DTG Price List Estimator Tool – FREE!

For a more in-depth look at the principles behind creating a custom price list,  check out this link.  Otherwise, keep reading if you just want to use the DTG Price List Estimator Tool!

DOWNLOAD DTG PRICE LIST ESTIMATOR TOOL

We often get asked “what should we charge for our printed shirts?”  This is a tough question to answer, due to the extraordinary number of variables involved.  Each business owner will be operating on different fixed monthly expenses (rent, electricity, phone, etc), and production capabilities will be vary depending on factors such as:

  • Number and type(s) of DTG printers you are using
  • Efficiency of the person operating the machine(s)
  • The specific RIP settings, print resolutions, etc used for production
  • Your business model / specific production process setup
Since everyone likes to do things slightly different, it is important to tailor your pricing to your business model rather than simply trying to copy someone else’s prices.  The DTG Price List Estimator tool allows you to adjust a series of variables and personal business data to project a viable price list for your DTG printing services.   Based on your unique overhead, labor and business expenses you can create a price list that is fully adjustable so you can tweak it and dial it in until you are happy.
Below is a series of basic instruction on how to use this simple yet powerful little tool:
  1. Download the DTG Price List Estimator Tool by clicking this download link.
  2. Fill out the top three fields that include:
    1. My Machine Type – the type of machine you are using for this price list.
    2. Price List Type – the type of garments you are currently calculating (usually LIGHTS / DARKS).
    3. Target Net Profit Per Hour – the amount of money you want to earn each hour, after all expenses are accounted for.
  3. CONTROL SAMPLE IMAGES – Most DTG print shops charge a different price for smaller, standard and larger print areas; by running a series of simple tests on selected images, you can provide all the necessary information for the spreadsheet to determine your estimated hourly production rates:
    1. Starting with one of your control images (start with the smaller image and work your way up through all the steps), record the Print Size in the Control Sample grid.
    2. Using the image you selected, print an entire cycle.  If your machine has only one platen, then print the image using your single platen and time yourself from the moment you press the PRINT button on the printer, until the next time you press the PRINT button; this will give you the complete time for one full cycle.  If you are using a machine that allows multiple items to be loaded (like the Neoflex for instance), one full cycle would include 2-3 printed items.  Make sure you time the entire cycle, not just the time when the printer is actually printing!  You have to account for loading / unloading time, as well.
    3. Once your cycle is completed, record the time it took from start to finish (round up to the nearest full minute).  Under “Prints Per Cycle”, you will record how many garments of that size fit in a single cycle – the built in formulas will figure out how long it takes to print each item, and extrapolate that data to create an estimated hourly production rate on the results page.
    4. Input your ink and pretreatment cost as well – this is important!  Most RIP programs will report an estimated ink cost back to you after you RIP a file – make sure you are entering the cost to print ONE item, not a full cycle (even if your machine supports multiple prints per cycle).  It is a good idea to estimate on the higher side when it comes to the ink cost, since you don’t want to wind up selling prints for less than you are paying to produce them!  Your pretreatment cost will have to be approximated as well, but it should be somewhere around .50 for a standard print area (PT only).
  4. SHIFT INFORMATION – Since each one of us is going to have a different shop setup, we need to account for how much money is being spent each month just to pay the bills, and we need to have a realistic idea of how much it costs (per hour) to run our business.  Fill out the Shift Information including:
    1. Daily Working Hours – the number of hours you are usually open for business each day.
    2. Weekly Working Days – the number of days you are usually open for business each week.
    3. Employees Per Shift – the number of employees you typically have on the clock at any given point.
    4. Employee Hourly – the average amount of money you pay to each of your individual employees on an hourly basis.
  5. RECURRING MONTHLY EXPENSES – This is a breakdown of all the regular bills you have to pay each month, whether you print any t-shirts or not.  Fill in the appropriate yellow cells and the spreadsheet will automatically show you the breakdown for “Weekly”, “Workday” and “Hourly” overhead costs.
  6. Once you have entered all of the required information, switch over to the Results Page to view your estimated price list.
  7. While viewing the Results Page, you can edit the yellow strip above the price grid that controls the quantity discounts – this is called the “Price Break Multiplier”.  By changing the number above each quantity break, you are able to easily adjust the amount of discount a client would receive at the different points on the grid.  “1” would be equal to 100% of the “Cost Per” unit price, while “.5” would be equal to 50% of the “Cost Per” unit price.  You can also INCREASE the price if you want to work that way, by entering any number larger than “1” (for instance, “1.2” would equal 120% of the “Cost Per” unit price).
  8. REPEAT ALL OF THESE STEPS FOR CONTROL SAMPLES B AND C, SO YOU HAVE ACCURATE PRICING FOR DIFFERENT SIZED IMAGES.
Once you have input all of your business variables, adjusted your quantity discounts to your liking and run the numbers on all three control sample files, your price list is ready to implement!  Feel free to use it as-is, or adjust it to your liking.  You can easily see how changing a number anywhere on the Inputs page will immediately affect the Results Page, providing you instant feedback on a number of potential changes.  Also, don’t be afraid to go nuts!  If any of the prices in the grid happen to dip below the “ROOT” manufacturing cost (which is the amount of money it would cost you to actually print the item), the cell will turn red to alert you – it wouldn’t do anyone any good to charge your customers less than it actually costs you to print, right?
Enjoy the free tool, and good luck in setting up your new price lists!

