Tag Archives: neoflex

Nonstop Neoflex Production – One Hour in 15 Minutes

Many people ask us about the potential production rates they can expect with their DTG printer…. While the answer to this question may be difficult to pinpoint without understanding your machine capabilities, intended print resolution, production setup and other factors, we can at least show you a one-hour snippet of production from our very own DTG production facility.  This video was released awhile ago, but it shows a full one-hour production cycle, uninterrupted, including the entire pretreat / print / heat press cycle.

This video shows only one employee working on production (me) using on only one of our DTG printers, and is sped up to 4x normal speed to ensure you don’t get too bored during the process…  We are using the following production setup for this video:

  • PRINTER: Neoflex DTG printing system by All American MFG (based in Philly, PA)
  • RIP: Kothari DTG RIP (branded as NeoRIP PRO)
  • PRETREATMENT: ViperONE Automatic Pretreatment machine
  • PRINT SETTINGS: As always, we are printing in Hi-Resolution mode (the only mode we feel comfortable offering to clients for top-quality DTG printing)
  • GARMENT COLOR: We are printing on dark garments, using the full three platen setup available on the Neoflex DTG printers

Average production speeds (with our configuration) are approximately 6 finished garments per hour on one machine.

“What is the Best DTG Printer?” -vs- “What is the Best DTG Printer for ME?”

The most common question I hear in this industry is “What is the best DTG printer?” This question pops up regularly on major forums, and people ask every time they discuss DTG with me or anyone I know. While this is a perfectly valid question, it might not be the right question to ask when considering whether or not DTG printing is right for you.

Unfortunately, the issue of “which DTG printer is best” is one that is completely subjective, and depends on a multitude of circumstances and personal preference.  After all, what really makes one printer better than another?  Production speed?  Print quality?  Reliability?  Support?  Price?  Which criteria do we apply, and which criteria is important to you?  The real question you should be asking is this:

“Which DTG printer is right for ME?

There is a critical and fundamental difference between the two questions: one takes into consideration your personal situation, circumstances, priorities, etc.  The other one does not.  Since most small ‘mom and pop’ shops wind up investing virtually their entire life savings to get started in direct to garment printing, this critical question can make all the difference in the world.  After all, if your particular business model is focused on high-volume, low dollar printing, actual production speeds might make the difference between success and failure.  If your business model is focused on the highest quality prints in the industry and you have a market that allows you to price accordingly, then selecting a printer that produces top-level results might be your main concern.

There is no such thing as an “apples to apples” comparison when considering which DTG printer to purchase; rather, it is better to make a list of what your top priorities are for your business model and preference, and rate each individual model based on the key criteria as identified by you.  Don’t let someone else tell you which printer is best for them – a little bit of proper planning before the purchase can go a long way!

Here is a list o possible aspects to consider when determining which printer is right for you:

Production Speed

How many garments can you realistically produce in an hour in a realistic production environment?  Don’t trust any numbers given to you by any sales rep; visit actual production shops and watch your designs printed in real-life so you can be absolutely sure of the print times you can expect when you receive your machine.

Print Quality

Different printers are limited by factors which can limit their overall production quality.  These factors can include: max print resolution, droplet size, machine-specific color profiles, RIP selection, ink selection, printer base and lots more.  Be sure to have your own specific artwork printed on multiple platforms, in different RIP settings, to help determine what the realistic limitations will be on each model.

Support

With thousands of DTG printers in the field coupled with the incredibly long learning curve associated with direct-to-garment printing, equipment vendors are literally overwhelmed with tech support related issues.  If you are tech-savvy and thorough (and you pay attention at training), you might be able to trudge the murky waters of DTG without much support; in this case, your options for which companies you can work with will be greatly expanded.  However, if you require a lot of personal care from dedicated techs to help guide you throughout the process, you had better do your homework beforehand to ensure your expectations will be met, after the sale.

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PRO TIP: Make Sure Your Blacks are Black!

