A Guide to Garment Inkjet Printers
The garment-inkjet landscape is changing. Use this source list to keep up with the latest systems on the market.
Nearly five years have passed since Screen Printing first covered direct-to-garment inkjet printers, and while the technology has remained essentially the same at its core, the market has experienced somewhat of a shake-up since this publication’s last treatment of the subject (“Direct-to-Garment Deluge,” Apr. 2009, p. 20). A handful of manufacturers have left the market, a couple of new names have joined the game, and some of the remaining players have developed new systems. Let’s take a look at what’s available.
AnaJet’s new Sprint (pictured) features ink-flow controls to accommodate different types of fabric, automated maintenance routines, and a closed-loop ink-delivery system that’s designed to maintain pressure balance and prevent ink-nozzle clogging. It supports a maximum image size of 12.5 x 16 in. (318 x 406 mm) and imaging resolutions up to 1440 dpi. The printer is compatible with AnaJet’s AnaBright (CMYK + White) and PolyBright (CMYK) inks, both of which are water-based formulations. The Sprint’s software runs on Windows XP or Vista and interfaces via USB 2.0.
The FP-125 from AnaJet offers printers the ability to manage ink flow via a 15-level ink-volume control and five levels of fabric-dependent volume adjustment. The inkjet printer can image onto garments made of 100% cotton, poly-cotton blends, and certain types of 100% polyester. The FP-125 uses water-based, pigmented inks from AnaJet and features a closed-loop ink-delivery system. Users can switch between CMYK and CMYK + White configurations. A 12.5 x 16-in. (318 x 406-mm) shuttling print table takes care of garment handling, and the printer supports a maximum garment thickness of 0.6 in. (15 mm) and imaging resolution of 720 dpi. AnaPrint software is for decorating white, pastel, and light colored garments. An optional software RIP is available for printing onto black apparel. The device’s three-step workflow includes image selection, printing, and setting the image in a heat press or conventional garment dryer. The FP-125’s software runs on Windows XP or Vista.
The Arakis Orbital is a custom-built carousel inkjet system that uses interchangeable, off-the-shelf printing platens. At its core is the Arakis Universal Printengine (AUP), which uses four valve-jet heads for white underbasing without pretreatment, plus four or eight dedicated Spectra heads for CMYK or spot colors (optional 2 x CMYK is available). Orbital supports up to four platens, each offering a maximum print area of 24 x 30 in. (610 x 762 mm). It can image onto garments at 300 and 600 dpi, and according to Arakis, the printer can complete a 16 x 20-in. (406 x 508-mm) print at 600 dpi in two minutes. A-Tex high-viscosity inks, and a white ink formulated for printing without pretreatment, are available from Arakis.
Arakis also offers the AK-78 and AK-SP1/AK-SP2 inkjet printers, all of which use interchangeable, off-the-shelf printing platens. The AK-78 supports a 24 x 30-in. maximum print area. It can image at resolutions of 360, 720, and 1440 dpi. The system uses AUP technology and prints A-Tex standard inks. The AK-SP1/AK-SP2 printers support up to four platens with maximum print areas of 24 x 30 in. They image at 300 or 600 dpi, use Spectra printheads and A-Tex high-viscosity inks, and feature AUP technology. All Arakis printers offer the Arakis Easy Flush system for maintenance.
According to Azon, the Tex Pro direct-to-garment inkjet printer offers faultless printing, even on seams, collars, pockets, and clefts. The system uses bi-directional printing to decorate 20-70 light shirts/hr and 12-15 shirts/hr when using white inks on dark garments. It supports imaging resolutions of 720, 1440, and 2880 dpi and uses water-based pigmented inks (CMYK + 4 x White) to print onto cotton, polyester, silk, and other materials. An available pretreatment enhances ink adhesion. Tex Pro supports a maximum print area of 15.75 x 23.4 in. (400 x 594 mm) and garment thickness of 1.9 in. (50 mm). Tex Pro has both USB and parallel computer connections, and its driver is compatible with Windows 95/98/9000, NT 4.0, and Mac OS (USB).
The Flexi-Jet from BelQuette is an eight-color (2 x CMYK) inkjet printer that supports a maximum print size of 16 x 20 in. (406 x 508 mm), maximum media height of 3 in. (76 mm), and imaging resolutions of 360, 720, and 1440 dpi. BelQuette says the printer’s linear movement is repeatedly accurate to ±0.0003 in. (0.0076 mm), which allows for printing without banding at 360 dpi. Additionally, a set of guide rollers are positioned below the printhead level to help protect the printhead and act as a reference guide. The system prints water-soluble dye inks. A white-ink upgrade is available, and BelQuette notes that garment pretreatment is only necessary when printing onto colored or black apparel. The company also will build special attachments for the printer. The printer’s Flexi-Rip software runs on Windows XP/2000.
