Students train with the latest printing technology

Students train with the latest printing technology
Posted on 04/09/2018
Colcord student Skyler Ziebarth is in her second year at Northeast Tech, and she is one of the advanced students who has been learning the operating procedures for the R-Jet 5. It’s not often that a small town in Oklahoma can lead the way in adopting new technology, but that is exactly what’s happening for the students in Crystal Beyers’ classroom at the Northeast Tech Kansas Campus. The addition of a new printer is allowing students to train on high-tech equipment newly emerging in the printing industry.

“We are only the second shop in the entire U.S. to utilize an R-Jet 5 printer,” said Northeast Tech Instructor Crystal Beyers. “This is where the industry is going, and my students will be ready for it.”

Beyers teaches the Business Administration, Multimedia and Graphics class, which incorporates a wide variety of career training. From graphic design and printing to photography, business administration and medical recordkeeping, Beyers’ finds a way to make sure all her students are receiving the training they need to find employment after graduation.

“Employers want to hire people with experience, and when they’re just starting out, students can have a hard time getting that job experience,” said Beyers. “Not so for my students. They have the experience they need to go to work when they come out of here.”

And its equipment like the R-Jet 5 printer that makes this possible. The printer is one known as a Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printer and it is capable of printing designs on a variety of garments in a cost-efficient, time-effective manner.

“This is incredibly cost-effective for us in comparison to traditional screen printing for a number of reasons, Beyers said. “It’s really an apples and oranges comparison. Screen printing is good for mass production, but it’s messy and not cost effective for what we do. With this DTG printer, everything is streamlined, it takes up less space, the chemicals are safer for my students and its more cost effective – both in ink expenses and by allowing us to cost-effectively produce jobs of small sizes.”

Beyers first heard about DGT printers three to four years ago while attending a technology conference.

“At the time, the cost of the printers was unbelievable, and they were huge,” Beyers said. “But more recently I started hearing about the smaller DTG printers, and I found a gentleman in Grove who had – at the time – the only one in the U.S. I went to see him and realized this was the way to go.”

But even at a smaller size the cost of the printer was still a sizable obstacle, one which Beyers’ overcame by writing a grant to cover the cost of both the $20,000 printer and the $7,500 pretreating machine that is used in conjunction with the printer.

“The technology is so new, it didn’t even come with a user’s manual,” said Beyers. “We’ve had to do a lot of Skyping with the manufacturer and people across the globe who are using the machines to figure out how to best use it in our setting.”

The students in Beyers’ classroom do not start training on the R-Jet 5 until they have mastered numerous skills, processes and manual operations that lead up to using the printer. Colcord student Skyler Ziebarth is in her second year of the program, and she is enjoying training on the new printer.

“It's a lot easier than screen printing,” Ziebath said. “You don't actually have to place the vinyl you just print it. The outcome is my favorite part – it’s so clear and beautiful.”

But in addition to the fun of designing and printing comes the tedious work of cleaning. Beyers is adamant that her students understand every part of the printing process, including the less glamourous parts like maintaining, troubleshooting and cleaning the printing equipment.

“She makes us clean it every day – both the pretreater and the printer,” said Ziebarth. “I take apart nozzle sprayers and platforms, and go through lots of paper towels and Lysol wipes.”

Aside from providing her students with a learning environment to develop specialized skills, Beyers is also excited about the possibilities the printer provides when it comes to the types of jobs they can accept. From local schools and little league teams, to projects for TSET and the grandparent that lives down the street, they now have the flexibility to take on projects that were cost prohibitive with screen printing.

“If people have a job request, they can call, email or drop by and visit with me,” said Beyers. “I’ll assign a student to their project, and then serve as the mediator between the student and the client to make sure everyone stays happy and on deadline. We produce high-quality materials, but we are still a learning environment, and I like to make sure people are aware of that before we start a project.”

Beyers can be reached at crystal.beyers@netech.edu or by calling the Kansas Campus at 918-868-3535.
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