PRO TIP – Make sure your BLACKS are BLACK, and not charcoal grey!  Below you will find another example of how a small adjustment to the original artwork could make a big difference in the final print – many customers send us files that may appear “black” on the screen, but when compared to a true “RICH BLACK” the difference is quite dramatic – educating them on this subtle difference could make the difference between a satisfied client, and someone who badmouths you for printing “faded” looking designs:

Example A shows the original artwork, which was probably exported from a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (it is easy to lose color value when exporting a vector file into a raster format, so always double check your artwork in a raster program such as Adobe Photoshop to ensure that everything looks right after being exported) – although the image appears “black-ish” on the screen, this will not print a deep, rich black color and will almost certainly end up looking faded or “washed out”.  Example B shows the artwork after we performed a slight levels adjustment in Photoshop, to restore the original color values that were most likely present in the vector version of the file.  You can see the dramatic contrast in color in the following overlay image (the top half is obviously the original, while the bottom half is the adjusted version):

We will continue to provide tips and tricks to help you dial in your process, including useful tools that will help you get started with basic image optimization.  To download some simple Photoshop actions and to read more about proper artwork formatting for DTG printing, check out the following link on our Fusion Logistics Group Website – Artwork Information.

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Get Into DTG Printing

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing can be incredibly rewarding, and offers many advantages over traditional screen printing.  Whether you are a new startup company or an established print shop looking to augment your production capabilities, DTG is definitely worth a second look.  However, it is important to note that DTG printing is not for everybody; due to the particular challenges that it creates, you must be prepared to commit yourself to understanding every facet before you can hope to have a relatively trouble-free experience.  Here are 10 good reasons to consider avoiding DTG printing, for the moment:

1. Printing Environment Must be Carefully Controlled

The physical properties of the water-based inks are incredibly sensitive, changing drastically based on the external environmental conditions.  For instance if the air in your print room is too hot or dry, the ink will quickly dry in the print head causing nozzle blockage and other related issues; this can manifest in moderate to severe banding (missing or rough lines in the printed image) or even entire nozzles dropping out.  Especially in areas with more extreme weather (for instance, Southern California tends to be very hot and dry), steps must be taken to keep the environment cool, humid and comfortable.  An ideal operating environment would have the temperature somewhere in the general range of 75-80 degrees and a relative humidity level of somewhere between 30-60% – depending on where you are located and what kind of building you are in, you’re going to have to look into various humidification systems, air conditioning, swamp coolers, etc.  This is not the type of equipment you can randomly add to your warehouse work space without seriously considering whether or not it will be protected from the extreme elements.

2. Equipment / Consumables are Expensive

Getting into DTG printing can represent a huge financial risk for a small business on the edge; with many DTG printers averaging around $20,000, you can easily wind up spending $25-$30,000 for an entire package (complete with printer, pre-treatment machine, heat press, supplies, shipping, training, etc).  If you are confident that this is the route for you, try going to a few trade shows and keep your eyes out for a great deal – trade shows are the best place to save money on the initial equipment purchase.  However, once your machine arrives, there isn’t much you can currently do about the ongoing costs of the ink and supplies; on many machines the cost of ink “per print” can easily be in the $1-3 range for a standard size print on dark shirts and the cost of pre-treat fluid can easily cost another .30-.80 per print – compare that to the cost of plastisol ink, which often ranges from .05-.15 per print!  On machines that accommodate larger print areas, the cost of ink alone can actually get up to $4-8 depending on size and coverage.  Unfortunately, the cost of ink does not come down in larger quantities, so there isn’t much we can do (as DTG print shop owners) to compete with screen printing prices on larger quantity orders – there is almost always a break-even point where screen printing still makes more sense than DTG, and it is important to recognize this distinction and not try to make a decoration technique work for an order that does not call for it (for example, 50 black t-shirts with a white ink print on the front would be better suited for screen printing rather than DTG).

