Effective Tunnel Finishing, Part 3

Dan Farnsworth |

Steam tunnel finishers are simple pieces of equipment that provide extremely reliable production throughout each processing day, but the process of tunnel finishing your garment production is not as simple as one might think.
Just as preventative maintenance is an important part of garment quality, consistency, energy consumption and the reliability of your tunnel finisher, the proper handling of garments and wash-floor etiquette play significant roles in finished quality.
Effective finishing begins with proper sorting, washing and handling.CONDITIONING
In most cases, there’s no need to condition garments before processing them through a tunnel finisher. A moisture content of 25-35% is the preferred condition for wet to dry processing. A certain amount of moisture is needed to relax the fibers to allow the finishing process to be successful.
With that being said, some operators feel they get better quality if they condition their garments in dryers before proceeding to the finisher. By tumbling garments in a dryer, the operator is able to loosen or untangle the cake or extracted garments while removing a small amount of moisture in the process.
When doing this, it’s important to work the garments gingerly with reduced load sizes and continuous or one-direction operation. The danger here is that garments can get overheated if the dryer stops. It’s important to stop the basket properly and use the recommended cool-down temperatures.
Some automated plants would do better to avoid conditioning entirely, but their systems design makes drying an easy part of the process.
For example, if there is no bypass conveyor installed to bypass the tumblers, then the product must pass through a dryer. Also, plants that utilize a continuous-batch washer for their garments must use a tumbler to break up the cake produced by the extraction press that typically follows the batch washing system.
In these situations, conditioning of garments can’t be ignored and should be done carefully. Be sure the dryer is loaded properly to keep garments up and moving in the airflow.
If you’re doing aprons with strings, be sure to reverse the spin direction to prevent tangling. And, like wash wheels, keep in mind that overloading causes wrinkles.GARMENT HANDLING
Garment hanging is a critical step, and many things can go wrong in this part of the process.
The garments must move from extraction and conditioning to the hangering area quickly. Then, they must be hanged properly and quickly to minimize the time spent in baskets. Finally, they must be loaded onto the tunnel conveyor properly to ensure the proper load on the tunnel.
Since this is the one part of the process that’s generally done by human hands, it’s a likely place for a breakdown. Pay close attention to ensure that it’s done properly and quickly in order to maintain quality and production rates.
Getting garments from the wash alley or take-off conveyor may seem like a simple process, but as much care should be taken here as was taken when loading the wash wheel.
Whether you utilize carts or slings, load size is still a critical factor. Carts and slings are designed for a specific weighted load; overloading them will only cause problems further in the process. Once you overload that sling or cart, you’ve set compression wrinkles that the tunnel won’t be able to remove.
It’s also imperative that wet or conditioned garments not spend much time in the slings or carts. If allowed to dry packed in a cart or sling, then wrinkles will be set and the potential for other issues rises dramatically.
Properly positioning garments on hangers can make or break finishing quality. When operators are in a hurry, they’re less likely to do the job right. The faster they’re asked to hang, the worse they’ll do.
They need to form collars correctly over the top of the hanger, pull out sleeves and roll down cuffs. A lot of interest has been generated within the industry lately in automated garment-hanging machines with individual production claims of 300-400 pieces an hour. With or without these systems, the time still needs to be spent making sure the garments are hung properly.
Garment inspection shouldn’t suffer as a result of higher rates. The risk is, of course, sending goods that require repair to customers. The goal can’t simply be to get the garment hung as quickly as possible.
Another potential land mine is improper placement of garments on the hanger. While the hanger may come out of the machine, its garment may have fallen on the floor, compromising quality and slowing production.
The use of 16- or 18-inch hangers as opposed to 14-inch hangers can simplify placement of a garment on a hanger.
Garments hang flatter because they’re fully supported shoulder to shoulder. There’s also less opportunity for bad placement since the larger hanger naturally centers itself in the garment.
A shirt is properly hung when shoulder seams are straight and the collar is buttoned and evenly placed, with the hanger centered in the neck.
We realize that trucks are better-suited to 14-inch hangers and that they’re more expensive, but when you evaluate a garment’s appearance after finishing and assess its delivered quality, you get the feeling that you’d rather sell a product hung on an 18 than on a 14.
Proper placement of the hanger on the tunnel’s conveyor is just as important as placement of the garment on the hanger. Quite simply, tunnel finishers work best when fully loaded.
It’s important to have one hanger at each pendant and not allow gaps in the stream of garments moving through the finisher. When full, the hot air is forced through the garments instead of around them. Additionally, the increased control over airflow means fewer garments skip off the conveyor. This will ultimately decrease your downtime and increase your production and quality.

About the author

Dan Farnsworth

Leonard Automatics

Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Dan Farnsworth is vice president of sales and marketing for Leonard Automatics, Denver, N.C.


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