Brother’s GT-782 (pictured) is a dual-platen inkjet printer that comes standard with white ink for decorating dark garments. Its independently controlled platens allow for printing two garments with different designs simultaneously. The GT-782 uses water-based, pigmented inks (CMYK + 4 x White) and prints at resolutions up to 600 dpi. The printer also offers underbase white and highlight white volume control, as well as controls for color saturation, contrast, and ink volume. Two 14 x 16-in. (356 x 406-mm) platens are standard. Optional platens include 16 x 18, 10 x 12, and 7 x 8 in. (406 x 457, 254 x 305, and 178 x 203 mm) for oversize prints, youth garments, and baby apparel, respectively. According to Brother, the GT-782 supports print speeds of approximately 50 pieces/hr in One-Pass White Mode and approximately 30 pieces/hr in Two-Pass White Mode. The device’s Windows-compatible driver allows for printing directly from graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop and CorelDRAW without use of a software RIP. The GT-782 offers USB (1.1/2.0) and CompactFlash connectivity.
The company’s GT-541 uses water-based, pigmented inks to print onto 100% cotton and 50/50 cotton/polyester apparel. It supports 600-dpi resolution and a maximum print area of 14 x 16 in. (355.6 x 406.4 mm). The GT-541 offers single and double print modes and manual platen-height adjustment up to 0.48 in (12 mm). The system is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista and connects via USB 1.1/2.0 and CompactFlash. Optional accessories include a machine stand, as well as youth, baby, pocket, and sleeve platens.
DTG Digital Garment Printers
DTG offers four solutions for digital garment decoration, all of which now feature the company’s WIMS, a white-ink-management system that constantly circulates and filters white ink. The Kiosk II is a seven-color (CMYK + 3 x White) printer that supports a maximum image area of 20.8 x 12 in. (528 x 305 mm) and imaging resolutions from 360-2880 dpi. The HM1 is an eight-color printer (CMYK + 4 x White) that supports a maximum image area of 21.2 x 12 in. (538.5 x 305 mm) and imaging resolutions from 720-2880 dpi. The HM-1 features auto reflush cleaning cycles, built-in bulk ink system, fan-forced ink extraction, and Head Moving Technology for enhanced registration accuracy.
The K3 Raptor (pictured) offers a 13-in.-wide (330-mm) print area and can print images up to 32 in. (813 mm) long. It features a micro-servomotor-driven conveyor system and uni- or bi-directional printing. The Raptor supports imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi, a 16-in.-wide (406-mm) print area, and image length up to 45 in. (1143 mm). It features a micro-servomotor-driven conveyor system and uni- or bi-directional printing. The Raptor supports imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi. It includes a four-in-one configurable platen that can be set up as one oversized platen, two adult platens, or four youth platens.
The Durager 650-TP from Durafos is a seven-color (CMY + Red + Blue + 2 x Black) printer that supports a maximum print size of 12.95 x 20.5 in. (329 x 520 mm), imaging resolutions up to 5760 x 1440 dpi, and a maximum media height of 5.9 in. (150 mm). Durafos says its Durager 650-TP can print an image at A3 size (11.7 × 16.5 in. or 297 × 420 mm) in less than two minutes at 1440 dpi and notes that no garment pretreatment is necessary. The device can print directly from CorelDRAW, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Kornit’s new Breeze 921 (pictured) is billed as an entry-level printer that’s engineered to provide affordable operation and high-quality performance. It can print on light and dark garments and is equipped with an automatic pre-treatment system. The Breeze uses six Spectra printheads (CMYK + White), Kornit’s pigmented ink, and the Kornit QuickP RIP. Standard print size is 14 x 18 in. (356 x 457 mm), and the Breeze supports imaging resolutions up to 600 x 1200 dpi.
The Kornit 933 is an add-on station for carousel screen presses. It’s designed to allow screen printers to combine screen and digital printing techniques on the same garments without additional handling of the apparel. The all-in-one printing module is fastened to the carousel. It uses Spectra printheads and pigmented solvent or water-based inks (CMYK + White) for printing on light and dark garments. The 933 supports maximum print size of 15 x 19 in. (390 x 480 mm) and imaging resolutions up to 636 x 363 dpi. Kornit says the 933 can decorate up to 200 shirts/hr with image sizes of 5 x 11 in. (127 x 279 mm).
