By Digital Output Staff
Direct to garment (DTG) printers are advantageous to your business for a number of reasons. You shouldn’t hesitate to consider adopting new technologies if you are looking for an effective way to grow your service offerings without breaking the bank.
Above: Millcraft is a one-stop shop for DTG and direct to film printers and supplies.
The benefits of adding DTG are apparent. Customization and personalization are hot trends and this technology delivers. In addition, it’s a great way for print providers to bring textile printing in house. “Concentric diversification is the best way to add a new revenue stream to an existing business. Wide format print shops can offer a variety of products and combine apparel with their current services. DTG and direct to film are growing at an exponential rate and if they aren’t looking at adding it to their shop, they should recognize that their competitor likely is,” explains Eric Deem, apparel solutions sales manager, Millcraft.
DTG checks the boxes in terms of the latest consumer demands. Sharon Donovich, marketing director, Kornit Digital, says “DTG is a unique offering that is growing and answers many market trends, such as personalization, sustainability, and reshoring.”
It yields minimal waste. “DTG offers smaller prints and quantities,” explains Deana Iribe, technical support manager, DTG Connection.
“DTG provides an easy way for wide format printers to bring textile printing in house. The ability to offer more production in house provides you with quality control, along with the ability to meet your production and deadlines,” shares Taylor Landesman, VP, Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.
Kitt Jones, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation, agrees, stressing the importance of print providers keeping jobs in house. “As digital and large format evolves, so does the need for the print provider to accommodate the needs of their clients. Those who don’t take steps to expand their product offerings risk having the market passing them by.”
DTG printers complement a wide format print shop’s existing work. “Sign shops already handle a plethora of marketing materials for events and adding garments to those projects seems like a no brainer,” says Iribe. She gives the example of a print shop that wins a bid to produce signage and posters for a city-wide marathon. If the print shop also has a DTG printer, it now is capable of producing shirts for the staff and participants of the marathon.
“Most commercial print and wide format shops work with corporate/enterprise-type accounts. Almost all of those customers utilize some form of corporate merchandise that can be fulfilled with DTG. Other low-hanging fruit would include using DTG to work with customers looking for small order runs with complex art, such as photographs,” notes Deem.
DTG imprinted apparel appeals to a PSP’s existing customer base, according to Donovich. “A print shop owner can complement existing work by offering additional products to his/her own customer database, thus creating more value as well as versatility/resilience.”
“The past few years have shown us that short-run and print on demand DTG are prominent profit centers for many PSPs. The ability to fulfill small t-shirt and apparel orders in house helps maximize profit, while allowing control over turnaround time and quality to these print providers,” continues Jones.
Well you are convinced taking on a DTG device is worth it, but are you weary about what is next?
Deem admits that as in any skilled trade or just like any other type of print, there is absolutely a learning curve. “However, as it is a digital process, there is a tremendous amount of overlap with wide format machines and workflow as with DTG. As long as proper training is provided and time is spent understanding the various processes involved in DTG the learning curve is reduced much more quickly.”
“For print shops already using digital printers, including wide format, the learning curve should be quick and simple. The challenges of digital printers primarily involve knowing how to maintain inkjet printers, so this integration should be fairly smooth. Print shops also tend to be familiar with workflow and orders processing, which certainly helps,” continues Donovich.
Jones lists a few of the learning requirements specific to the application—pretreating the garment, printing, and post-curing or drying. Out of these, he says an important consideration is whether to pretreat shirts in house or buy factory pretreated shirts.
“Purchasing pretreated t-shirts is a great way to start out before the need arises to start pretreating garments in house. SanMar and RTP are good choices if you don’t want to deal with the pretreating application, or the extra time involved in the preprocessing,” recommends Jones.
Iribe believes the learning curve is relative to the substrates used. “With DTG you are printing directly onto a fabric substrate. It’s important to understand that different fabric qualities, contents, weights, and weaves can affect the outcome of your print. 100 percent combed ring spun cotton will yield the best results. With DTG overcoming the mindset that ‘cheaper is better’ can be a client’s biggest hurdle,” she explains.
“There is a learning curve with DTG, mainly in the areas of pretreatment. This is the part where digital graphic people spend the most time learning as each garment has different variables,” agrees Landesman.
With so much technology at our disposable, it’s easy to gain insight on any topic. “As entrepreneurs, print providers are accustomed to learning curves, and with so much information available, the knowledge can be obtained quickly and easily. With that in mind, learning as much as possible about the process and equipment before making your decision on whether to bring the application in house allows you to make an educated choice,” says Jones.
Direct to Film
An offshoot of DTG is direct to film, which has exploded in popularity. Direct to film is the process of printing directly to a film without the help of a pretreatment, applying a transfer layer/powder, and transferring the image with heat to a preferred substrate. This of course expands the types of substrates that can be direct printed onto.
Direct to film is something a wide format printer should look into, advises Landesman. “Many are turning away from DTG and increasingly adopting direct to film into their production. This is because it offers the one-off and high-color printing of DTG but is not limited to cotton.”
Mimaki USA, Inc. announced its dedicated direct to film printer in April 2023. The TxF150-75 is an inkjet printer with a maximum printing width of 31.5 inches for producing direct to film print transfer sheets.
The buzz surrounding direct to film will continue, says Iribe, because it creates a wider range of options. “Polyester has been the achilles heel of DTG due to its weaker ability to absorb pretreatment and less capacity to retain the opaqueness of white ink after being cured under a heat press. Direct to film uses a powder to create adherence to garments without the use of a pretreatment. It also allows it to be transferred in less time under a heat press, which helps the white ink retain its opacity onto previously tricky synthetic brands.”
Direct to film is a great option for print shops looking to work primarily with polyester-based athletic apparel or other high-stretch materials, according to Deem. In addition, if you’re looking to gang up several larger orders at one time, then direct to film is efficient.
“Direct to film has its place and is gaining popularity as a viable application or offering for print providers. I see that trend continuing and evolving in 2023 as printer manufacturers provide more reliable and easy-to-use products,” foresees Jones.
What to Look For
A popular request from many users is eliminating pretreatment, according to Iribe. “We may soon see printers with the ability of removing that step by adding a pretreatment function within the machine at a consumer level.”
“Increased automation and unique applications like 3D printing, while special inks are going to be more important,” says Donovich of what will happen in the future.
Multi-station units that can handle larger format items like towels or blankets are an evolution worth watching in the DTG space, according to Jones. “Such devices have opened the doorway to new markets, allowing for the creation of output that could not have been produced by DTG in the past. While dye-sublimation may be great for polyester and screen printing ideal for other fabrics, having that on demand, short-run, or one-off capability that a quality large format DTG printer provides is a game changer.”
Deem says more brands of blank garments witness the growth of DTG in the apparel decorating space. “I think we will see more garment manufacturers expand their offerings to include a DTG ready-to-print option.”
DTG on the Go
If you’re looking to expand your service offerings and dangle that premise of a one-stop shop to customers, DTG printing is a great option. It complements a wide format portfolio well and the learning curve—while it exists—isn’t steep since the technology is familiar.
May2023, Digital Output