DTG 9-1-1: Preparing for Inevitable Disaster with a DTG First Aid Kit

You’re at the shop late one night, printing another rush order for yet another client who needs their order done “tomorrow” – everything is going smoothly until BAM! – suddenly your machine is giving you issues, and you don’t know why.  Perhaps some contaminants made their way into the print head, preventing some nozzles from firing?  Perhaps one of your employees was doing some routine maintenance recently, and somehow managed to spill a little ink on a ribbon cable (rendering it useless)?  Whatever the cause, this is a situation that no DTG printer owner ever wants to find themselves, because it can have dire consequences on their overall business.  After unleashing a whirlwind of profanities under your breath (can’t let the wife hear you, or else you get the painful “I told you this was a bad idea!”), you ponder your options:

Option 1:

You can order a new print head, damper, ribbon cable, capping station, or whatever else is causing your immediate problem….  Of course, you won’t be able to put the order in with your supplier until the next morning, meaning you won’t have the part in hand for several days; if you are printing late on a Thursday or Friday night, you’re pretty much hosed because you’re not going to see those parts for awhile.  Effectively, your entire printing operation is dead in the water until UPS shows up at your door.

Option 2:

BE PREPARED!

… As you can see, your options are pretty limited in situations like these!  While issues like this are relatively inexpensive and easy to fix, the bigger problem stems from the subsequent downtime that comes as a result of having to wait days for a replacement part to arrive at your door step – in this way, a small problem manages to become a major inconvenience, which can ultimately threaten the very safety and longevity of your business.  Many DTG business owners find themselves in situations like this all the time, being completely at the mercy of a “single point of failure”; that is, any single problem with the equipment can literally take their entire business offline for hours, days or even weeks at a time.

So as a business owner, how do you avoid being thrust into such a negative situation?  The answer is actually much simpler, and far more inexpensive, than one might think!  Additionally, it seems pretty intuitive – however, many business owners don’t bother to take the one simple step that could literally determine the ultimate future of their DTG print business…  Think about it like this: we are healthy people, most of the time – our bodies do what they’re supposed to, and we run them hard.  However, each and every one of us knows that at some point in the future, we are going to run into physical problems (wear and tear issues, if you will) – for this purpose, we have grown up with the understanding that it is just smart business to carry personal medical insurance, to cope with that inevitable time in the future where your otherwise healthy body is going to be need some “repairs”.  We HOPE we won’t need it, but it is there just in case.  Our entire life we are taught to prepare for disaster – get insurance for this or that, have backups on hand, have an emergency first aid kit ready (and maybe even an earthquake disaster kit, if you live in Southern California), etc.  We take this seriously in almost every area of our lives, then we go out and invest our life savings in a business opportunity where we have NO backup, NO emergency plan and NO “first aid kit”.

Ideally, the best way to achieve peace of mind is to ensure that you always have redundant printing capabilities – having multiple machines in your shop ensures that (in case one unit stops working) you are always able to finish client orders, without having to blame your machine for missing their event deadline.  While ideal, this is not always a practical solution for most small business owners, who have already put themselves out pretty far financially just to get into the business.  Some DTG printers, like the Neoflex and Mod1 models, are capable of swapping out the actual “print unit” on the machine, which allows business owners to keep an extra print unit on hand “just in case.”