The Kornit Storm 931-8 is a dual-platen inkjet printer for dark and light garments. It’s equipped with four CMYK printheads and four printheads dedicated to white ink. Standard print size is 16 x 20 in. (406 x 508), variable to 20 x 28 in. (508 x 711 mm), and the printer supports imaging resolutions up to 636 x 363 dpi. The Kornit Thunder 932-6 features its own RIP and supports print speeds up to 70 light garments/hr and 30 dark garments/hr. It’s equipped with four CMYK printheads and two printheads for white ink. Standard print size is 14 x 18 in. (356 x 457 mm), and the system supports imaging resolutions up to 636 x 363 dpi.
Lawson Screen & Digital Products
Lawson plans to make its entry into digital apparel decoration in a few months with the Digi-Tex, a printer the company describes as an industrial, high-speed system designed for decorating ad-specialties and textiles. It will have a modular head configuration to support the use of up to six colors and will offer a maximum imaging resolution of 600 dpi. Other features slated for the Digi-Tex include adjustable platen and head height, adjustable print speeds, bi-directional printing, custom platen sizes, and more. Lawson reports that Digi-Tex will print at speeds up to 70 ft/min (21.4 m/min) or faster in some applications and print T-shirts at speeds up to 300 garments/hr. It’ll use water-based inks formulated for adhesion to cotton, 50/50 blends, and other materials.
According to Lawson, five printer models are in the works, each of which will have a 4-in. (102-mm) print-path width, be compatible with Windows XP, and allow users to print from any art-creation and RIP software they choose. The Digi-Tex 4301 will support a maximum image size of 8 x 30 in. (203 x 762 mm) and come with a standard platen size of 6 x 24 in. (152 x 610 mm). Model 4302 will support a maximum image size of 4 x 30 in. (102 x 762 mm) and come with a standard platen size of 6 x 24 in. Model 4303 will support a maximum image size of 8 x 30 in. and come with a standard platen size of 6 x 24 in. Model 4304 will support a maximum image size of 8 x 30 in. and come with a standard platen size of 10 x 24 in. (254 x 610 mm). Model 16304 will support a maximum image size of 16 x 30 in. (406 x 762 mm) and come with a standard platen size of 17 x 21 in. (432 x 533 mm).
The i-Dot from M&R offers a 16 x 20-in. maximum print area and an eight-color (CMYK + 4 x White) i-Pak inkset for printing on light and dark garments. It comes with a 14 x 20.5-in. (356 x 521-mm) platen, but M&R says the i-Dot can print images up to 16 x 20 in. (406 x 508 mm) on cotton, 50/50 blends, and some polyester materials. The printer features M&R’s Absolute Position Technology (APT) and i-Color RIP Software. APT uses M&R’s proprietary high-resolution servo encoder. M&R says its custom-designed firmware integrates flawlessly with i-Color RIP software. APT also includes a PLC controller, servo amplifier, and servomotor-driven linear actuator. The i-Color RIP software is engineered to recognize and preserve Adobe Photoshop channels for creating transparencies and highlights in garment graphics and calculate the need for white underbase when printing on black garments. The system comes with a PC that’s loaded with i-Color RIP software and has been configured and tested by M&R. The printer also features laser-guided substrate placement to helps ensure correct image positioning. The start-up kit for the i-Dot printer includes eight 220-ml i-Pak ink cartridges (CMYK + 4 x White), eight i-Clean cartridges for printhead flushing, i-Prep fabric pre-treatment for dark and colored garments, i-Tack platen adhesive, and i-Clean solution for cleaning individual printheads. Additional platens are available in three sizes: 4 x 20.5, 10 x 20.5, and 16.5 x 20.5 in. (102 x 521, 254 x 521, 419 x 521 mm).
Makki USA says its VersaJet is the only direct-to-garment inkjet printer that’s capable of seamlessly bringing together traditional screen and digital printing. Makki’s Integrated Printing Technology (IPT) allows a garment to be screen printed with white ink or discharge base, then loaded onto the VersaJet for CMYK printing, and then back to a screen press for special-effects printing. Users can load the VersaJet with two inksets simultaneously. The Topaz RIP drives the system.
The Makki Twister (pictured) is an automated digital and screen-printing system. It’s available in six-, eight-, and 12-station configurations to which users can add up to two additional screens to integrate special-effects screen printing in register. Makki says the Twister 12, which uses dual printheads, provides print speeds up to 160 dark garments/hr, including up to two screen-printed special effects.
