Belt Repair 101…a how-to and guide for fixing your damaged belt

Can I repair my Teflon* coated fiberglass screen print dryer belt in the field? We often get that question. As usual, the answer depends on the damage done and the amount of wear the belt has experienced.

W.F. Lake Corp. has been manufacturing these belts for quite some time, and we’ve seen some pretty creative repairs made…literally duct tape and bailing wire (but no bubblegum yet)! Truthfully, screen printers are a creative bunch (kinda’ have to be, right?) and often make repairs using whatever is lying around the shop.

We’ve seen ragged cuts from carts that bumped against a running belt; burnt areas created when a belt stopped and sat too close to an IR heater; cuts made when unboxing a new belt; torn edge trim when a belt tracked off the pulleys; broken splices from over-tensioning, etc.  And, of course, lots of belts that are just worn out.

So, can I fix it myself? If it involves simply patching a small hole or sewing on a piece of edge trim, the answer is yes. Use one of our repair kits to put it back into service…these repairs usually last a while. If the metal lacing pulled out, give us a call to discuss your options.  If, however, the damage is severe or it is a pulled or torn splice, it probably cannot be fixed in the field but we may be able repair it at the factory. And if the belt is just plain worn out, we usually suggest a new one since the required thermal welding bonds are inhibited by dried inks that may have penetrated the coating.

Whatever the cause, we’re always willing to help out to see if it can be fixed, either in the field using one of our repair kits or sent back to us for investigation / factory reconditioning. It’s worth noting that some customers purchase a new belt and then return their old belt for review to see if it can be repaired and used as an “emergency backup” belt.

The operating characteristics of PTFE coated fiberglass belts are pretty impressive and if care is taken, these belts last a long time. Give us a call, e-mail us a question or ask for a quote out of curiosity. Check out how to measure a belt for the most easy and accurate way to give us the dimensions you need…each of our belts is custom made to your specifications!

Note: Before starting a new Teflon* coated fiberglass screen print dryer belt, be sure to check out our Belt Startup & Operation data.

*Reg. Chemours

A lesson in PTFE…what exactly is it?!

What is Teflon*? What is PTFE? W.F. Lake Corp. uses PTFE from a number of sources. Teflon* is PTFE which is polytetrafluorethylene. Is there a difference?  No.  There are different grades, of course, and some different chemistry to a point. Check it out on Wikipedia (I know… I know) but it gives a pretty accurate account of what it is, where it is used and how it was discovered. It goes by many names, but as most of us in the industry realize, the best known brand name of PTFE is Chemours’ Teflon* (Teflon* is a registered trademark of Chemours.  Chemours is the company recently spun off by DuPont).  It is an amazing material and is used in many applications including our high temperature PTFE coated fiberglass products like fabrics, tapes, yarns and sewing threads.  So when someone looks for Teflon Coated Fiberglass Sewing Thread, they will often find PTFE Coated Fiberglass Sewing Thread in the search.  While we do use some Chemours products, we don’t always use Teflon* brand.  We therefore advertise our products as “ PTFE coated fiberglass sewing thread “, or “ PTFE coated fiberglass fabric “ etcetera.

As always, give us a call or zing us a note with any questions.  We manufacture a wide range of PTFE coated fiberglass yarns, threads, fabrics, tapes and belts. We may not be the largest processor of PTFE coated fiberglass products in the world, but we may have the most diverse offering.  We’re proud of our ability to apply this amazing fluoropolymer to such a wide variety of materials, providing solutions for your most demanding applications.

*Teflon is a registered trademark of Chemours

W.F. Lake: Must Love Cats

Do you remember that movie, ‘Must Love Dogs’? Well, all the employees at W.F. Lake must love cats. It might come as a surprise to you that we currently have 3 unofficial mascots. All of the cats ended up here by chance (or luck depending on how you look at it!).

