The Katana MIST is a highly affordable and industrial built pretreatment machine for automatic pretreat application in DTG. The open design makes the process fast and easy, and all replacement parts are incredibly affordable!
Consistent pretreatment application and incredible speeds make this a highly useful tool for direct to garment production.
The KatanaDTG printers are well built, with plenty of great features that make printing and maintenance easier. The modular print system makes it easy to swap modules in seconds, and the threadable platens load just like a standard screen printing press. Kothari RIP is included as the standard and ONLY option, because nothing else compares to the print quality available from this particular software. Complete with easy-access maintenance panels and an electronic z-axis control, the Katana line of DTG printers is a competitive option for an incredibly low price.
The newest p600 series includes the ability to run a one-touch Purge, as well as one-touch access for the capping station and wiper blade.
Without a doubt, Kothari RIP is the highest quality DTG RIP I have ever used for my business in the 10+ years I have been doing Direct to Garment printing. I did not fully understand how critical the RIP software was to determining print quality, until many years (and several DTG printers) into the game…..
I had owned multiple DTG printers (from Epson based to Brother to Kornit, then backed to Epson-based), and experienced a wide range of RIP software – up until that point, my assumption was that the printer hardware determined the ultimate print quality. However, after using Kothari RIP on some obscure printers back in 2007 / 2008, then transitioning to a different brand of hardware, I could not figure out how to reproduce the print quality I had become accustomed to with the Kothari RIP (both DTG printing systems were based on the Epson 4880 platform, so there should have been no difference in output). I ended up putting the two new printers in a corner for about a month, while I waited for the company to provide me with their “new” RIP (which I immediately recognized as being Kothari-based) – once I put Kothari on the new machines, the output quality was IDENTICAL to what I had grown accustomed to.
At the end of the day, any DTG printer is capable of outstanding output quality, provided it is being driven by the proper RIP. The RIP is the brains of the whole operation, and nothing has shown smarter results than Kothari RIP for DTG – heck, it has won every major print competition in the industry for many years! I myself was the very first DTG Battle Royale Champion on T-Shirt Forums, and I owe my success entirely to my choice of RIP software.
While it costs a little more and you have to buy additional licenses if you want to drive multiple printers (whether you want to do it from one computer or multiple computers, you still have to own a license for each printer you are simultaneously driving), the output quality absolutely speaks for itself. Also, many users fail to dive into the myriad of automation options which are available within the software, which extend the usefulness and efficiency, considerably! It is worth exploring some of the advanced options to see how you can truly put this software to work, for your business.
I would NEVER expect people to simply take my word for it! Go look at the results from every major print competition in the history of our industry – regardless of which hardware was used, Kothari RIP was driving the process almost every single time. Still need to be convinced? Take your own artwork to companies and ask them to print you some samples – it doesn’t matter which hardware they use, make sure you find out what RIP they are running! The best results will come from Kothari-based systems, 90% of the time. Let the results speak for themselves!
The Mod1 is Belquette’s second foray into the DTG market, following the PRO series Flexi-Jet. Based on a modified Epson r1800/r1900 print engine, this A3 style printer is quick, boasting a range of high tech features and an innovative appearance and construction. The ability to independently control either of the z-axis motors for maximum control is a huge plus, but some might find the auto laser level to be somewhat restrictive.
The Mod1 boasts a modular design for quick and easy print module swaps, as well as a bagged ink system for bulk convenience.
One of the first serious competitors in sub-$10k DTG printer market, Spectra has justified the market and made it far more viable. The flagship product for Spectra DTG is the r3000 and p600 versions of their A3 DTG printer.
Spectra espouses an affordable, minimalist approach to DTG, foregoing many of the traditional “bells & whistles” of other printer in exchange for an incredible affordable cost. A modular build allows for easy swaps and upgrades, so it is easy to experiment with additional configurations (white + CMYK, dual-CMYK, etc).
Private branding has become increasingly popular in the printing industry in general, and can sometimes include many aspects of the printing / decoration process – more often than not, this term is associated with the relabeling of stock garments to complete the transformation into a legitimate brand. Adding a custom logo or brand name in place of the stock garment tag not only provides a much more professional look to the finished item, but also increases the overall perceived value of the product. While more and more major garment companies are beginning to offer easy-tear removable tags in their primary product lines, you still need a way to add your customer’s custom logo to replace the former tag.