3. The Process is Painfully SLOW

While we are able to skip the majority of the setup and tear-down process, screen printers have a huge advantage when the ink actually hits the t-shirt; screen printing presses (even the manual variety) are considerably quicker when it comes to actually printing, whereas the process on a DTG printer can take quite some time.  Although white shirts are relatively quick (its not uncommon to knock out 20-50 white shirts per hour, depending on your particular equipment, setup and print resolution), dark shirt printing can be the bane of any DTG print business – realistically, expect to print about 8-15 black shirts per hour under normal circumstances.  The number of prints you get per hour is directly related to the specific print resolution you operate at, so the higher quality you are looking for, the fewer prints per hour you will be able to achieve; printing at the highest resolution on the Neoflex, there are times when oversize images (15″ x 20″ dimensions) are coming off the machine at a rate of about 3 prints per hour….  You need to enter into this business with a practical, realistic view of how long it is going to take you to print some of the more extreme orders – without this realistic understanding, you might price yourself out of business before you even get started (Need help understanding how to properly price DTG printing services?  Learn about our free tools, here).

4. No Minimum Orders

Wait a minute…. Didn’t this same point make an appearance on our list of top 10 reasons to get involved with DTG printing??  Why then, would it also show up on a list of reasons why NOT to get involved with DTG printing?  The answer, while simple, is often overlooked; although it is great to have the ability to print “on demand” for your customers with no minimum order quantity, it is also overwhelming to take the time out of your busy day to educate a client, find out what they are looking for, then hold their hand throughout the entire process for them to only order a single custom shirt – the harsh reality that many small business owners run into is that it can be very difficult to maintain profitability when you are spending an average of 45 minutes per client and each person is only ordering one or two shirts!  The best way to avoid this unfortunate situation is to streamline your ordering process as much as possible, through the use of online design software and other technology to minimize the amount of time spent processing each order – also, try providing as much detailed information as possible for your clients, allowing them to seek out answers on their own either through your website or other provided documentation.  The fewer times you have to repeat answers to simple questions, the more profitable your business will be!

5. Garment Selection is More Critical than Most Other Processes

DTG printing is not intended to be used on all garment types; in fact, the inks tend to work best when applied to 100% cotton, so it is best to avoid 50/50 blends and other non-cotton fabrics as much as possible.  On top of that, it is important to remember that not all cotton is created equal – you will experience better print quality and more consistent wash fastness when you select garments that are woven from higher quality ring spun cotton (30/1 weave is ideal).  All individual brands, styles and colors can potentially produce varying results of quality and wash-fastness, therefore it becomes critical that you thoroughly evaluate any potential blank garments that you want to print on.  It can get even more confusing when you begin tracking where each batch of shirts was manufactured, as different countries of origin can produce drastically different results, even when the brand / style / color are identical!  Once you’ve found blank garments that print well and are consistently meeting your quality expectations, try to stick with them and encourage your clients to do the same; even if you warn a client that 50/50 blends won’t print as well, they will still insist that you do it and then become indignant when the results are sub-par.  As a DTG printer, it is recommended that you think long and hard about a company policy that indemnifies you of all responsibility for client-supplied blanks (if your company even accepts client-supplies blanks), since you cannot properly vet products that you have not thoroughly evaluated.  Or, even better, simply avoid accepting client garments altogether and focus on blanks that provide the highest possible quality – this is the only way to properly protect your reputation down the road.

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Top 10 Reasons to Get Into DTG Printing

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing can be incredibly rewarding, and offers many advantages over traditional screen printing.  Whether you are a new startup company or an established print shop looking to augment your production capabilities, DTG is definitely work a second look.  Here are 10 good reasons to consider adding DTG printing capabilities to your business:

1. Full Color Printing

Since DTG printers operate more like your home or office printer, you can print stunning “full color” images in one pass (or two passes if printing on dark garments).  Clients no longer need to simplify their design ambition to meet their budget, and you can simplify your pricing structure to eliminate the number of colors in the print as a consideration for cost.  Its a win-win!

2. Minimal Setup Time / Cost

With DTG printing there is no need to setup individual screens to create a design; in fact, aside from the initial artwork file (and the maintenance required to get the machine up and running at peak efficiency each morning) there is really very little setup at all!  Forget about screens, emulsions, film output, screen exposure, rinse-out booths, etc; all you need to worry about is pre-treating your shirts prior to printing, and you are good to go.  Let’s take a typical 3-color print job and compare the two processes: if the client is ordering anywhere between 1-72 items, there is a good chance you could have finished the order on a DTG printer in the time it would take you to print multiple film outputs, expose a couple of screens, rinse out the screens, tape the screens (and apply block-out liquid for pinholes, etc), align the screens on a press and ink them up.