So then, what is the solution if you want reliable printing capabilities, but you can’t necessarily afford an additional printer unit?  Build yourself an emergency DTG 9-1-1 First Aid Kit, of course!!!  For around $1,100 (most machines, but not all), almost any small business owner who uses DTG printers in their shop can put together a solid emergency kit that just might save their bacon when the ‘ish hits the fan.  Here is a brief list of the things we recommend for you to keep on hand at all times (this is not an all inclusive list, and all prices are estimates): in case” – again, this is a solid solution, but may also represent a $6,000 purchase that you are not quite ready for.

  • Spare print head for your particular printer model – $600
  • Spare capping station / pump assembly – $150
  • Spare dampers (4-8 recommended) – $80-160
  • Spare wiper blade(s) – $6
  • Spare encoder strip(s) – $10
  • Assorted ribbon cables – $80
  • Additional waste ink tank – $120
  • Assorted replacement parts (plastic joints, “O” rings, small electronic components) – $60-100
  • Anything else you think might break or fail at some point!!!  You can never be too prepared.

              
In addition to these critical machine components, it is also recommended to keep an extra spray gun on hand, if you pre-treat all your shirts by hand!  Heck, even if you have an automatic pre-treatment machine, you still don’t want to run the risk of being without any sort of backup plan.  A Wagner HPLV spray gun is about $70 at Lowe’s or Home Depot, and it is something that can fail on you right in the middle of a major print run.  While this may not be as devastating as having a print head go bad, it is still inconvenient to run down to the hardware store on short notice – besides, what happens when it fails on you after hours, leaving you helpless until the following morning?  In this business, you can never be too cautious.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You’re at the shop late one night, printing another rush order for yet another client who needs their order done “tomorrow” – everything is going smoothly until BAM! – suddenly your machine is giving you issues, and you don’t know why.  Perhaps some contaminants made their way into the print head, preventing some nozzles from firing?  Perhaps one of your employees was doing some routine maintenance recently, and somehow managed to spill a little ink on a ribbon cable (rendering it useless)?  “No problem” you think to yourself…  You walk over to your DTG cabinet and pull out your DTG First Aid kit, and within 20-30 minutes you are back up and running – your clients are thrilled when you deliver the order on time, and your business continues to grow!

In the world of DTG, small problems can easily become major headaches – avoid this by preparing yourself for the worst-case-scenario and you can save yourself time and money in the long run.

T-Shirt Forums 2011 DTG Battle Royale Champions Announced!

The T-Shirt Forums are a popular social spot for many industry insiders, as well as for newbies who are struggling to learn about the business.  This year marked the first annual “DTG Battle Royale” print competition, where DTG printers from all over the world were invited to test their printing skills against each other in a controlled test to determine who could produce the highest quality DTG print in the industry.  To level the playing field, every person was directed to print the exact same artwork file, which was provided by Rodney at the T-Shirt Forums website – all images were printed on the front and back of a black shirt, and sent in for judging.  Each participant could print the design with whatever print settings they chose, and print time was not a factor in this competition.

   

Entries were received from a well-represented range of DTG printing machines, and the results certainly varied.  Each entry was judged based on a number of criteria:

— First Impressions
— Sharpness of Detail
— Softness of Hand
— Print Accuracy
— Washability

After the first round of evaluations, the submitted entries were then put through a carefully controlled series of wash tests, which were followed by a final round of evaluations based on the same criteria listed above.  The winner (by a margin of several points) was Fusion Logistics Group of Rancho Cucamonga, CA (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com)!
Below you will find some images of the actual printed shirt that took first place in the competition:
      
You can find out more about the T-Shirt Forums DTG Battle Royale print competition by visiting the following link: Battle Royale Print Off!
See the winning announcement for the 2011 contest, here.

Neoflex DTG Printer Review

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.

EFFICIENCY

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.

FLEXIBILITY

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.

DURABILITY

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.

COST EFFECTIVENESS

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?”

GENERAL SUMMARY

….. coming soon.