Private relabelling can be a huge benefit to any custom print business, so it is important to weigh all of your options and determine how serious you want to approach it. In the past there have always been three key methods for printing custom labels into garments. While these methods provide a significant value in certain areas, each one comes with its own caveats which prevent it from being the ideal solution:
Traditional Screen Printing
Although screen printing is not incredibly complicated, the cost for setting up each job can be significant since you are using large standard screens to create small logos which often fit within a 4″ x 4″ area. The amount of emulsion and resources that go into generating the larger screens can really add up, and at the end of the day who really wants to tie up their main screen printing press with trivial relabeling jobs? While the use of a standard screen printing press is viable, it is not the ideal method for the job.
Plastisol Heat Transfers
Transfers are an excellent option when it comes to relabeling garments, due to the fact that less equipment is needed to get the job done as well as their general cost effectiveness. Through Fusion Logistics Group, we found ourselves utilizing the transfer method for the majority of all private branded garments we produced – while they work well, it becomes quite a task when you are working your way through hundreds (if not thousands) of garments that all have to be out the door TODAY…. If you are outsourcing the manufacturing of the pastisol transfers, you must consider turnaround time and shipping costs in addition to everything else. If you are making the plastisol transfers in-house, you must consider the added cost of the transfer paper, glue powder, etc (and you still end up tying up your main screen printing press to manufacture the transfer sheets).
This method allows you to re-label your garments without the need to occupy your screen printing equipment, and the cost of the direct print is less than the cost of plastisol transfers. However, pad printing is not as common as other methods of printing and not all shops have chosen to invest in this particular variety of equipment. Additionally, the cost of creating the plates can be less cost-effective than traditional screens, and you still need to run the shirts through a curing system of some sort (tunnel dryer, etc) to permanently set the ink.
While any one of the aforementioned techniques would work well for private garment relabeling, there is now a solution available that makes it easier, faster and more cost effective than ever before!
We are pleased and excited to introduce the ASPE “LP” Label Printer, also known as the “RapidTag” printer (depending on where you buy it); much like the iPad and other recent innovations, this all-in-one system satisfies a need that most of us didn’t even know we had…. While some people might glance past it and wonder to themselves “why would I ever need a miniature automatic screen printing press, especially if I already have a full sized one”, most people will quickly recognize what makes this such a welcome development… This system allows any shop to quickly and cost-effectively relabel garments like never before, performing all necessary steps on-board so there is no need for additional equipment (such as a device for curing, etc). Rather than stopping or slowing down production on your screen printing equipment, you can now print all your labels (and for that matter, small sleeve prints, on-the-pocket prints, nape of neck prints, small odd print locations, etc) on a small, highly efficient setup that won’t interfere with any of your existing profit centers – after all, why should you stop printing the big jobs on your main press, just to knock out some little tag prints (especially since most people are charging a buck or a few bucks for a standard screen print, but much less for a small tag print)??
The ASPE “LP” Label Printer is capable of producing up to 2,000 prints per hour with very little effort, completely printing and curing each item before it is removed from the machine! This means that one person can load blank garments and unload fully cured garments in one rotation, stacking them as they go without the need for additional production steps. However, although the machine is certainly capable of producing such a large number of items in a single hour you still might need an additional helper to assist with keeping up with production…. Unless of course you can load and unload garments at the rate of 1.8 seconds per item, without help!
Incredibly fast! Even at a conservative rate, it is easy to knock out 1,000+ prints per hour with a single employee. In full blown production mode, speeds up to 2,000 prints per hour are possible (printed and cured, although you’ll probably need two employees to keep up with that speed).
Screens are considerably smaller than traditional screen printing equipment – this means setup is far less costly than traditional screen printing (and much faster). Use less emulsion and spend less time masking screens!
Fastest relabeling method we have seen so far, especially when you consider that the garments are printed and cured on the same machine.
By far the least expensive process for printing tag prints and other small images (no need for additional equipment for curing, no need for transfer paper, glue powder, etc).
