MAMARONECK, NY — Originally known as the "shirt guy," Matt Brandt is a self-taught screen printer and creative designer of multi-colored, intricate designs. His business, SICKGRAFIK, has grown to offer both screen printing and embroidery on all types of apparel and promotional items.
Brandt started in screen printing in 2010 when his motorcycle stunt group needed T-shirts. He found that he had a knack for T-shirt design and the determination to learn the process.
He purchased screen printing equipment off the Internet and turned a spare bedroom in his home into a crowded but functional screen printing shop. After several years of growth, his equipment and work space were limiting his ability to meet demand and achieve the results he desired.
"I had requests to do jobs with fine details and half tones, and I knew my equipment wasn't up to snuff," admits Brandt. "My single-color press couldn't hold registration any day of the week. You'd get a couple of prints that were in registration, and then you'd get a couple that were not even close. It was a nightmare."
Performance-matched components fit tight space
In 2012, Brandt researched equipment manufacturers online to upgrade his shop, ultimately deciding on Vastex based on equipment quality and the willingness of customer service to work within the confines of his 12 x 12 bedroom. "They engineered the room for me," he says.
The space was outfitted with a V-2000 six color/four station press, an E-1000 UV exposure unit, a Dri-Vault screen drying cabinet, a RedFlash R18 flash cure unit, a DB-30 infrared conveyer dryer and a VRS pin registration system, leaving little room to maneuver.
Brandt attended a Vastex three-day class where he received hands-on training on all of this equipment. "A couple of weeks later, I was doing amazing things that I could not have done before," he says.
Manual screen printing press expands capabilities, boosts capacity
With his equipment up and running, Brandt began to diversify services and broaden his customer base. "Our markets are small businesses, clothing lines, contractors, restaurants, fire departments — any event or company that needs a shirt or promotional item," he says.
To accommodate his growing business, Brandt moved into his current storefront location and replaced his V-2000 press with a V-2000HD eight color/eight station press. The new machine enabled him to take on more challenging jobs — 1000 shirts in 8 colors for example — showcasing his unique designs.
"I don't like cookie-cutter stuff," he says. "I'm tired of one-color front, one-color back. I like to give customers something more exciting.
"The beauty of a manual press is you can run it with one person, as well as multiple people on the press at the same time printing different jobs." On a good day, Brandt was printing close to 170 shirts an hour when operating the 8-color, 8-station machine alone.
Prepress equipment serves manual and automatic presses
When sales outgrew the capacity of his manual press, Brandt added an automatic press. He says the manual and automatic press and other equipment "work in harmony." The speed of the automatic press is complemented by the fast set-up made possible by the features of the V-2000HD manual press.
Brandt uses his existing VRS system to register screens for both presses. The system enables him to register screens for multi-color jobs off press, and insert a new set of pre-registered multi-color screens that are ready to print in 10 minutes, dramatically increasing output and profit.
He further enhanced productivity with a new E-2000 LED screen exposure unit. "Where my previous UV exposure unit took 10 minutes to expose a 2-part emulsion with a 3/2 coat on a 230 mesh screen, it now takes two minutes. Burning a 110 mesh screen with 2-part emulsion and the same 3/2 coat has fallen from 20 to four minutes. The turnaround is revolutionary. It formerly took all day to set up a 3-color garment front and back. Now it's finished in one hour in the morning."
Brandt also burns screens for other area screen printing shops, giving him another revenue stream. "It turns more money for us in several ways."
His skills and equipment allow him to accept many jobs that local shops are unable to tackle. His artwork is also in high demand. "Many artists might have better ideas, better creativity than I do," he says, but he has the uncommon combination of printing expertise and art skills "to make the design pop on a shirt."
Dryers handle automatic press output
As garments exit the automatic press, they run through two infrared conveyor dryers — his new EconoRed II high production dryer and his original DB-30 — in series on one long 30 in. (76 cm) wide belt extended by Vastex. As the EconoRed II dryer alone can dry as many as 600 pieces per hour, Brandt says the dual dryers readily handle the output of his automatic press. The adjustable heater height, temperature and belt speed of dryer allows it to accommodate anything from T-shirts to sweatshirts to bags printed with plastisol, water-based or specialty inks.
Brandt is busier than ever. "As a small business owner, the equipment brings me peace of mind. My machines are going to do what they're supposed to do."