What Should I Charge? Pricing DTG Printing Services

We often get asked “what should we charge for our printed shirts?”  This is a tough question to answer, due to the extraordinary number of variables involved.  Each business owner will be operating on different fixed monthly expenses (rent, electricity, phone, etc), and production capabilities will be vary depending on factors such as:

  • Number and type(s) of DTG printers you are using
  • Efficiency of the person operating the machine(s)
  • The specific RIP settings, print resolutions, etc used for production
  • Your business model / specific production process setup
Since everyone likes to do things slightly different, it is important to tailor your pricing to your business model rather than simply trying to copy someone else’s prices.  It never hurts to price check in your local market to find out where other printers stand for similar products, but remember that you are selling much more than just a simple printed t-shirt; you are offering your expertise, artistic skill and creativity, as well your customer service that cannot always be easily compared when simply “price shopping” around.  While some of your competition may be selling the “same product” for less, you may come to find out that they are using inferior print settings to save money on ink, or perhaps their level of quality control isn’t to the same standards that you adhere to.  The bottom line is that while it is important to know and understand what your competition is charging, it is more important to charge appropriately for the quality product and customer service that you deliver to your clients.
The first step in creating a viable price list for your DTG printing service is to make a list of all of your regular monthly expenses, or recurring bills.   For this list, you should not include things such as labor, ink cost, etc, as these items can vary each month based on other factors.  The things that belong on this list would include:
  • Shop Rent
  • Electricity
  • Phone and Internet
  • Equipment Finance Payment
  • Any other fixed monthly expense
Once you have determined your total “fixed expenses” for the month, you want to break that number down to figure out an approximate “hourly operating cost”, which represents the cost to simply keep the doors open at your shop – this does not include labor, nor does it include consumables expenses such as ink and pretreatment.  For example, let’s assume your total fixed expenses for the month are $3,000 – if your shop is open 8 hours per day, 5 days per week then your estimated hourly operating cost would be about $18.75.  The breakdown is simple:
  1. 8 hours per day x 5 days per week = 40 work hours per week
  2. 40 work hours per week x 4 weeks per month = 160 work hours per month
  3. $3,000 monthly operating cost / 160 work hours = $18.75 per hour
Understanding what it costs to simply own your business is a very important part of being a successful entrepreneur, yet you would be amazed to find out how many people are not watching their own bottom line; make sure you are well informed going into this venture so you can make smart choices moving forward.  If you are running your DTG printing operation from home, some of these expenses might not apply to you…  However, if you ever plan to expand outside of your home it might be helpful to structure your pricing in such a way as to allow for ample growth in your business; without accounting for these expenses before hand, you might risk become cash starved as your business rapidly grows.
If you are already running a successful business and DTG printing is just one more addition to the shop, then you are ahead of the game!  Many of the regular monthly expenses are already covered by other decoration techniques or products that you offer, and you will simply need to account for the added expenses that DTG entails.
Now that you know how much it costs you to keep the lights on and the doors open, you need to account for your additional operating expenses such as labor and ink.  Labor is easy, since you just have to figure out how much you want to pay your crew, as well as how many crew members you need to be working at any given time.  For this example, we will assume that you want two employees working and you are going to pay each of them $10 per hour (not bad for loading and unloading shirts) – this will put our hourly labor cost at $20, which we then add to the fixed hourly overhead cost ($18.75 + $20 = $38.75 per hour to keep the lights on, the doors open and two guys standing around waiting for instructions).
NOTE: Prior to continuing, keep in mind the prices indicated are from 2011, so please make sure you plug in overhead costs according to your particular business model and capacity.
 Ink and pretreatment can be slightly more tricky, since you have to figure out what your average ink cost per print is going to be (that is a whole other subject we will get into at a later time).  Since we use the Neoflex DTG printers in our sister shop (Fusion Logistics Group) we know that our average ink cost “per print” for a standard size print on a dark garment is $1-3; since we want to be sure we account for the “worst case scenario” print, let’s assume a $3 per print ink cost for our dark garment price list calculations – that way, even if the design has a lot of coverage we have already accounted it (since we are limiting the “standard print size” to 12″ x 12″, we are confident that most standard sized prints won’t exceed $3 in ink).  In addition to the ink cost, you must also remember to factor in the pretreatment that was used to prepare the garment for printing; we will plug in .50 for a standard size print, which we have found to be accurate.