Small footprint allows the machine to be placed almost anywhere – minimal air and power requirements make it incredibly flexible in terms of placement.
Automatic laser sensors determine if an item is loaded onto the platen as it passes under the screen; if no item is detected, the system will skip the platen and move to the next one. This means if the machine is moving too fast for you to load, it won’t arbitrarily print directly onto the platen! Smart.
Flexible design – available in various configurations from single color all the way up to 6 color!
Small platens are perfect for other small print items, such as can coozies!
This machine is so fast, you really need to pay attention when you are loading the garments – otherwise, you might risk loading some off-center during the process.
You need to buy multiple sets of platens to accommodate various substrates (can coozies, for instance) – plan ahead and make sure you get any necessary accessories before you start taking orders!
Screens are expensive to purchase, relative to their size – expect to pay around $15 for each screen; that’s pretty close to the cost of standard, full size screens! Once you own the screens, actually burning images onto them is far less costly than traditional-sized screens.
No direct “off contact” control – while this is not a feature that all screen printers take advantage of during the printing process, those that are used to using it on other printing presses will likely miss the ability to fine-tune this setting.
The construction of the ASPE “Label Printer” is incredibly sturdy, given its relatively small size – every part on the machine is obviously built with the highest quality parts, and the machine is quite heavy overall. When you are moving this thing around your shop, you will know you are moving a heavy-duty industrial piece of equipment! The specific model we have been using in our sister shop is a single color, 5-platen system with two halogen flash units to cure the ink – however, when ordering your system you can actually select custom configurations that can include up to six colors.
When our machine arrived, it was only a matter of minutes before my production manager had everything set up and ready to go; although he did have to ask a few questions to make sure he did everything correctly, his prior experience with automatic screen printing presses made the transition quite natural. Once the machine is assembled, you have an entire host of options available to determine the actual printing behavior – here are just some of the available adjustments:
The number of passes that the squeegee will make on each item, before moving on to the next.
The speed of the squeegee as it pulls the ink across the screen.
The speed of the platen rotation as it moves from one station to the next.
The dwell time for the curing units.
Since many of these adjustments are made via a small touch screen interface, changing the settings between jobs is incredibly fast and easy; you can set up one job and make adjustments in moments, prior to moving on to the next job – this results in very little downtime between print jobs. At the end of the day, the most notable thing about the “Rapid Tag” is the ability to create a strong, reliable profit center around one piece of equipment – coming from a DTG background, many of us are used to slow production speeds and high overhead (with a fair amount of maintenance and troubleshooting throughout the process); this printer allows us to produce high volumes of product with relatively low overhead, enabling us to add new products and services to our roster while maximizing the efficiency of existing products (coozies and tag labels, for instance). Check out the following video of the machine in action at Fusion Logistics Group (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com) and see just how much money you can make with this thing in a VERY short period of time: Make Over $100 in Under 9 Minutes with the ASPE LP / Rapid Tag Printer!
The manufacturer of this machine, ASPE, is based out of Temecula, CA and has a long history developing high quality printing equipment (you can check out their website here to learn more about the company). Alex Szyszko (the main man over at ASPE) is a master of motion control systems and has developed a sturdy, reliable machine that is designed to make money all day long. While visiting their facility, I was taken for a quick tour that included a look at the manufacturing area; there were certainly no shortage of machines on the floor, evidence of the popularity of this unit – the shop is filled with built machines then they are all shipped out and a new batch is built… These guys are certainly not operating on a small scale, and that gives me a great deal of confidence in their future in this industry, and I look forward to new innovations and developments coming out of their shop!
This video shows the ASPE LP “Rapid Tag” printer in action – watch as Fusion Logistics Group (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com) uses this machine to print 109 custom tag prints for a customer…. In under 9 minutes. Keep in mind we are not running the machine at full speed! In fact, the machine can actually go much faster than this, but it takes some practice to be able to keep up with it…. You will notice one misprint during the entire run, which is a direct result of not being able to load the machine fast enough.
