How to care for your capping station

This month, Colin Marsh, managing director of Resolute DTG, looks at the Christmas rush and capping stations in detail, what they actually do and how to look after them.

During the last three months of every year the online and high street retail fashion industry experiences a massive surge in sales. The increase in sales or if you are running a DTG printing department, the increase in work load can sometimes catch people unawares.

As always preparation is the key and I am sure most of you experienced in this will have been ready weeks ago.

Capping station fluid

The maintenance side of busy periods is critical and although tempting after a long day, it must not be missed or short cuts taken. Almost too late for this year, a new product launched at SGIA New Orleans is set to make life a lot easier in the capping station department.

Until now the capping station has been cleaned and flushed with conventional cleaning solution. Nothing wrong with that, being the only way to clean a capping station and keep it free from dried ink, but now this product is set to change the performance and lifespan of your capping station. It does not matter which DTG printer you have, if it uses pigmented inks, and all DTG printers do then this breakthrough is going to save you time and money while increasing the lifespan on your trusty cap station.

The why

So why does a capping station wear out quickly when not maintained correctly?

DTG ink is pigmented, this means it is made up from physical particles allowing it to maintain a strong vivid colour on cotton fabrics where dye based inks would look weak. The pigmented ink left sitting in the capping station slowly dries by way of evaporation leaving behind the pigment. This will form a rubber like substance that can be physically peeled from the outside of the capping station seal, this also happens inside the workings of the capping station.

Now unless you are prepared to remove and strip down your capping station to clean it out, and this is quite a hard fiddly job. The best method to avoid it clogging is to rinse it through with a solution to wash away any ink left inside removing the pigment at the same time.

Once a capping station is clogged you will be very lucky to revive it as the tubes used in the peristaltic pump are quite small and become brittle over time.

Some DTG printers have what is called a wet cap system; this helps to keep the print head moist while not in use and in some cases can flush itself through automatically.

Tip top condition

The price of a capping station can vary from as little as £40 up to £4,000 on a high end industrial system. Bearing in mind the capping station looks after a much more expensive part of your printer, the print head itself, you should make sure it is always in tip top condition.

Inside a capping station

I liken this in cost terms to a cam belt on a combustion engine. Normally a cam belt will cost around £90, if it breaks the cylinder head it could be destroyed costing in some cases up to £1,000 to repair. In many cases these two costs are not dissimilar in DTG parts.

Of course you cannot repair a Piezo print head leaving you with the cost of a new one, perhaps caused by neglecting a much cheaper part of your printer.

So keep your cap station clean and in good working order and your print head should remain happy. In general, your capping station should be replaced if you are using an Epson-based or similar on an annual basis. This is normally replaced during a general service.

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