DTG prints on the shirts, would be awesome, they cost about 15 large.
You should ask @Nick about DTG printers. The promise is greater that the delivery. I think he said the white pigment have to be pumped 24/7 and unless you used it a lot on constant basis it clogged.
So we had a large format Viper DTG printer with white ink at MultiForms for 3 years. Image below of the unit.
While the idea of DTG printing is super exciting and the finished product is very nice. The issues around DTGs are in the machines and the handling of ink. DTG printers are injet printers with a platen print bed. So they function just like desktop inkjets and use the same platforms and print heads. But, they use thicker inks with heat set binders added to them.
The thicker inks have issues with keeping the pigments in suspension. Instead of making new systems to handle this, the DTG manufactures are just band-aiding the off the shelf components for inkjet printers with circulation pumps inline with the ink lines. This works for a while, but there is not proper flow in the print head leading to the larger particles gathering there over time. This leads to a clot which gums up the print head causing issues with printing. This isn’t a new issue for Inkjet printers, they all suffer from this. In fact, a large percentage of ink use on Inkjet printers is the flushing of print heads with the ink in the system. DTGs just suffer the issue more often and when you add white ink, it is a near constant issue. To put this into context, a regular inkjet print is disabled from a print head clog in say 24 to 60 months, a DTG printer without white ink in 8 to 24 month, a DTG printer with white ink in 2 to 8 months.
When the head is clogged, the only option is to replace it at a cost of $300 to $800 based on the head. But, you also have to flush the ink lines out. This is a onsite labor cost of $250 to $1000 in addition to the print head. It is doable by a expert user, I’ve done it personally, but it takes about 2 to 4 hours full cycle to do it all. Also, the flushing method only works so long, after 3 or 4 head replacements, you have to replace the ink lines, because particles settle on the walls of the tubing and eventually travel to the print head causing clogs quickly.
Lets say you write off the white ink option and plan around just the CMYK DTG printer given the larger up time between maintenance. At that point, what is DMS really gaining? We already have dye sublimation at DMS, which can transfer graphics to the vast majority of t-shirt you could print to without white ink. Also, since both processes require a heat press step, your not gaining any increase in efficiency. I say, dye sublimation is actually more efficient because the printers are faster and you can bulk run at the heat press rather than pressing as shirts come off the DTG.
So the TL/DR,
We already have 80%+ of the option of a non-white ink DTG at DMS with dye sublimation.
DTGs are maintenance hogs, with white ink option making on site repair likely 2 to 8 times a year. And, the maintenance is expensive.
Not trying to crap on anyone’s excitement, just the reality of it.
But, I’m not walking away saying there is no option. There are Laser Transfer options with white now. https://sepsgraphics.com/product/8432wt-color-printer-with-white-toner-printer-laser-heat-transfer-printer/
I wish this was available when we jumped into DTG. Because, I would likely still have this machine. I have not used these personally, but I’ve heard from those that have that they are on similar maintenance schedules as a regular laser printer. They just have a higher cost of materials as you have to print to special material for transfer and the toners are special.
Thank you for the excellent response, arent the printers getting much better as well as the laser one? I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good option in a few years as the price goes down and quality up.
Jeez, sounds like you need to hire a cardiologist to maintain those things
One of those expensive lessons in time, effort, and money. I wanted these to be one of those amazing tools I could use every day. But, they are all promise and no delivery. I didn’t even get into the required coating you have to apply with a spray gun and heat press onto the shirt to get the white ink to work properly. Plus, they print incredibly slow. We are talking less than 20 shirts an hour cranking.
The DTGs are not getting better. In fact there are fewer and fewer companies even willing to sell them year to year.
The laser transfers on the other end are having some very cool things happening. From new toners for special materials, more toner colors/ effects, and new sizing of printers for even larger imprints. I’ve seriously considered these a few times, but they haven’t hit the cost to reward mark for me to jump yet. Also, worst case you just use it as a Color Laser printer for paper.
But, they are still new when talking white ink transfers.
I do DTG for a living and have worked on everything from hacked 4880s to Kornits. The technology has come a long way in the past few years, but white ink is still an issue on prosumer models like the Freejet, GTX or Epson F series. White ink needs daily maintenance and care, and it’s just asking for trouble in a setting like this. That’s not even getting into pretreat machines - even the good ones are prone to clogs because it’s basically saltwater and glue.