The cost for custom tag printing in this quantity at Fusion Logistics Group is .85 per print (plus a $15 setup fee) – the gross profit from this one job amounted to $108.50, and the job was done in mere minutes. Obviously the screen was already made and the job set up prior to this video being filmed, but due to the small size the time and cost involved is minimal when compared to traditional sized screens. If you are already set up to do screen printing, this is an excellent addition to any shop!
Shortly after the guys get started on the job, I let them know how to stop the recording and I went up the street to pick up drinks for them; at the end of the video you see one of the guys text me to say “Job done” – at that point I was still in the drive-thru line at the McDonalds up the street. This machine is FAST!
– Justin Walker
With this machine any small shop can easily manufacture 700-1,000 units per hour, and with some serious practice you can push that number all the way up to 1,800-2,000 units per hour. At .85 per unit, this represents $595-850 per hour in gross revenue at modest speeds, and up to $1,530-1,700 per hour when pushing the envelope; remember this is all with a single machine and no external curing!
In addition to tag prints, this machine can do gloves, sleeve prints, can coozies and more – since you can charge more for some of these items, we have made the following chart to help you visualize how much money one Rapid Tag printer can make for your business:
DTG Print Solutions is pleased to have been given the opportunity to become an early BETA tester for the ViperONE automatic pretreatment machine, which is being delivered to the market by i-Group Technologies, LLC (the same team that brought out the original Viper automatic pretreatment machine). For many years, our sister company Fusion Logistics Group has gotten by with the traditional Wagner HPLV sprayer for manual pre-treatment application – the results were not always perfect, but the process has become far more forgiving and manageable in recent years. Printing thousands upon thousands of shirts has made our staff incredibly knowledgeable regarding the manual application of pre-treatment, and we have come to accept this as a normal part of the DTG printing process. Although we have indeed tested other automatic pre-preatment machines in the past (including one which sat dormant in our shop for over a year before we got rid of it), none have ever delivered upon our expectations of reliability, consistency and quality. That all may have changed, however, with the introduction of the new ViperONE pre-treatment unit.
Our staff was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new ViperONE pre-treatment machine, long before it actually arrived – since we got our hands on a very early concept model, we had to be patient while the necessary adjustments were made by the manufacturers; we were kept informed during the entire process, and when our delivery date came it was like an early Christmas. At some point in the mid-afternoon, I received a call from my production manager to inform me that the pre-treatment machine had arrived – he asked me what I thought we should do with it, and my response was “Well if you feel so inclined, feel free to set it up and take a look at it – otherwise I will be in the shop in a few hours”… Imagine my surprise when the response from the other end of the phone was “Phew, thank goodness – I already unpacked it 20 minutes ago and have been pre-treating shirts with it!”
This anecdote speaks to the ease at which my staff was able to unload the unit (which, by the way, is incredibly compact), set it up and begin implementing it into our production process; although they were in the early evaluation stages, they had no trouble getting it ready to go with almost no direct guidance or instruction. Ease of use is an incredibly crucial factor these days, especially if you plan to utilize paid employees to do your bidding while you’re in Vegas blowing all your earnings on Blackjack…
As mentioned, the unit is physically compact and occupies a much smaller space than the original Viper pre-treatment machine. This makes it easy to integrate into a small production area, where space is a valuable commodity. Our initial feeling was that there could have been a little more money put into some of the construction materials used to build the unit – in particular, we felt the slide rails were not as sturdy as we were used to seeing on other equipment. We discussed our feedback with the manufacturer, but the feeling seems to be that any improvements in this area would add quite a bit to the manufacturing costs – since we do not build or source the parts, we will have to take their word on that!
The machine utilizes a drawer-style design which involves the main body of the unit (where the actual drawer is), an upper spray mechanism and an assortment of tanks / bottles to dispense and recollect the pre-treatment spray; the machine also requires a small air compressor unit to operate (not included), which is a departure from the original Viper design (which utilized electronically controlled spray nozzles, rather than pressure nozzles). To be completely honest, we were unsure how well the single-nozzle design would work out, considering we have never seen a single-nozzle unit that performed to our specifications – now that we have had some time to fully evaluate the system, we are pleased with the consistent and smooth results we have been able to achieve thus far. Although we notice that the outside edges seem to vary from the center of the spray area, slightly, our experience has shown that this subtle discrepancy has almost no effect on the quality of the prints we are getting on our Neoflex printers. The improved quality and repeat-ability we are able to achieve now in our pre-treatment department has surpassed even our most optimistic expectations, and our printing business has been positively impacted by this change – any slight difference in spray volume seems unnoticeable in the printed image, as the improved quality we are now getting far outweighs any concerns we may have had.
