I try really hard not to use too much technical jargon when talking to folks outside of our industry. I fail at it pretty miserably…and that is why the ladies who manage the front office don’t let me talk to customers. I do get to wave at you guys from my desk sometimes though.
Today’s printing nomenclature is DTG. That acronym is: Direct To Garment and it is all about garment printing. But I bet you guessed that already. (Another fine example of why I’m quarantined…)
Direct To Garment printing is not a brand new technology, but the evolution of the process has been fairly slow in reaching a point where the quality is acceptable by our standards. I can say with certainty that it is most definitely reached that point. That is why we offer it now.
I will attempt to decipher the mystery behind this new magic.
Do you have an inkjet printer at home? If you do, I bet it produces pretty good images on paper, right? That same general process has been applied to printing onto fabric, so that is essentially what DTG is all about. The image quality is truly impressive when executed properly. There are a lot of older DTG machines out roaming the wild that operators are not using effectively or simply can’t produce high quality images or are being used on completely incompatible materials. Because of that, some of our customers have a negative association with DTG and we have almost immediately given them a new perspective when they see some of our samples (or a sample of their own project). The image at the top of the page is a perfect representation of the right application and execution of DTG and a prime example of a project that, practically speaking, can’t be produced with traditional screen printing.
Before you screen printing gurus send me hate mail about that last statement, let me clarify that this project was also an order quantity of 1. That’s right…1. “But what about heat transfer?” Look…we have that technology also and it has an application, but I’m most interested in the highest quality we can produce and that includes longevity. Yep. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Our DTG printed garments survive laundering (even when I do it!) comparably to screen printed materials, which is another bad association we hear about from customers. Problem solved! You didn’t really think we’d produce something without testing, did you?
However… (You knew this was coming)
Fully synthetic fabrics cannot yet be printed with existing DTG technology. Please read that again. Now read it one more time.
Let me also add that this is not a limitation of our machine. It is apparently a chemistry challenge involving smart people in lab coats.
If anyone tells you they can do it, then they’re not telling you the whole truth. We can print you a gorgeous image on a polyester shirt and it will last right up until the agitate cycle in your washing machine. Personally I think an image on a shirt should stick around a little longer. We have experimented with a few blends and had a few surprises, so if you want to talk about some options, we have a really good handle on what works and what doesn’t.
The light at the end of the rainbow is encouraging. I’ve heard directly from one very BIG manufacturer of equipment that they are close to cracking the code for synthetics. But until we get a confirmed “Eureka!”, make sure you’re asking the right questions and getting the best product you can get from wherever you get it.
I hope this has helped clarify DTG a little for you guys. If I’ve simply made the confusion worse, please don’t hesitate to talk to one the ladies in the front office. They know how to use words better than I do and can always answer your questions.
Be sure to wave at the confused looking guy crouched over a keyboard next time you stop by!