged heads, broken dampers, and a lot of money spent on new parts. Not everyone has the luxury of employees to continue to run their printer during your vacations, so below are some tips for leaving your printer unused.
Don’t Let Your DTG Printer Sit For Long Periods of Time.
Most DTG printers do not do well with idle time. Let them sit for a day or two and you need to allot for extra time to get them up and running normally again. Let them sit for a week and it is going to cost you; possibly a new print head, ink lines, dampers and a few other miscellaneous items. All of which can be prevented if you plan accordingly.
Prep Your Printer Before Departure
Before you leave your shop, plan to spend a few hours prepping your printer. In addition to your regular maintenance, make sure that all excess ink has the cap firmly sealed and is stored where it won’t freeze. You will also want to remove the ink already in your machine. This will not only prevent the risk of ink settling in lines and dampers, but when used with regularly scheduled flushings, will extend the overall life of your printer significantly.
Moving fluid through a DTG printer may vary slightly from system to system, but the concept is the same; activate a pump to pull ink from the cartridges (or bags/bottles) through the lines into the dampers, then the print head and into the waste ink tank. At FIREBIRD, we like to start this process with the ink cartridges removed and not connected to any source to pull fluid from. We run the pump as long as possible until all visible ink has been removed. This should only take 20-30 seconds for most systems. After this, we will then insert our Cleaning Solution and activate the pump again. Letting the pump run for 10-15 seconds, we then remove the CS while the pump is still running. This will introduce air into the ink lines and act as a plunger to remove additional hidden ink deposits. This procedure may be several times until certain all ink has been removed.
The key to successfully flushing ink from your printer is to be sure to use the proper cleaning solution to do so. Many ink and printer manufacturers offer a cleaning solution that is matched to their inks. There are certain ingredients in these cleaners that are designed to break down the components of water-based pigment ink used in t-shirt production. However, it is actually harmless to switch between brands of direct to garment cleaners. It is only when using an off-the-shelf hardware store product that you are potentially putting the life of your printer at risk.
This is not to say that flushing your system has to be expensive. Cleaning Solution can be purchased in bulk and refilling bags or carts is a simple process. For example, 1500mL of cleaning solution purchased in bulk for a CMYK+WW system will refill all six cartridges with 225mL of fluid and have 5oz left over for the finer detailed swabbed head cleans at a cost of approximately $60 USD. While some printers may still consider this too expensive, it is much less than the cost of a new set of lines and dampers to replace damaged parts.