EASE OF USE
Our employees had little difficulty setting up the machine and pre-treating the first couple of shirts – in addition, Brian Walker was kind enough to provide some thorough documentation, including a user guide that helped indicate how much fluid should be applied to get the best results. When dialing in the machine, there is a knob which you turn either direction to increase or decrease the amount of air flow, thereby affecting the volume of pre-treatment that is ultimately applied; we found that it can be a little tricky to determine the “zero point” for the dial, due to the fact there is no hard-stop when turning the dial counterclockwise. A trick we were shown is to rotate the dial until we felt resistance, at which point it was at the “zero point” – from there, each full rotation would increase the spray volume incrementally. This process is fairly simple, although it does not eliminate the need for someone who truly understands the pre-treatment process to be available during production, in case something needs to be dialed in again – since most brands / styles / colors require varying levels of pre-treatment to be applied, the machine would need to be re-adjusted on a fairly frequent basis.
Once the machine is dialed in for a particular garment style or color, it becomes a simple process to just load the shirt, close the drawer and press the “GO” button – in fact, you could almost hire anyone to perform this step over and over again, as long as the person who was actually dialing in the machine knew what they were doing (I would not leave that step to just any random employee, since it will ultimately determine the quality of the prints you will be getting). Before I had even arrived at the shop to inspect the unit, my production manager had already set up the machine, dialed it in and had several employees pretreat some shirts to test it out – the only issue that came up involved one particular employee holding the green “GO” button for an extended period of time, which apparently causes the spray nozzle to get stuck in the back position with the spray coming out full steam ahead… The solution, I am told, is to make sure your employees do not hold the green “GO” button for an extended period of time! Makes sense to me, and we have not had that issue since we became aware of it.
The price range of the ViperONE pre-treatment machine is projected to fall between $3,500-$4,000 – while this may seem rather steep for a secondary piece of equipment, many shops will find the added consistency and quality to be well worth the investment. After thoroughly discussing the price issue with my production manager, we are in agreement that although it seems expensive when you look at the fundamental construction of the machine, the value that it provides our business far exceeds that number and it is well worth the investment, regardless of the build cost – this is an example of a product being worth “well more than the sum total of it’s parts”. As many people who are running their own DTG print shops will tell you, the stress and frustration (not to mention wasted prints and resources) of the manual pre-treatment process, while completely manageable if you put your mind to it and monitor the process closely, is one of the biggest hurdles that stands between them and long term success; if you could remove the headache and stress that this step causes, and ensure that a full run of 100+ dark garments will print the same from the first to the last garment, would that be worth the price tag to your business? For us, the answer is yes.
An automatic pre-treatment machine is not the first thing a startup DTG print shop should be looking into – before you begin to automate this process, you should become an expert by manually applying pre-treatment to hundreds if not thousands of shirts. Without this thorough and fundamental understanding of the way pre-treatment works and what affects the ultimate quality of the print, you will always struggle to make the process work effectively. Additionally, if you are only printing a few dark garments per day, the time and effort involved with setting up the machine and subsequently flushing it out when you are done is simply not worth it; due to the nature of the pre-treatment chemicals used by most DTG ink manufacturers, it is not recommended that you leave anything sitting in the machine overnight.
If you are printing 30+ dark garments per day and feel that you have a decent understanding of the pre-treatment process, you might consider adding an automatic pre-treatment machine to your arsenal – the ViperONE has proven to be a great choice and is allowing us greater confidence in our process from start to finish. Each garment is loaded onto the “platen” and the drawer is manually closed – once you are ready to spray, you simply press the green “GO” button and the nozzle travels across the garment to apply the pre-treatment; the entire process only takes a few seconds, so it is easy to pre-treat 60 shirts per hour without breaking a sweat. If someone were to really hustle on the machine, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 120+ shirts per hour being pre-treated with little difficulty.