3. Minimal Tear-Down Time / Cost

Using the same example from above, the screen printer would have had to scrape ink off all three screens, remove the tape and clean the screens with some sort of ink remover, then apply an emulsion remover and pressure-wash the hell out of them until all the exposed emulsion was gone.  After that, they would need to use a haze remover chemical, followed by a degreasing agent, prior to spreading a new layer of fresh emulsion onto each screen in preparation for the next job!  Meanwhile, if you had just finished printing this job on your DTG machine you could simply box up the shirts and grab the next batch for printing!  That’s it!  Not only does this save valuable time, but it also saves a ton of money on additional chemicals and resources for the setup / tear-down process.

4. No Minimum Orders

Due to the fact that there is virtually no setup or tear-down associated with each print job, it is easy to load up a single shirt and print it!  You no longer have to demand that your clients order a few dozen shirts (when they only really need a handful for their upcoming event) – start selling short-run orders to the clients who are being turned away at other local print shops, since screen printers won’t touch their orders!  Bachelorette parties, home Poker tournaments, fundraising and charity groups, artists, small businesses and more can all be part of your new client base, since they have not traditionally been able to meet the minimum orders required by most screen printers.  Most clients who only order a handful of shirts are already aware that it is hard enough to find someone to print for them, so they will often be more willing to spend a few extra dollars on each shirt; also, when small groups of individuals collect money from each person (for instance a club or a poker group) they will generally pay more than an individual who is trying to get the lowest price possible on a bulk of shirts.  Small orders can mean big profits!

5. Beat the Local Competition

Once people discover your full-color, no-minimum printing capabilities, they will start to expect similar services from other local shops (most off-the-street clients don’t have a clue how screen printing happens, let alone DTG printing, sublimation or other decoration methods; in some cases you are lucky if they even know what they want printed before they walk through your door).  When your competition is forced to stand by their “36+ minimum order”, or when they can’t waive the huge setup fees that the client is no longer paying through your company, they won’t stand a chance!  Of course, aside from the fundamental policy differences you will be able to offer, you will also be capable of producing some of the most stunning artistic prints that have ever graced the surface of a cotton t-shirt.  Even the highest-quality screen printers in the world would have a very hard time reproducing some of the stunning print effects that can be achieved through DTG printing, so it is simply a matter of educating your client base and showing them why you are different than anyone else in your area.

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Use High Quality Wooster Brushes to Help Minimize Fibrillation

DTG printing can produce some pretty incredible full-color prints, but one thing that can really ruin the overall appearance of any print (no matter how vibrant or beautiful the image may be) is fibrillation – those annoying little fibers that always seem to pop up through the ink, causing an otherwise great looking print to look rough or patchy.  No matter what ink / pre-treatment combination you use or which DTG printer you print with, the problem exists across the board.  Of course, selecting the proper garments for DTG printing can go a long way to help reduce this problem (look for garments with a smoother print surface; blanks that have been treated with an enzyme wash are a great place to start) but there are additional steps you can take to help reduce this problem – brushing the shirt after pre-treating is perhaps one of the easiest and most effective of these, and choosing the proper tool is vital.

The purpose of brushing the garments is two-fold:

  1. Better Pretreat Coverage: By brushing the entire printable area after spraying, you spread the pretreat fluid around and ensure more consistent penetration.
  2. Push Down Garment Fibers: By applying consistent pressure while brushing in smooth, consistent strokes, the fibers of the garments are pushed down creating a smoother, more even print surface.

When we started printing white ink with DTG, we evaluated a wide variety of foam brushes, rollers, etc – although these worked modestly well for spreading the pretreat fluid evenly across the print area, our experience showed us that the porous foam brushes seem to pull the fibers up more than they push them down, thus negating the effect and doing little to prevent fibrillation.

At some point it was recommended to us to try using premium Wooster brand brushes instead of foam rollers / brushes, so we invested a few bucks in a (6) pack of 4″ wide brushes and we haven’t looked back since.  These brushes are perfect for use after spraying the pretreat fluid on the garment, and they do a much better job of pressing the fibers down onto the garment (without lifting them back up in the process).  We strongly recommend giving these brushes a try if you are involved in DTG printing, especially if you are experiencing trouble with fibrillation in the final printed garment.

