When you take care of your platens, you’ll be able to keep them around longer without having to replace them. Platens can be expensive, so you’ll want to replace them as little as possible. So how do you take care of those precious platens? Here are a few best practices to get the most life out of your platens.
PROTECT PLATENS AGAINST HEAT AND WEAR
Platens will get warm during the course of a job (and you’ll want them to be warm before you start printing), but you don’t want to let them get too hot, typically over 200°F. This is especially the case with wood platens. Wood platens will warp over time if they’re exposed to too much heat. The resin holding the platen together can get damaged. Aluminum platens can get too hot as well. The glue holding the rubber top can become damaged.
If you flash most of the colors in a print job, do lots of print-flash-print, or have productions where your platens are getting hot often and for a long period of time, the lifespan of wood platens diminishes quickly. Once a platen starts to have a corner dip or raise up, it's time to replace it. If you see ripples on the platen’s surface, it's time to replace it.
Pallet tape is a great tool to use no matter what kind of shop you run. It keeps adhesive from getting on the platen itself. The only adhesive touching the platen will be the sticky side of the pallet tape. Rather than fighting to get the adhesive off your platens when the job is done, you can just take the tape off and have a nice, smooth platen again.
HOW TO APPLY PALLET TAPE
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to making sure you apply pallet tape correctly every time:
- Make sure that the platen is clean of dust and dirt before application.
- Roll the tape out a bit and apply the sticky side to the platen. Start with the edge of the platen furthest away from you so you’re rolling toward yourself.
- When you’re ready to cut the platen tape, let it rest loosely on the platen and cut it with a sharp knife or scissors.
- Make sure the pallet tape looks smooth, and then stick it to the platen. You can use a vinyl squeegee or a roll of pallet tape to smooth it out. The key is to apply even pressure so you don’t get air bubbles.
- Use a razor blade or knife to trim the excess platen tape from the platen. Use the razor blade to pop any small bubbles.
- Add registration lines and apply adhesive.
PRO TIP: Make sure to trim the platen tape with a razor blade instead of tucking it under the platen. Tucking the tape under the platen creates places where the shirt can catch or snag when you’re loading it.
USE A FRIENDLY ADHESIVE
No matter what you do, you’ll need to use an adhesive to stick a shirt to the platen in order to get a smooth print without the shirt coming off the platen. But which adhesive should you use?
Spray adhesive is one method for sticking a shirt to the platen, but it gets everywhere. Since it’s an aerosol spray, it’s not healthy for you or for the environment. You don’t want to be breathing in aerosol fumes all day every day. On top of that, spray adhesive is wasteful. Since you’re spraying it everywhere, you use more of it than you need, and end up needing to buy more sooner.
Water-based pallet adhesive is a great alternative to spray adhesive. It’s a spreadable glue that lasts a lot longer than spray adhesive. Water-based pallet adhesive is strong enough to get you through a long run without having to reapply it. Best of all, it won’t leave residue on garments when applied correctly, like a spray adhesive can.
HOW TO USE WATER-BASED PALLET ADHESIVE
Here are four easy steps to apply water-based pallet adhesive:
- Pour some water-based pallet adhesive onto the platen. Don’t pour too much: use enough that it’ll cover the platen when you spread it.
- Spread the glue around the platen with a cleanup card, foam roller, etc., and make sure it’s a smooth surface. Any texture on the platen will show through the print.
- Heat the glue by letting it rest under a flash dryer. Leave the platen under the flash just enough to evaporate the water and get the adhesive tacky.
- If you’ve just changed out the platen tape, lay a second layer of pallet adhesive onto the platen. This gives the platen extra tackiness and the glue will hold longer.
PRO TIP: Water-based pallet adhesive is best used for t-shirts. You can use it for hoodies, but you may need to clean off the fuzz from the sweatshirts often—sometimes after every garment—to keep the adhesive tacky. Most printers use a web adhesive when printing hoodies.
What about dual-tack platen tape? Dual tack platen tape is a type of platen tape that’s sticky on both sides. One side applies to the platen, while the other side is used as an adhesive for screen printing t-shirts and other garments. Printers who choose this type of tape don’t need to apply any adhesive. Simply peel off the backing and start loading shirts. The adhesive can also be re-activated by wiping the platen tape with a wet sponge.
Dual-tack platen tape works fantastic for shops printing 100% cotton garments. It reduces the need to reapply adhesive, although printers will still need to scrub lint off the platen like you normally would.
The best part of using dual-tack platen tape is that once you apply the tape, you can get right to printing. There’s no need to apply adhesive since it’s already included. You can go from applying platen tape to loading a shirt in no time.
You’re ready to get printing. But what should you do once you’re done printing?
Through the course of a run, you’ll notice lint buildup on the platen. You’ll need to clean the lint off in order to keep the water-based adhesive sticky.
To do this, mist the platen with water and grab a scrub pad. Scrub the area you printed on with a scrub pad until the link comes off. Once the lint is removed, put the platen under the flash again to re-tack the glue.
If you do not use pallet tape, you're going to need a solvent cleaner to get the adhesive off the pallets. For example, grab Sgreen® Supreme Wash, spray the platen, let the chemicals seep into the adhesive, and start scrubbing. You may have to do it a few times to get all of the adhesives off the platen.
You’re ready to get back to printing. The best part about using platen tape? You can keep it on the platen until the tape gets thin. Depending on how much you print, you can leave the tape on for several weeks to a few months. You can print many jobs and keep your platens looking brand new.
Taking care of your platens is important to ensure you get the most life out of them. Follow these steps to keep those platens looking brand new for longer.