Rather than spraying the shirt once, we have found that we get better fluid deposit on the garment when we lower the volume down and press the “GO” button twice, instead of once; we subscribe to the professional painting philosophy that “two light coats are always better than one heavy coat”. By laying down two light passes instead of one, we seem to get smoother pre-treatment results with more consistent fabric penetration – this is especially important when printing on porous cotton (such as standard vs. ring spun), or fleece materials. Additionally, we have not eliminated the “brushing” step that precedes the heat press – after we spray each garment, we quickly brush it down with a high quality Wooster brush, to ensure that fibrillation is minimized.
At the end of the day, we are very happy with the ViperONE automatic pretreater, and our thanks go out to the team at i-Group Technologies, LLC! This device may even allow us to begin offering “pre-pretreated” shirts to some of our local DTG customers, providing them even greater control of their own printing process while they build up the necessary volume to justify the purchase of an automatic machine – we believe the difference in print quality and consistency speaks for itself. As i-Group Technologies, LLC makes this product commercially available, watch for it to appear on one of our product pages for you to purchase for your own DTG print business! Remember, if it doesn’t work for us in our own production facility (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com), we won’t recommend it!
The Neoflex DTG printer has been the leader in the industry for the last two years, and continues to be a proven solution for many small business owners. The Neoflex DTG printer is built on the popular Epson 4880 Professional printer – it has been highly modified to act as a direct-to-garment printer, and great care has obviously been taken to ensure that the machine is built from the highest quality parts. Although this is not the largest machine we have ever owned, it is one of the more well built models. Since acquiring the Neoflex line of printers at our sister facility (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com) over a year ago, we have been able to successfully turn out the highest quality product we have ever produced, while remaining more consistent and reliable during the production cycle.
This printer offers a generous 17″ x 42″ printable area, which allows for “JUMBO” printing applications or for the inline printing of multiple items in a single pass. The most common t-shirt setup is the “3-Up” configuration, which makes room for three average sized platens (11.25″ x 15″) to be loaded onto the print bed for maximum efficiency; each t-shirt in the lineup can have a different image printed on it, and of course the color of the garment doesn’t matter (in terms of functionality – there is certainly something to be said about the more logical approach of printing all “like colored” garments in the same run). Rather than moving the substrate that is being printed, this model relies on a “flat bed / moving printer” design to accomplish its task – this design feature combined with the ability to line up multiple garments in a row for printing, allows the end user to load and unload garments as the printer is still in motion, thereby eliminating the “loading and unloading” phase from the production cycle. Although someone still has to load and unload shirts, of course, the time required for this step does not cause any idle time on the machine.
Many people will argue that loading and unloading garments only takes a few seconds, which can sometimes be true; however, as someone who has employed many different people in the last several years, I can assure you that your low paid employees aren’t going to move with the same level of urgency that you might, and the loading and unloading phase will often be performed in a casual, slow demeanor. This is made worse when dealing with specialty items such as hoodies or polo shirts, or when you consider how critical it can be to ensure that your substrate is smooth and flat (to avoid print head strikes that could potentially damage the machine) – some employees will work with the utmost caution and care when loading the shirts, taking time to carefully smooth them out before pressing print; while I certainly don’t mind the extra attentiveness from my staff, it is way better on the bottom line when the printer can be happily humming along while additional garments are being loaded and unloaded.
The flexibility of the Neoflex DTG printer is something that certainly sets it apart from the rest of the pack – as small business owners, who hasn’t considered adding additional decoration / print techniques to their arsenal? Traditionally, the move to alternative substrates would require huge added investments, as most of the different ink chemistries can’t be used in the same machines – therefore, the only solutions were to either purchase a whole new printer to run an additional ink set, or to completely purge, flush and clean your system any time you wanted to swap ink sets to print on any alternate substrates. Of course, this is neither ideal nor cost efficient.