Knowing what you pay “per print” in ink and pretreatment is vital, but how do we convert that into an hourly number that we can work with?  Easy!  By figuring out how many prints you can realistically do per hour on your machine (using your specific RIP settings, print resolutions, etc), you can multiply this by your “per print” cost and get an hourly estimate.  At this point, we are entering into the grey area when it comes to set pricing because every image is going to take a different length of time to print, and the ink cost will certainly fluctuate.  Since we are trying to figure out a set of pricing guidelines, an educated estimate is a good place to start.  We have found that (using our high resolution print settings) we can expect to produce about 9 dark garment prints per hour, at a standard size (which we have determined to be up to 12″ x 12″) – $3.50 x 9 = $31.50 per hour in ink and pretreatment.  Add this to the $38.50 you are already paying for your shop overhead and labor, and you’re in business!  Your hourly operating expense at this point is $70, which includes every needed to run your shop……..  Or at least to pay the bills.  Since the purpose of running our own business is not simply to pay the bills, we need to add one more thing to this equation – HOURLY PROFIT!  If we forget to factor in some pocket money on top of all the expenses, we are going to find ourselves in the unenviable position of working day in and day out and having nothing to show for it.  This can be easily rectified by simply determining how much NET PROFIT you want to make per hour on this segment of your business, and adding that number to the total.
As with everything else, each individual business owner will need to determine how much their time and effort is worth – we did not buy these machines to simply “get by” each month, so don’t be afraid to pay yourself well.  I once heard on a screen printing forum many years ago that “Profit is NOT a dirty word” – that phrase has stuck with me ever since (if I could remember who said it first I would give them credit right now).  Personally, I don’t roll out of bed in the morning for less than $60 per hour net profit, so let’s start with that – our final hourly total would look something like this:
  • $18.75 to keep the lights on and the doors open + $20 to pay two employees to stand around + $31.50 for ink and pretreatment + $60 PROFIT and a partridge in a pear treeeeeeee = $130.25
  • $130.25 divided by 9 prints per hour = $14.47 / per print ($6.67 of which is actually NET profit)
Of course, this figure does not include the blank garment – this is simply a determination of your actual print cost, including profit.  Using this number as a starting point, you can apply small price breaks at set quantities to attract larger orders – if someone is going to order 100 prints, most print shops don’t mind taking a slightly lower “profit per hour” just to keep the machines busy.  As long as the price you are charging is HIGHER than your root manufacturing cost, then you can at least be confident that you will stay in business.
Don’t let the figure above shell-shock you – for the purpose of this article I have intentionally chosen numbers on the high end to demonstrate just how expensive it can be to pursue this method of printing.  Realistically, a small shop with a single DTG printer will not require two paid operators to be standing around working the machine.  Also, the ink cost for most standard size prints on dark garments will be much less than the $3 we plugged in to our example.  For light garments, the numbers would be way different as a result of different production capabilities on lights, considerably lower ink costs, etc; depending on how it is done, DTG printing can be incredibly profitable for a keen business owner.  Some shops might have multiple printers, which will change their production capabilities as well as hourly profit expectations.
To make this process easier to understand, we have created a simple yet powerful spreadsheet that can quickly and automatically create a projected price list for your business model.  By plugging in some basic information about your business variables and production capabilities, our spreadsheet will tell you what your running manufacturing cost will be, how much you should sell your printing services for and how much profit you will make on each print.  Additionally, you can easily adjust the price breaks that are given at specific quantity levels, which allows you to create price list estimations across the entire quantity spectrum, automatically.  As you adjust variables throughout the document, the rest of the information dynamically updates to reflect your changes.  If you happen to apply a quantity discount that reduces the cost below your actual root manufacturing cost, the individual cells will turn red to show you where you need to increase your prices.
Don’t sell yourself short on your DTG printing business!  Make sure you are charging enough to stay in business, and print smarter not harder.
  

