June '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 6 J U N E P R I N T W E A R || 69 Combining cutouts with embroidery offers all kinds of possibilities for anyone serving boutique and fashion markets. DETERMINING THE BRIDGE LENGTH It is useful to understand a little bit about how a laser bridge is constructed when you are considering how long of a shuttle to get. The bridge, which is what allows the laser head to travel from head to head, is built over the embroidery machine. The good news is that it does not increase the foot- print. It only needs enough clearance above the equipment. A good analogy is if a laser head were a locomotive engine, the bridge is the equiva- lent of the train tracks. A bridge cannot be built longer than 40 feet. At each end, there are support pillars holding up the shuttle or "track." A bridge can be built as long as 120 feet in length, but must be done in 40-foot sec- tions. With this restriction, you can link together three 40-foot sections to create a 120-foot "track" that enables the laser head to travel the full length. Because of what it costs to build a bridge of any size, most shops have at least 40 feet installed because it provides the best bang for the buck. This is the most popular size and typically between 12 and 22 embroi- dery heads are positioned under it. Fre- quently, the configuration is two six-heads or two eight-heads. The advantage of this configuration is the ability to have different jobs running at the same time on each multi-head. If it was a single machine with 22 heads, you would be forced to run the same job. But, the la- ser is easily programmed to do a different function under each head if necessary. This is why it can also be used under a row of single-heads. For shops that have only 12 heads under- neath, there is room to grow by adding more embroidery heads later as business increases. Or, that space can be used for workstations, which might be nothing more than a table that holds a product to be etched. LASER LABOR Typically, a single operator is able to handle loading two six- or eight-head machines un- der 40 feet of bridge. While the machines are embroidering, the worker is hooping the next run. The embroidery is sewn simulta- neously in all the hoops, and then the laser goes down the line cutting out each appli- qué. The worker follows behind the laser and pulls away the excess fabric. The laser cuts so fast that when there are fewer than 12–16 heads to tend to, the ma- chine finishes before the operator is free to rip off the fabric and unload to start another run. Accordingly, a single operator per 40 feet is frequently the most efficient and pro- ductive combination, although this is going to vary depending on the job. For instance, Opposite: A laser bridge opens the doors to new opportunities and markets. Etching on promotional products, such as the neoprene wine koozies and tote bags shown here, is just the tip of the iceberg. It can also etch on wood and plastic products. (Image courtesy Henry Bernstein, on behalf of BITO) Above: While adding a laser bridge to your embroidery operation is a capital investment, it is one of the most effective ways to speed up your produc- tion and allow you to offer a much wider range of creative and innovative embroidered looks. (Image courtesy Henry Bernstein, on behalf of BITO)

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