Custom Creative Solutions

We get some interesting opportunities here at W.F. Lake Corp.! I’ve touched on many of our unique capabilities in our PTFE coated fiberglass sewing thread operation, where we can twist in wire with Kevlar* or fiberglass, make colors of fiberglass yarns, make colors of braided PTFE coated fiberglass draw cords, etc. Today we’ll take a look today at some of the interesting PTFE coated fiberglass belts we manufacture.

We sometimes refer to Custom Products as PTFE coated fiberglass belts (or commonly Teflon* coated fiberglass belts), but they really are custom fabricated combinations of materials designed for unique applications. All of this starts with a conversation, and that conversation usually begins with “can you guys make something that will ‘fill in the blank’??”. Our unique capabilities in our belt department enable us to combine materials in unique ways to solve tricky problems.

For example, we make a “Rotary Kiln Seal” that combines PTFE coated Kevlar*, PTFE coated fiberglass fabric, and PTFE coated fiberglass sewing thread into a high temperature gasket for a rotating kiln. This seal had to operate in a high temperature and high friction environment for months at a time.  The fabric provided reduced friction against the hot face of the rotating kilns while the Kevlar* worked to reinforce the outer face. Of course, our fiberglass thread held it all together at extreme temperatures.  This kiln seal did not look anything like one of our PTFE coated fiberglass mesh belts, but we used those same capabilities to make it happen.

In another case, a customer asked if we could put “cleats” on a PTFE coated fiberglass belt. Cleats? Sure, but what are we going to make those out of those? This belt had to operate at 500 deg. F in a curing oven. Operating temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit rule out most belting materials, but not PTFE coated fiberglass.  Still, we had never put cleats on one of our belts. Interestingly, the cleats were needed because this belt was required to run up a slight incline and product would slip down the belt if no cleats were installed. So, we made up some samples and settled on standing cleats 2” tall made with layers of PTFE coated fiberglass laminated together (essentially a small board of PTFE coated fiberglass). We bonded and sewed those cleats to a belt material and the problem was solved!

I could go on, but the point is that when it comes to PTFE coated fiberglass belts (or custom fabricated products) we are able to combine our unique processing capabilities with the wide range of materials we manufacture and come up with some pretty creative solutions. Since we perform all these operations in-house, ideas turn into samples quickly. The best of those ideas and samples often become unique products to solve your most demanding application needs. Give us a shout or zing us a note and we’ll get the ball rolling!

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

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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