Embroidery Machine Overheating

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Education & Instruction | Comments Off on Embroidery Machine Overheating

Embroidery Machine Overheating

I know I’m not the only creative person out there who likes to push the limits. Having worked in a sewing machine retail store, I was initially quite shocked to learn that many of my customers owned several embroidery machines – often the same model. When I first started, I thought this was a little odd. Now? Not so much.

Why might someone want multiple embroidery machines?

(1) While one is embroidering something, I can still sew. Yes, I *could* get away with having my second machine as a small non-embroidery machine, but … I *could* drive a Yugo and still get where I want to go. Ew. No. I have two different consumer level embroidery machines, and I personally chose 2 different machines. I have my Viking Diamond and my Pfaff Creative Performance. The Creative Performance can do things that my Diamond cannot – like custom created stitches. Yes, I’ve actually created a machine sewn stitch based off of a picture in a Renaissance clothing book. So depending on what I want to do, one machine or the other is available at all times.

(2) If I need to, both machines can be embroidering something. Large quilt projects, like the HoopSister’s 2014 Block of the Month Quilt entitled Jacobean Journey (pictured below) leap to mind as the perfect candidate for multiple machine work. I’m doing the queen size version, and I *could* spend weeks collectively as I sit at one machine waiting for it to finish to I can put another block on. OR I could bust out both machines and have them both go to town. Yes, that sounds much more reasonable to me.

progress

(3) Now this last one is the entire reason for this post, and I’ve never heard anyone mention it in the years that I worked at the store but I’m sure I can’t be the only one. Consumer embroidery machines get what I like to call “tired”. Once a machine gets “tired”, literally the only option which I’ve discovered works is to shut it all down and walk away. Let the machine “rest.” What signifies when a machine is tired? Well, one of a variety of things. The nicest one is that it literally just stops working. The lights are on, but nobody is home. The machine is completely unresponsive. This is definitely “tired” and so it needs to “rest” overnight. Other signifiers include suddenly near constant thread snarls and/or breakage. I’ve even had tired machines skip entire sections of a color, like a marathon runner taking a cheat shortcut and then dashing across the finish line like everything is fine.

How long does it take for my machines to get tired? I’ve learned that largely depends on the heat in the room. The hotter it is, the faster they get tired. Usually, I can have anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of constant stitch time before they get too tired to continue.

Yup, I said 4 to 6 HOURS of CONSTANT stitching. Perhaps that’s why nobody ever mentioned this problem. But I like to push limits, and I hit this one almost immediately with my first machine. I made a tunic with heavy embroidery around the edges of the large bell sleeves and along the lower edge. This was one of the early designs, back when they were made dense and bullet proof. Designs have gotten better over the years, but this design took roughly 5 hours to stitch out a single one. There are dozens of them stacked together to get the effect I wanted. If I attempted to do 2 in a day, my machine pitched a fit. I learned real fast that commercial consumer level machines have actually a fairly finite amount of time they are designed to work optimally — and that’s somewhere between 4 and 6 hours.

tunic

I now have an industrial embroidery machine, a real honest-to-goodness embroidery house workroom floor machine. There are no bells or whistles on this thing, and it’s ugly and intimidating looking. But it can EASILY handle 5 hours of constant stitching. In fact, it’s designed to stitch continuously for up to 18 hours every day. Alas, most folks can’t get one of these massive machines. What’s an extreme embroidery junkie to do??

Two options. (1) Stitch until the machine is tired, turn it off and walk away for the day. (2) Get more machines. Sometimes, neither of these is an option. Something large MUST be done within a small time window, but the machines must cool down first. And that is the actual problem.

Heat.

The machines don’t actually get “tired”, that’s my euphemism. They overheat, and often the computer boards which control the machine start to mess up. Computers do the exact same thing, which is why computer labs are kept so darn cold. I used to work as a software quality tester in a giant lab. I had to bring in a large afghan and gloves in order to work in there! I haven’t tried putting my machines into a deep freeze room like that, and my workshop is in the garage where there is no air conditioning anyway. So how am I supposed to cool down my machines so I can keep working?

One of the single biggest sources of heat on these consumer machines is the built-in lighting. Lights = heat. Industrial machines have no lights on them. At all. Home machines? All over the place. You can see in the picture that I even have a light on the arm of my machine. I love my lighting, I will not trade my lighting, but I recognize it as a contributing factor in my overheating embroidery machines. Neither my Pfaff nor my Viking have a “turn off lights” option, but I can turn them way down. This helped a lot and extended the stitching time a bit, but they still overheated.

The motors on these machines are encased in a closed system with no built-in ventilation, which computer towers do have. Industrial machines have no casing on them at all, so the heat can dissipate easily. Unless you feel like stripping that lovely case off your machine, putting a fan on them is unlikely to really affect anything since the air can’t get to the motor.

Desperate now, I tried a cold pack. I put the cold pack right over top of the hottest part of the machine, which is (not surprisingly) where the computer is as well as the main drive motor for the stitching arm. My first attempt saw the cold pack fall over and get stitched into the project, quite literally. *blush* I do not recommend allowing this to happen.

Since I didn’t want to tape the cold pack to the machine, I ended up pausing every hour or so for about 15 minutes. I turned off the machine, put a fresh cold pack over the motor as pictured, and let it “rest” while I set up the next project. After just 10 to 15 minutes, the motor was surprisingly cool. I put the ice pack back in the freezer, turned on the machine and I went on with the project. I was able to stitch for over 10 hours that day!! Same machine. And not a single hitch. At the end of the day, the projects looked just as good as the did at the beginning of the day. *does a happy dance*

So if you have problems with overheating machines and don’t have the luxury of time, try this trick. Just make sure the cold pack doesn’t drip on your machine. That’s a whole new level of mess.

Until next time, Happy Sewing!

– Dravon

 

 

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