Neoflex Daily Maintenance

In the world of DTG printing, nothing is quite as important as performing the necessary regular maintenance to keep your equipment operating like new.  Without proper maintenance, it doesn’t matter if you are using the correct print settings, it doesn’t matter if you have selected the proper garments for DTG printing and it certainly doesn’t matter what the relative humidity level is – if you neglect your machine, you will find out soon enough how important a few minutes a day can actually be.

Due to the relatively viscous nature of most DTG inks (read: ALL DTG inks), combined with the heavy particles used to achieve a desirable opacity in the white ink (often TiO2 – Titanium Dioxide particles), residue can quickly build up in certain areas of your machine that will eventually begin to restrict ink flow – this could easily manifest itself in dropped nozzles, ineffective cleaning cycles and eventually damaged components (such as print heads, plastic gears, etc).

Follow these easy steps every day to ensure that your Neoflex DTG printer continues to runs smoothly:

Shake the White Ink

The heavy TiO2 particles in the white ink will quickly separate, sinking to the bottom of the cartridges, bottles, ink lines, print head, dampers and anywhere else the ink sits for an extended period of time.  This process will occur over the course of several hours, although you probably won’t notice much of a difference unless you walk away for 8-12 hours (depending on your altitude, relative humidity, temperature, etc); the easiest way to combat this is to take out each of your white ink cartridges every morning before you start printing, gently shaking them for approximately 10-15 seconds (don’t think of shaking a can of spray paint – it should be more of a mild rocking motion, as you do not want to introduce large air bubbles into the ink supply).  If you have a supply of ink on the shelves, it is probably a good idea to shake that as well; as long as you keep the ink from completely separating you should have far fewer issues down the road.  Remember to always keep it agitated!  If you are printing continuously the ink will not always have time to settle, meaning you won’t necessarily need to shake the cartridges as frequently – however we all need to go home and sleep from time to time, so unless you are running your production operation 24/7 you should become very comfortable with this step (relax, it doesn’t get any easier).

Clean the Seal on the Capping Station

When the capping station makes contact with the print head, the thin rubber gasket around the edge of the capping station allows for a perfect seal – a pump beneath the capping station then begins to draw air downward, pulling ink through the system and thus cleaning the print head, inks lines, etc.  During the course of normal printing and cleaning cycles, small ink droplets begin to gather and dry around the rubber gasket; if these small amounts of ink are left unchecked, they can quickly build up and prevent a decent seal from forming.  Without a proper seal forming between the print head and the capping station, all the cleaning cycles in the world aren’t going to make a bit of difference because air will be entering from the sides and no ink will be drawn through the print head / ink lines.  To prevent this from happening, use a recommended cleaning solution and cleaning swab to thoroughly remove any visible ink buildup – this can generally be purchased wherever you buy your ink from, although many people use original formula Windex mixed with distilled water to save a few bucks; check with your manufacturer to find out what they recommend.

Clean the Wiper Blade

The wiper blade is not always visible right away – you will need to move some things around to gain access to it, then you can use the same cleaning solution / cleaning swab combo from before to remove any ink buildup that has gathered on the wiper blade (this small rubber blade wipes ink from the surface of the print head after each cleaning cycle, so it can show a buildup relatively quickly).  NOTE: Take a quick look at your wiper blade each morning to make sure it is still crisp and straight; if the blade is starting to look ragged, it won’t effectively remove ink from the print head surface – you can replace this part for only a couple of bucks, so it is recommended to keep an extra one on hand at all times.

Clean Area Around Capping / Spitting Station

During the normal printing process, it is easy for ink droplets to slowly build up around the various components on your machine; this could cause various moving components (the wiper blade, the capping station itself, assorted plastic gears, etc) to become blocked, which could result in strange grinding sounds coming from your machine or even parts breaking.  Using your cleaning solution and cleaning swabs, try to remove any visible ink buildup around the capping station / spitting station area – while you’re at it, give the entire inside of your machine a quick visual inspection, and make sure you catch any potential problems early.  Every once in awhile, it is a good idea to pull the side cover off of your Neoflex in order to give the plastic gears and the encoder wheel a good cleaning, as well (although you certainly don’t need to do this every day).