The specific brushes we use are available online, but for convenience we have added them to the Amazon widget toward the top of this page!

 

 

 

 

Dupont Pretreatment – Application Instructions & Tips

Pre-treatment is quite possible one of the most critical components to the high-quality DTG equation; too little pretreat chemical and your print results will surely suffer, whereas too much pretreat chemical can easily compromise your wash results.  In addition to finding the right volume of pretreat for the specific garment you are printing, you must also take steps to minimize fibrillation and reduce “pre-treatment marks” on the garments (you can read more on pre-treatment marks by clicking here).

There are many different ways to apply pre-treatment to blank garments, but the most common methods include the use of a Wagner HPLV (“High Pressure Low Volume”) spray gun or some sort of automatic pre-treatment machine (such as the ViperONE Automatic PT Machine).  Some DTG machines, such as the Kornit brand of printers, actually apply the pre-treatment while the shirt is loaded on the machine; there are basically two schools of thought on whether or not this makes sense, with one side advocating for the ease-of-use and reduction in the overall number of steps required to print, and the other side claiming that the inclusion of the pretreat step on the machine actually reduces overall efficiency (since it can’t start printing until the pretreat step is done, causing downtime at the printer) and presents the possibility of a “single point of failure” (if the pre-treatment nozzle becomes compromised or starts acting up, your entire print operation is offline).  Personally, I prefer to do the pretreat step off the printer, for a number of reasons:

  1. If a Wagner HPLV spray gun starts giving us trouble, we can easily replace it at any time; we even keep extras around at all times, reducing the possibility that we will be stuck without the ability to pretreat shirts.
  2. By pre-treating the garments off the machine, there is no downtime at the printer itself.  We simply load up shirts that are ready to be printed, and the printer continues to spit out completed product without delay.
  3. When pretreat is applied on the machine itself, there is no opportunity to heat press the garment to flatten out the fibers and evaporate the excess PT fluid – this reduces the overall clarity in the print, and can leave room for fibers to stick up after the pretreat is applied.
Manually Pre-Treating a Black T-Shirt Using Wagner HPLV and Dupont Pretreat Fluid (Left Chest)

Having said that, here is the basic method we use at Fusion Logistics Group to pretreat our garments (using a standard Wagner HPLV sprayer).  In the following example we were pre-treating a standard black t-shirt for a left chest DTG print:

1. HEAT PRESS THE GARMENT:

Before pre-treating any garments, it is a good idea to heat press them to flatten out any loose fibers that might ruin your awesome DTG print.  We set our heat press to 340 degrees Fahrenheit and pre-press each garment for approximately 10-15 seconds (using MEDIUM pressure); you don’t need to press for too long because the garment will be under the heat press another 2-3 times by the end of the production process.  Depending on the type of garment you are printing on, you may or may not have to perform this particular step – if you stick to higher quality ring spun cotton (the tighter the knit count, the smoother the print surface) you should see much less fibrillation than you might find with a standard cotton garment.  Additionally, garments that have received an Enzyme wash during manufacturing seem to show far less fibrillation, primarily due to the fact that the Enzyme wash “burns” off most of the rogue fibers before the garment ever leaves the manufacturing facility – ask your garment providers which styles have been treated with an Enzyme wash, and see if that helps your overall printing quality!  Also, notice we are using a Stahl’s Hotronix draw press at the moment – we do not currently recommend this particular press due to its lack of an auto-release feature; when things get hectic in the shop, the last thing you want to be doing is chasing down the beeping heat presses – an auto-release press would allow you to leverage your time more effectively, without the fear of accidentally over-curing or forgetting the garment completely.  Auto release clam-shell presses are priced very competitively compared to standard clam-shell or draw presses.

