Screen Printing - June/July 2018 - 17
IN DTG INKS
The markets for DTG printers are
growing, thanks to changes in
apparel retailing, new inks, better
RIPs, easier-to-use printers, and
ready-to-print DTG garments.
creen printing will play a role in the garment decorating
business for years to come. But the scope of that role may
change over the next decade due to market forces that favor
the environmental friendliness and inventory-reduction possibilities of print-on-demand direct-to-garment (DTG) printing.
The performance of DTG printers has improved in recent
years, thanks to industrial printheads, better RIP software,
enhanced pretreatments, reduced maintenance requirements,
and steadily improving textile inks. This article highlights
recent improvements in DTG inks, but also suggests why the
robustness, versatility, and affordability of today's screenprinting inks will perhaps never be supplanted.
High-volume screen printers currently regard DTG printing
as a complementary process, not one that could someday
replace their existing analog presses. DTG works especially
well for short runs of cotton and cotton/poly garments -
particularly for designs that include full-color photorealistic
art. But screen printing is still a more cost-effective option
for creating 1- and 2-color graphics on many different fabric
types. It is also more cost-effective for printing thousands of
garments that have the same design.
Over the past year, DTG printers have become easier to
use and maintain, more versatile, and more affordable. Some
advancements make DTG printers easier to use at sites where
Above, DTG printing is a cost-effective way to print short runs of fullcolor graphics on garments or novelty items. Courtesy of Brother.
screen printing is the primary method used to decorate high
volumes of garments. Other improvements attract solopreneurs
and well-financed startup companies that have no interest in
learning about screen printing.
Entry-level DTG printers are popular with home-based businesses, embroidery firms, sign shops, and commercial printing
firms that want to print T-shirts and related products on
demand. Higher-speed industrial-grade DTG printers have been
purchased by Amazon and other e-commerce-focused companies that fulfill short to medium runs of orders for licensed
apparel and custom T-shirts from independent artists.
As David Landesman, co-president of Lawson Screen and
Digital Products, points out, DTG printing is an easier process to
learn than screen printing - particularly for people who have used
digital imaging software and inkjet photo printers for years. DTG
printing appeals to startup companies because it doesn't involve
the messiness of mixing inks or the facility modifications for
cleaning and storing screens and powering presses and dryers.
Some DTG owners and apparel brands share the vision
of Kornit and other OEMs that environmental concerns
and the continued growth of online apparel purchasing will
erode the number of garments that will be mass produced
and warehoused. On-demand garment production would
reduce the number of mass-produced garments that end up
on clearance-sale racks or in landfills. While screen printing
will always offer major advantages in ink costs and versatility, those distinctions could be tempered as more apparel
manufacturers choose to reduce inventory and shipping costs
by only making garments that people have ordered.
JUNE / JULY 2018