The Neoflex employs a modular design structure that allows the individual printer units to be easily swapped out (I have long arms so I can move the printer by myself, but it’s easier with two people); it takes about two minutes to slide the print bed back slightly, unplug three cords and completely swap one printer unit for another. This makes it much more practical to keep an additional printer unit on hand (an extra printer unit costs around $6,000, rather than buying a whole new printer for $20,000) in case one breaks down – in my experience, having redundant print capabilities is absolutely vital to ensuring the longevity of your DTG printing business. As long as you have an additional printer unit on hand, there are many things you can do with it:
Store it in a closet somewhere in case you need to quickly get back to printing after a catastrophe.
Set it up as a “dual CMYK” garment printer to increase productivity on light garments, while reducing your overall manufacturing costs significantly.
Set it up as a Solvent printer to print on rigid substrates such as plastics, metals, wood, golf balls, CD’s / DVD’s and much more.
Set it up as an”edible ink” printer to print on cake topping sheets, cookies and other edible products.
All American offers a wide range of ink options and support consumables for each ink chemistry, allowing you to easily explore additional revenue streams without the need to purchase another $20,000 printer for one specific purpose. Of course, if your primary unit were to ever fail, it would only take an hour or two to convert a “dual CMYK” garment printing unit into a “white + CMYK” printer, offering you peace of mind that you will always be able to complete a customer’s job on time. It would be a little more difficult to convert a printing unit with a different ink set back to water based textile inks, but it is possible (the cost associated with purging out and thoroughly cleaning the entire system makes it impractical to do on a frequent basis). When choosing which setup is right for your particular business model, proper planning and execution are critical – make sure you know where your business is headed, and be prepared to commit a full time effort to learning any new decoration technique.
In addition to being able to configure the Neoflex DTG printer in a variety of ways, you are also able to explore additional revenue opportunities by taking advantage of the generous print area (17″ x 42″ overall). The flat bed design enables you to configure custom platens / holders for a variety of products, including pre-stretched art canvas, solvent-ready substrates such as pens / frisbees / USB drives / etc, and much much more. Your creativity is truly the limiting factor with this machine, as it can sometimes take a little creative ingenuity to properly configure functional platen systems for various items.
The major drive components of the Neoflex DTG printer are the massive lead screw which runs the entire length of the printer (this is what moves the printer), the primary motor that drives the lead screw, (4) individual motors that raise and lower the print bed and a host of sophisticated control hardware. There is a common misconception in the industry that the Neoflex is simply a ‘copy’ of an earlier model of printer than All American paid a company to develop for them; the reality is that the Neoflex is a stronger, upgraded version of the same concept (a concept which was sound to begin with, which is why the company pursued it for so many years without changing directions rapidly or frequently like many other companies are tempted to do), which actually delivers on the performance and reliability promises typically expected of an industrial piece of shop equipment.
As soon as we add images to this particular review, we will include comparison shots of the actual drive mechanics of the two printers, illustrating some of the key differences.
While the cost of the water based DTG inks used by most DTG machines seems to be priced way out of line, it is important to remember that there are still things we can do as business owners to make our businesses more efficient, and therefore make them more profitable. Some things may involve changes to the order process, the use of an online ordering system to streamline the overall process, etc. Other things can be done at the machine-level to maximize your efficiency, some of which we have already discussed. For instance, the ability to load and unload the garments while the machine is continuously printing is a huge benefit in a production environment; this allows the Neoflex DTG printer to actually produce more ‘prints per hour’ than other 4880 based machines printing at the exact same resolution. Additionally, the NeoRIP PRO (which actually processes the images and tells the machine exactly how to reproduce them on the garments) uses sophisticated image reproduction techniques which actually save ink and money, while simultaneously producing a richer print with greater depth and color.