2. SPRAY THE GARMENT WITH PRETREAT FLUID:

After the garment has been pressed, we drape it over a simple shirt board that we made from inexpensive laminate particle wood from the Home Depot.  Before you begin pre-treating for the day, it is recommended that you take a few moments to dial in your spray gun – you want an even, gentle spray that doesn’t sputter or spit any wild drops of pretreat fluid all over the place.  The Dupont pretreat fluid is a sticky, corrosive chemical that can easily gum up the spray gun if left unattended for lengthy periods of time (even a few hours could cause a deterioration in spray quality) - to combat this, we typically pour the contents of the spray gun back into the main pretreatment container about every 4 hours; we rinse the gun with warm water, shake the main pretreatment container then reload the gun. Some might say that is overkill, but our results have been far more consistent than they have ever been since we implemented this process….  Once we begin spraying the garments, we usually spray “left to right” then “right to left” on the next step down, releasing the trigger on the gun at the far right and far left of each spray; we repeat this until we have gently covered the entire print area with spray, as evenly as possible. If you hold the trigger and simply move the gun back and forth, you will end up with much heavier deposits at the outside edges of the spray area – look for a YouTube video of a professional painting a car with an HPLV sprayer and you can use that as a model for how it should be done. Once the first coat is done we immediately make another pass (moving left to right and back again, while working our way from top to bottom) – two lighter coats provides more even coverage and allows you to use your judgement on a “garment by garment” basis regarding when enough is enough (fleece often requires a heavier deposit, whereas thinner ‘fashion’ style garments will often require a far lighter pre-treatment deposit).

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DTG Pretreatment Marks – What Do They Look Like and What Do They Mean?

When using DTG printing as a decoration method, there are many additional steps that are not necessarily required for traditional decoration methods (such as screen printing).  For example, many people are not aware that we must spray a liquid “pretreatment” chemical on all dark garments before they can be printed using the DTG process; this additional step is required to ensure that the white ink that is printed onto the garment does not “soak in”, literally disappearing before your very eyes.

In addition to the requirement that we must currently pretreat all dark garments, we are often asked to pretreat light garments as well (the improved color vibrancy and washability on light garments is worth the extra cost) – once again, the pretreatment liquid acts as a “barrier” to prevent the CMYK inks from soaking into the garment.  Without this pretreatment on light garments, the print would appear slightly more faded, although still acceptable (whereas dark garments literally cannot be printed without the pretreatment step).

During the curing process, the pretreatment can discolor slightly, and can sometimes leave a slightly off-white residue that may be interpreted as a stain of some sort.  This is entirely normal and should disappear with the first wash of the garment.  If you want to test it out, try wetting a clean cloth and gently wiping around the edges; you should notice that the effect is minimized, which should offer some reassurance that the first wash will indeed take care of the phenomenon.  When pretreatment is applied to certain light garments, the curing process will sometimes cause a light “yellowish” box to appear around the design – again, this is most often caused by normal discoloration of the pretreatment fluid on the garment, which should come off in the first wash.  The pretreatment residue is completely harmless (just don’t try to eat your shirt and you should be fine) and is used by any person who is using a DTG printing system; unfortunately it is simply a fact of the industry at this point.

Aside from the possible discoloration of the pretreatment fluid itself, you may also notice a “box” around the printed design – this box is can sometimes be caused by the pressure from the heat press (used for curing the inks) forcing the fibers down into the garment.  Since we are applying high heat and heavy pressure for an extended period of time, this box will sometimes be noticeable until the garment goes through the first wash cycle.  Additionally, thicker items such as fleece, and items that contain polyester will usually have a harder time masking the difference between the area that has been heat pressed and the area that has not; once again, the first wash should take it back to normal.

Some garments will show an enhanced version of this effect, while other garments will show no signs of the pretreatment area at all – at our sister company (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com) we try to encourage all of our clients to select garments based on the following criteria:

  • How well they print
  • How well they wash after curing
  • How well they accept the pretreatment fluid
When you decide to add DTG printing to your business, it is important to take the time to evaluate various blank products to determine which products will work best for your business; some styles, brands and colors will show these effects more than others, while others will do a great job of masking the pretreat.  At Fusion Logistics Group, we also added a standard top-loading dryer to our arsenal which allows us the opportunity to offer a chemical-free wash (water only) on any order before sending it out to the client (if requested); this helps reduce or eliminate any residual pretreat left on the garment after printing.   We definitely recommend this to any small to mid-sized print shop, since it also gives you a chance to do sporadic wash tests to help put your mind at ease.
As with so many other things, it is important to educate your customers about this phenomenon, so they do not accuse you of giving them a bad product if and when they run into evidence of pre-treatment fluid.  Some companies like to include a small note with all of their outgoing packages, informing their customers and letting them know to wash the garments prior to wearing them; this is highly recommended.