The cast of characters is as follows: Verne, named after Laverneus Coles, the former Jets player, came to us in 2005 when his namesake started playing for the Jets. He was named by an employee with a voracious love of the team. Bobcat, a small and timid black cat, showed up at our door about four years ago and is named after her favorite employee, Bob. She came to us after what looked like a close encounter with a fox, which explains her cautious nature. And our final mascot to show up was Beauford. Beauford is a Maine Coon cat who we guess to be about two years old. Beauford is the most loving and friendly of our pets and he can often be found sleeping on John’s desk or begging for food. While we have only three cats now, we have seen several animals show up on our doorstep. The pet list could go on… Lucky (a black cat that showed up on Halloween), Clifford the dog, and several other kittens and cats that have been lovingly adopted by our employees.

You might be curious about how we ended up with this many animals. Well, it should be noted that the SPCA is essentially in our backyard. Either they forget to lock the doors or people drop off unwanted animals on their doorstep in the night and the animals escape. We like to think it’s the latter. Regardless, we have taken quite a few animals in and given them loving homes either here or elsewhere. When one shows up, we always take them to the vet to have them checked out and then have them spayed or neutered. In our care, they are given a seemingly endless supply of cat food, a 50,000 square foot indoor playground (sometimes with live toys), and lots of affection by our employees. Stay tuned for future blog posts highlighting the daily lives of Verne, Beauford, and Bobcat!

Made in the USA!

I have a great story. Actually, we have lots of them, but this one stands out in my memory.

We recently purchased some used twisting equipment from a mill in North Carolina. Now, recall if you will, that until the mid-90’s, there were tens of thousands of textile jobs in the area of western North Carolina. Then, for a variety of reasons, those jobs went overseas, devastating that part of the Country. Truly a terrible situation, but I’ll stay out of the politics and economics of the whole thing.

Anyway, we bought several twister frames from a broker. They came out of a mill that was shut down. We brought them up to Northern NY to add to our existing operation that twists very high temperature threads, yarns, and other products. The drivers and riggers that delivered these frames were all quick to point out how great it was that they didn’t deliver them to some port on the east coast to ship out on a freighter to another country. Rather, this time, those twister frames were actually going to a new industrial building in Upstate N.Y., USA! What a great feeling for all of us here at W.F. Lake Corp.! Working together, we were all investing in the future of the United States of America!

W.F. Lake Corp. manufactures all of its products in the U.S.A. and we’re proud of it. Since our founding in 1991, we’ve been especially aware of the need to produce products here at home. We’re fortunate to have been born here and we appreciate it!

It’s interesting to take a look at how important it is to have manufacturers here and to support them when you can. We like to point out that when it comes from the US, the box it came in was likely made in the US, the poly bag in the box, the truck driver that delivered the materials lives here, the guy repairing the truck, the company that put up the building, filled the vending machine, cleans the carpets, plows the driveway… well, you get the idea.

Statistics abound as to how important manufacturing is to the US Economy and I’ll spare you the details, save one.  The highest multiplier effect of any economic sector in the US is manufacturing. Don’t forget the person at the bakery who bakes the cake for “birthday month” and makes the buns for the hot dogs for the impromptu “bosses turn to cook” cookout, and… Sorry, got carried away again.

Made in the U.S.A. matters and we’re proud to say that is what we do!

Send us a note to find out more about what we do and the products we offer! 

Color of PTFE Coated Fiberglass Fabrics, Tapes, and Belts

PTFE Coated fiberglass fabrics, tapes and belts are typically a tan color.  Within the industry, we call this color “Natural”. But if you’ve ever worked with fiberglass fabric (maybe to repair your car or boat), it looks white. And of course it is white until it sees heat, then it turns “tan” or “natural”. Read on if you’d like to find out why!

Fiberglass yarns are made up of very fine filaments of glass fiber. These filaments are amazing little things, but they are, after all, glass and are subject to damage or breakage like any glass product would be.

Imagine very fine fiberglass rods; they’d easily snap and break if not handled very carefully. In order to make fiberglass filaments more durable, a starch “binder” is applied to the filaments to protect them in further handling, braiding, twisting, weaving, etc. These binders are organic… in some cases they are potato starch!

These binders caramelize when they see heat, very similar to a piece of toast turning brown in your toaster! Of course, PTFE coating of fabrics, tapes and belts requires relatively high temperatures to cure the PTFE. That tan color from the binders being heated is then trapped within a translucent PTFE coating, thus making the final product “tan” in color.  We call it “natural” because it is what naturally happens to these binders. You may see slight variations in the tan/natural color of the product because different binders are used on different yarns.