One of the ways you can make the greatest impact on your bottom line is to properly take advantage of the modular design of the Neoflex system; if your goal is to print on t-shirts, then t-shirt printing should be your first and only focus until you have the process dialed in to perfection. By investing in one additional printer unit (which can be quickly and easily swapped out on the machine at any time) and configuring it for “dual CMYK” printing (using the same water based garment inks you are using to print on dark garments), you can effectively move all of your dark garment printing to one machine and all of your light garment printing to another. The cost effective advantages that this provides are twofold:
Any DTG printer, desktop inkjet printer or general purpose printer will perform automated maintenance on the print head at scheduled intervals, often related to the number of prints that have been completed since the last cleaning or purge cycle. Inkjet printers are required to keep the print heads clean and primed, and to prevent them from drying out; this is achieved by firing a small amount of ink from each channel at predetermined intervals during the printing process, regardless of whether the channels are currently being used to print. How does this affect a DTG printing business, you might wonder? As you are printing “light garments” (those which do not require a white ink under base), the printer will continue with its automatic cleaning cycles, forcing a small amount of white ink down the drain after every number of print cycles – since many DTG printers find themselves decorating about 70% light garments compared to only 30% dark garments, it would be very easy to print one or two thousand white t-shirts in a given month and find your cartridges of white ink half empty even though you haven’t printed a drop on any dark garments. Many DTG printers sit around at the end of the month wondering where the hell all of their white ink went, and this is just one source of waste in the overall process; by printing all of your light garments on a separate “dual CMYK” printer unit, you could print 10,000 light garments and not waste a drop of white ink.
By printing all of your light garments on a “dual CMYK” printer unit, it is possible to achieve the same amount of ink saturation at half the resolution, since the machine would be using (8) channels of CMYK instead of the normal (4) channels that would be used (since the other 4 would have been filled with white ink). By doubling the ink output in a single pass (thereby allowing a lower print resolution to be used) you are able to print at a much faster rate, significantly increasing your production numbers on light garments – since light garments are the ‘bread and butter’ orders for many small and medium businesses, this has a huge impact on the overall bottom line.
As you can see, with the proper business planning and configuration, the Neoflex DTG printer offers a wide range of options for startup companies and existing businesses looking to expand their market – these options allow for greater productivity, increased profitability and a more attractive ROI for business owners. I would probably go so far as to say that the Neoflex is one of the top DTG machines in its class in terms of cost effective operation, when done properly. The more ‘generalized’ you want to be with your business, the more your cost effectiveness will suffer; if your goal is to print t-shirts, be sure you make t-shirt printing as profitable as possible before moving on to other markets. That is just our advice over here at DTG Print Solutions, anyways.
SUPERIOR COLOR MANAGEMENT / INDUSTRY LEADING RIP SOFTWARE
Any company can re-package an existing RIP and say that it is compatible with their particular DTG printer. However, when a company decides to take the time to tailor the color profiles and image handling properties to achieve the optimal print quality for that particular setup, that is when they set themselves apart from the rest. The team at All American has put in a great deal of work in their endless pursuit of perfect print quality – with custom color profiles, custom ink curves, precise dot control optimized for each substrate / print resolution, they have continued to raise the bar for everyone around them. The Kothari-based RIP software is already the most powerful RIP in the industry, but coupled with more specialized color profiles it is able to produce some of the best prints we have seen from any DTG printer.
Since we purchased our printers over a year ago, I have watched as the guys over in Philly have created new custom printing environments, while also dialing in each color profile for “high resolution” printing, “high production” printing and much more; with so many ink sets to deal with, I am honestly amazed that they are able to get anything done over there…. However, they somehow manage to do it and we as end users benefit from their ongoing efforts to be the best.
Besides the adjustments and improvements that All American has made “in house”, the fundamentals of the RIP itself are stunningly powerful. The ability for the RIP software to so cleanly and accurately recreate graphics from the screen onto cotton t-shirts is unlike anything I have seen in the past – since I first noticed the incredible disparity between this brand of RIP and the next leading competitor about a year ago (which, btw, opened an entire hornet’s nest in the process), there have been many tweaks and improvements from the competition, slowly shrinking the initial quality gap (strictly in terms of smooth, crisp image detail and accurate reproduction – color profiling is the other side of the coin). To this day however, I have not seen an image reproduced as cleanly on any other printer using any other RIP. Some people will argue that increased quality above a certain threshold is unnecessary – however in the last six years I have run into the perceived “limits” of DTG quality on many, many occasions, and always something or someone eventually comes along and shatters those barriers. Better inks, better pre-treatment, better RIP software, better hardware, etc. I think we should never stop pushing for faster printers, lower consumables costs and of course, ever increasing quality. Some people say we don’t need to reproduce the Mona Lisa on a t-shirt – I say “why not?”