Screen Printing - June/July 2016 - (Page 28)
DTG: LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
With higher productivity solutions hitting the market, how will the industry respond?
with Kiersten Wones and Liz Duccilli
uch has happened in direct-to-garment (DTG) inkjet
printing since we last examined the technology two
years ago (June/July 2014, pg. 22). Newer inks
provide better color gamut, improved washability, and
adhesion to a growing range of pretreated fabrics. Big inkjet
players have jumped in, first with Epson and then Ricoh
(through its recent acquisition of Anajet) marketing DTG
systems. Online decorated apparel mavericks continue to use
DTG technology to disrupt existing supply channels, with an
intriguing announcement from Amazon in January that it was
working with Kornit on the online retailer's Merch program.
And, perhaps most importantly, machines with significantly
higher throughput are hitting the market, giving volume
screen printers more to consider as they plot their future
The more productive DTG systems available today are
a far cry from the ones that hit the market about 15 years ago.
Those early units, much like the first inkjet poster-printing
systems that had come a decade before, were essentially
desktop printers that had been jury-rigged to print directly
onto white, 100-percent cotton shirts. About five years later,
we began to see printers that had been built specifically for
the application. White inks emerged. They weren't nearly as
opaque as a screen-printed underbase, requiring multiple
passes and/or additional heads to get acceptable results,
and initially they were prone to clogging in the head - by far
the biggest frustration of early DTG adopters. But gradually,
they opened the door to dark garment printing. Later, units
that could print discharge inks appeared, as well as systems
that touted the ability to image a wider range of pretreated
synthetic and blended textiles.
Print speeds, in part due to the wider use of currentgeneration printheads, have risen in the latest printers.
(See the specs for all currently available models beginning
on pg. 30.) Productivity features such as bulk ink supply and
automatic printhead height adjustment have become common. A wide range of easily changed specialty platens are
available to accommodate unusual placement areas such
as pockets or cumbersome garment types such as hoodies.
And the print quality, particularly for photographic images,
"What's really scary about digital is how good the prints
look," offers consultant Marshall Atkinson. "You can do so
much more with a digital press than you could ever do with
screen printing because you don't have to use halftones or
print through a mesh, so you don't have all that interference."
Still, despite a decade of steady technology progress
and a proven demand for personalized and niche apparel that
is being well-exploited by e-commerce apparel sites like
CustomInk and CafePress, DTG's share of the decorated
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - June/July 2016
Screen Printing - June/July 2016
Industrial Printer Expands with Inkjet
Production: Tortoise or Hare?
What’s Next for Single-Pass Inkjets?
DTG: Life in the Fast Lane
Print, Flash, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Screen Printing - June/July 2016