OK, but why are some black in color? That’s because we sometimes add pigment to the PTFE dispersion to achieve different colors or characteristics. Black is often used for several reasons. First and foremost, it is used to pigment belts in ultraviolet curing ovens (most often in the screen printing industry). When under UV lights, the starch binders that make a fabric or belt “tan” will bleach out, turning your tan belt a funny shade of off-white.

Although this in no way impacts the performance of the belt, it is often perceived as a failure. In order to hide that change, we make the belts black. That same black color can mask other things like wicking oils in food processing, ink from screen printers, etc. In some rare cases, specialized pigments (mostly black) are used to try to impart a degree of conductivity to this incredible insulator. In most cases, the point is to create a path to discharge static electricity.

What about other colors? Sure, they can be done but really are very specific to certain industries and not typically an issue in most commercial applications.

Yarns for electrical insulation are an entirely different beast, Yes, we manufacture those as well, but they are another topic entirely!

Again, and as always, contact us with any questions or comments. We’re here to help!

Helpful Tips for Sewing with PTFE Coated Fiberglass Threads (and other high temperature threads)

PTFE Coated Fiberglass, PTFE Coated S-2 glass, PTFE coated Quartz and other high temperature, composite sewing threads offer amazing operating characteristics. Unaffected by most chemicals, they will not burn, will not support flame, will not rot or support fungus. Our PTFE coated quartz thread operates to 2,000 deg. F. Amazing! However, you wouldn’t use these threads unless you have to, not necessarily because they’re overly expensive, but because they require a special skill set in order to make them work. If your application needs these properties, however, there are no alternatives. I like to say this is OK because it prevents everyone with a sewing machine in their garage from becoming your competitor! It’s not as easy as changing a bobbin and switching from polyester to S-2 fiberglass with Inconel wire twisted into the thread!

As mentioned, this is not a drop-in substitute for an aramid, polyester, or any other thread. There is a learning curve to go through if unfamiliar with this type of thread. The very unique and extreme operating properties of PTFE coated fiberglass (or S-2 glass, Quartz, wire inserted, etc.) threads require operator training and machine adjustments to make them work acceptably.

First of all, a factory lubricated thread is going to be much easier to use. This lubricant is applied after PTFE coating. We offer two high speed thread lubricants. X80 is a silicone/mineral oil based thread lubricant and is, by far, the most popular choice. This product is ideally suited for extreme needle heat environments when sewing through multiple layers of thermal insulation, like silica blankets, ceramic fiber mats, texturized glass, etc… We also offer a wax based thread lubricant (X50) that is used occasionally for lighter duty applications. In a few cases, customers will “post bake” the final product to remove any residual oils.

With or without the use of lubricants, the following suggestions help dramatically.

SLOW DOWN. Especially if un-lubricated thread is being used.

Change all hooks, needles, tension guides, etc. Anything that touches the thread must be free of burrs, gouges, etc. These items will need to be changed regularly.

Be sure the tension device where the thread comes out of the bobbin case is new and burr-free.

Use the correct needle size. We’re happy to help out with a suggestion.

Be sure there are no grooves where the thread passes through the hole in the walking foot. No rubbing or abrasion points.

If sewing with a wire inserted (Stainless steel, Inconel or other), try placing a nylon stocking over the thread spool and pass the thread through a hole in the top of the stocking. This helps prevent free-spooling of the thread and minimizes any “kinking” due to the steel or wire insert.

There will likely still be breaks occurring, but the properties of these threads are outstanding and we must sometimes put these difficulties in order to take advantage of these amazing products.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Operating Temperatures for PTFE Coated Sewing Threads

PTFE Coated Sewing Threads can be used for the following applications:

  • High Temperature Textiles
  • Safety Spray Shields
  • Filter Bags Braided Sleeving
  • Insulation Jackets
  • Thermal Insulation Pads
  • High Temperature Gaskets
  • Kiln Seals
  • Fire Resistant Composites
  • Welding Blankets
  • Heat Shields
Operating-Temperatures-for-PTFE-Coated-Sewing-Threads
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