CMYK only, on the other hand, is low maintenance and doesn’t require any pretreat. Before the quarantine, I pulled the white out of my F2000 and left the CMYK. It sat for 6 weeks and gave me a perfect nozzle check when I got back.
Something like a Brother GT-541 would be a good addition. I used to have one and sold it with 126k prints on the original heads. We might have an old one at our Ft. Worth shop - if there’s interest I could run a class on how to fix and maintain it.
Hi Tom it looks like the Epson F2100 is about 15k. Are you saying that’s a prosumer model? If so what would a professional DTG cost?
Thank you for the insight and you too Nick. I’m in the screen printing business and have been since 1979. I have owned a banner printer and have been following DGT for years. I agree with your observations. DTG has tried two rollouts (one very early on) and manufacturers and publications (who get paid by manufacturers) have made some very big promises. This technology was supposed to revolutionize the garment decorating industry and it may still do it but it is still very slow (that wouldn’t matter if it’s one or two shirts) and slow to be adopted by the industry. I did read that Amazon has made a multi million dollar investment in Kornit Digital quipment and getting into DTG in a big way. That was interesting.
Don’t get me wrong - the F2100 is a good printer, and there are a lot of volume operations that do well with clusters of F2100s or GTXs, provided they can beat up the OEM enough on ink prices. They have a legit place in the market, but you have to take them for that they are.
Right now, the least expensive but still legit industrial DTG is the Epson F3070, and they start at around $55k installed. We just got two of them in last month and they’re solid machines. Cruises at 50pph for standard sized prints and ink costs are usually under a buck, especially with Kothari. Colors are outstanding, and the hand on it is phenomenal with a gas dryer. Way better colors and hand than a Kornit or Aeoon. I have a box of samples I printed on a Storm Hexa and a Kyo and they don’t come close to these. This F3070 is going to cause a big market realignment - they’ve lowered the cost of entry for a legit POD operation from $500k to around $150k, and that’s going to mean a lot more screen printers can afford to play in earnest.
Awesome to see this thread is still going. That is interesting Tom about f3070, 50pph (pieces per hour) on those style printers is cranking! If you don’t mind me asking. Have you gotten that kind of through put on your printer? Or are you quoting the advertising numbers? Because, it is one of those things that I’ve been miss lead on in the past. The advertising says 52 second to print 1 dark garment. But, it isn’t mentioning lacing the garment on, drying the garment, or treating the garment for white ink. Are you really able to knock all that out on a one side full area print on a dark garment at 50pph?
To those not in the know. 50 pieces per hour (PPH) is impressive for these machines, as my machine dialed, pre treated shirts with a pass through dryer would peak at 20 shirts with a kindly sized imprint. That is a finished shirt every 180 seconds. a finish shirt in 1/3 the time is an incredible increase in speed. But, the key is are we talking full process or just the printing step. Because, if we are talking just the printing step, you are comparing that to screen printing which can be in the 200 prints an hour, about 1 every 18 seconds after all setup. After setup, often the only limit is how fast you can get the shirts on and off the press.
One thing DTG does have is a really nice hand feeling. That is one of the things that has already made an impact in the screen printing market. I also give water based inks as nod for this impact as well. I’m seeing more and more screen printers offering plastisol printing with finer screens, better inks and additives to improve the hand of the print. Which has me excited in being able to better advertise the difference in the products I sell, as well as having more informed consumers wanting better products.
Tom, PM me your number some time, I’d love to catch a lunch with you and talk shop! Especially, with your choices during this COVID year, as we are playing as well.
Yeah, I’m always skeptical of any production number I get from a salescritter, but in this case it’s been largely accurate. I’m running a 300 pcs FLC/Back job tomorrow, which is our biggest so far on these units, so I’ll have a better idea about throughput but I’m expecting to get around 100pph between the two printers. From the jobs I’ve run so far we’re averaging 20-25 sec for a FLC and up to 1:30 for a 14x16 with full coverage, which is faster than the Storm 2 HD6 I used to run. We pretreat with a Pretreatmaker IV and give it a 20 sec press and send it down the dryer, and that’s worked into the production flow anyway so it’s not a real drag on turn times.
Part of what I do to keep production numbers up is to only hire screen printers with auto experience, because we know how to dress a platen in 2 seconds and 100pph feels like slow motion. Running a good sized conveyor with a catcher helps a lot too.
Happy to chat sometime - I’ll drop you a PM.