COMING SOON: New Neoflex DTG Platen System!

We are so excited about our new platen designs for the Neoflex DTG printer that we just couldn’t wait to share!  Our goal is to design a platen that is easier to use than the stock OEM version, while also allowing for greater flexibility while printing.  Built from rigid, durable materials, our new platen design allows us to load shirts more like a traditional screen printing press (sliding the shirt over the board, rather than laying it on top) which helps avoid issues related to buttons, zippers, seams, etc which often give us trouble with the current “lay and hoop” setup.

These pictures show an early prototype version, which uses a triple prong setup for increased rigidity; we are currently testing two and three prong versions, as well as various raw materials to determine the most ideal setup for long term use.

The final product will feature replaceable top plates in various sizes and shapes, allowing for ultimate flexibility when printing on non-standard garments or various print locations (such as sleeves, pockets, cap sleeve girly tees, hoodies, etc).  By reusing the brackets and base plate and simply replacing the top plates, it will be much more affordable to purchase a wide array of plates for all the different situations you might find yourself in.

The final product may vary somewhat from the early version shown here, but rest assured we are making modifications and tweaks that will ultimately lead to a very robust platen system that will increase efficiency and reduce potential misprints!  Stay tuned for more info.

Monitor Your Humidity for High Quality DTG Printing!

As the weather begins to warm up in many areas of the country, it is important to remember how critical proper temperature / humidity control can be and how big of an impact it can ultimately have on the printing process, as well as the quality of the final product.  Regardless of which brand of DTG printer you are using, or who you bought it from, the ideal operating ranges are quite similar across the board.  For most machines, the ideal humidity level for high quality DTG printing is between 40%-60% relative humidity – although the machines will likely print (and even operate proficiently in some cases) when the humidity is as low as 25-35%, you will almost certainly experience a higher-than-normal volume of ink related issues as the level drops below 20% (the higher the temperature, the more of an impact the low humidity will likely have on your printing).  Regarding temperatures, most DTG printers prefer to operate within a range of 75-90 degrees; going too hot or too cold could potentially cause your inks to dry up on your while printing, causing all sorts of mayhem in the process!

Many people will spend hours trying to troubleshoot their printer to find out why they are experiencing sudden nozzle dropout, clogged heads or other similar symptoms, while the actual issue has nothing to do with the machine itself – this can easily result in lost production time and plenty of wasted ink being purged down the drain!  Every single DTG print shop in the world should have some sort of inexpensive humidity reader mounted inside the production room, providing constant feedback on the current moisture levels in the air – whenever you are experiencing strange ink behavior, it is helpful to start your troubleshooting with a quick glance at the humidity meter, to get an idea of what your machine is currently dealing with.  If you do not already have one of these (or something similar), head out to your local Wal-Mart (or preferred vendor) and find one!  They only cost a few bucks, and it will provide insight on one of the most critical aspects of the DTG printing process – your local printing environment.

There are a number of solutions available for raising the relative humidity level inside your production environment, ranging from swamp coolers (ideal for larger, warehouse style facilities), home humidification systems (which don’t often make a very big impact, unless you are running several of them in a relatively closed space) and more industrial “vaporization” systems that are typically custom built for each facility (this is the method used by most large printing companies, including many major newspaper publishers where humidity is also a concern).  Some DTG printer owners have even constructed a plastic “tent” around their machines, allowing them to climate control a smaller, more limited space – in this type of a setup, the smaller “home” humidification systems can be slightly more effective (remember to mount the humidity meter inside the plastic tent, should you pursue this option).

Whatever method you prefer, make sure you are monitoring your humidity (and temp) on a daily basis, and take the necessary precautions before the summer weather starts to hit!  If you wait until your humidity is below 20% to figure something out, you could potentially be risking downtime and unnecessary problems – maintain your climate, and maintain high quality DTG printing!