Purge Settled Ink From Dampers / Lines

After you have cleaned the various components responsible for subsequently cleaning your machine, you are ready to address any ink that might have settled in your print head, dampers and ink lines while you were away from your printer; although you should have already agitated the ink in the cartridges, remember there is still plenty of ink in the system that has been sitting.  Tragically, there is little we can do at this point to reclaim and properly agitate that ink – your best bet is to run a simple cleaning cycle through the machine itself (all the internal components should be nice and fresh at this point, so a simple clean should be effective to prime the print head), then print a morning test cycle before you begin production.  A basic test print cycle at the beginning of each day may take up a few bucks in ink, but the white is probably not as vibrant as you want it yet so its not like that ink was going on any shirts for clients, anyways.  If you use your own company logo for your morning test prints, you can begin to stockpile “freebie” shirts for your family and friends (they won’t even notice that the white ink isn’t as perfect as you want it to be, and you are minimizing waste).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

That’s it!  As long as your test print cycle looks good (no dropped nozzles, the white has brightened up by the end of the cycle, etc) you are ready to load up customer shirts and start making money!  The entire daily maintenance process should take no more than 5-15 minutes, depending on your experience and proficiency level; in fact, it will probably take you less time to do your scheduled daily maintenance than it took you to read this article!  As you repeat the above steps over and over, it should become second nature to you and you will eventually be able to do it in your sleep (not recommended).  In addition to the steps listed here, there are deeper levels of cleanings that can be done in the event your machine starts giving you real problems, and there are additional maintenance steps that should be performed on a monthly basis or less frequently – we will cover more of these options in future posts.

DTG Printing with White Ink

If anyone has ever told you that DTG printing with white ink is way more complicated than printing with CMYK only, they weren’t exaggerating. White ink printing comes with an entire host of variables and concerns that must be addressed regularly in order to get consistently high quality results….

DTG Printer Training / Tech Support

Our team has been in the DTG printing business since the beginning – we have been, and continue to be active members of the DTG community; the support we offer to our customers is based on years of experience, trial and error and training on countless varieties of DTG printer systems.  Of course there are many ways to keep your machines running smoothly for years to come, but if you do not properly maintain and care for it then your experience could be abysmal.  Take advantage of our years of technical and real-world experience in this industry to help save time, money and hassle.

We have been using various DTG printing technology in our shop for years, and we have evaluated a wide array of different printers.  During the course of this very long learning process we have clogged print heads, destroyed dampers, fried circuit boards, snapped encoder strips, replaced capping stations and lots lots more….  The entire process has been, at times, very costly and very frustrating.  However, one thing we have learned over the years is that there is almost nothing that is beyond fixing!  By understanding how your printer works, and familiarizing yourself with all of the key internal components you can easily keep your business running on all eight cylinders.

Don’t let your business suffer as a result of the intimidating learning curve associated with DTG printing – make sure you have people who are on your side, helping to educate you through the process and lend a helping hand when you inevitably require one.

      

When you purchase a DTG printer or print supplies through our company, you are not just buying equipment and consumables; we offer you our experience, knowledge and understanding of the industry so we can help you grow your business in a way that you never dreamed possible.  Wondering how we do things in our own production facility?  Stop by our sister company Fusion Logistics Group to see our printing staff in action, and see how we manage our production workflow.  Need a refresher on the best ways to pretreat your garments?  Stop by and see how we do it for our actual customers!  We are not simply selling you stuff and asking you to “figure it out” – we are successfully using all of the products we sell, and we want to show you how!  We are doing this day-in and day-out in a real world production environment, not some stuffy show room floor!

At DTG Print Solutions, your success is our success – we are in this together and we promise to do everything we can to help our customers succeed.  Saving a few bucks on the initial investment into DTG, only to be left hanging when you inevitably need support the most, is never the right answer – go with the company that has the most knowledge and experience, and make sure they choose only the highest quality equipment, products and supplies.   We work only with manufacturers and product suppliers who stand behind their products 100%, and therefore we know we can stand behind you 100%!

Call today with any questions, and let us put you on the right track in the DTG world.

PLEASE NOTE: Direct DTG support is only currently available to our Neoflex DTG customers.  In the near future, we will be adding a “pay as you go” tech support option for owners of other DTG printers who are in need of additional support services.

Welcome to DTG Print Solutions!


DTG Print Solutions is your one-stop source for everything DTG.  Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a wet-behind-the-collar newb, we have what you need to take your printing business to the next level.  We know what we are doing because at the end of the day, we’ve been there before!  Our team has been in the DTG printing industry since before white ink was even available and have been printing strong ever since.  We have gone through a lot of the ups-and-downs that make this particular industry unique, and we come out stronger every time – you can check out our “sister business”, Fusion Logistics Group, by visiting our website (http://www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com/).

We know what it takes to run a successful DTG print company, and we are eager to help you grow your business in a way that is stable, profitable and scale-able!