Mimaki currently offers two systems for digital direct-to-garment printing. The GP-604 uses a 2 x CMYK pigmented inkset and images onto light-colored 100% cotton apparel at resolutions up to 720 dpi. It features a platen heater—a device Mimaki says raises garment temperature before printing to brighten colors. Also standard is a backlit LCD panel display that shows printing configurations during operation. The GP-604 offers bi-directional printing and supports a maximum print area of 16.5 x 24 in. (419 x 610 mm) and maximum printhead height of 5.7 in. (145 mm). A laser dot measures the printing area, and an LED sensor adjusts printhead height. Mimaki’s Raster Link GP software is included. It provides on-screen preview, support for various image-file formats, zoom/rotate/mirror functions, print-position adjustment, and batch printing for layouts of multiple data items. Connectivity options include IEEE-1284 and IEEE-1394.
The GP-604D (pictured) shares many of the 604’s features, such as print size and head height, imaging resolution, RIP software, and connectivity. The primary difference is its ability to image onto light and dark garments. The GP-604D uses CMYK inks and a discharge fluid that removes the color of an organically dyed T-shirt. The discharged areas on the garment can then be imaged with a full-color design. Alternatively, the print on a dark garment can be made with the discharge fluid alone. Mimaki specifies a daily maintenance routine for the 604D that involves replacing the cleaning liquid and discharge liquid remaining in the printer at the beginning and end of the printer’s work day.
MS Printing Solutions
MS Printing Solutions offers four direct-to-garment inkjet printers. The MS ZERO supports a printing area of 12 x 32 x 1 in. (305 x 813 x 25 mm), imaging resolutions up to 5760 dpi, up to eight colors, and print speeds up to 30 T-shirts/hr. It uses water-based inks and offers uni- and bi-directional printing. The MS ONE supports a printing area of 17 x 36 x 4 in. (2972 x 914 x 51 mm), imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi, up to eight colors, and print speeds up to 60 T-shirts/hr. It uses water-based inks and offers uni- and bi-directional printing.
The MS TWO supports a printing area of 43 x 43 x 5 in. (1092 x 1092 x 127 mm), imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi, up to eight colors, up to six T-shirts at a time, and print speeds up to 110 T-shirts/hr. It uses water-based inks and offers uni- and bi-directional printing. MatchPrint MS-DUA Soft software is included. The MS JP-3 (pictured) supports a printing area of 63 x 79 x 5 in. (1600 x 2067 x 127 mm), imaging resolutions up to 1440 dpi, up to eight colors, up to 36 T-shirts at a time, and print speeds up to 180 T-shirts/hr. It uses water- or solvent-based inks and offers uni- and bi-directional printing.
OmniPrint’s FreeJet 320TX prints at sizes up to 12 x 18 in. (305 x 457 mm). According to OmniPrint, the system can produce an image approximately 10 x 10 in. (254 x 254 mm) in size in 45 seconds. It supports bi-directional printing and imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi, and it uses bulk-supplied inks (CMYK + 4 x White or 2 x CMYK). Head height is automatically adjusted via optical sensor up to 2 in. (51 mm). On-board control functions include auto cleaning, step and repeat, printhead management, and more. The machine features OmniPrint’s WetCap integrated head-cleaning system and comes with OmniPrint DirectRip software.
The FreeJet 500TX is an eight-color printer (CMYK + 4 x White) or (2 x CMYK) that features laser-guided product-height adjustment and an integrated head-cleaning system. It supports imaging resolutions up to 288 x 1440 dpi, uni- and bi-directional printing, and a full print area up to 16.5 x 29.5 in. (419 x 749 mm). DirectRIP software is included. The FreeJet 700TX (pictured) prints at sizes up to 24 x 59 in. (610 x 1499 mm). It supports bi-directional printing and imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi, and it uses bulk-supplied inks (CMYK + 4 x White or 2 x CMYK). Head height is automatically adjusted via optical sensor up to 5.9 in. (150 mm). On-board control functions include auto cleaning, step and repeat, printhead management, and more. The 700 TX features OmniPrint’s WetCap integrated head-cleaning system and comes with OmniPrint Direct-Rip software.
Ricoma’s TexPro uses Epson Advanced MicroPiezo AMC printhead technology and supports imaging resolutions up to 2880 dpi. Ricoma says the TexPro can print a 10 x 12-in. (254 x 205-mm) design in approximately one minute. The printer offers a maximum print area of 17 x 25 in. (432 x 635 mm) and uses water-based pigmented inks (CMYKLcLmLkLLk+photo black or matte black) formulated to withstand repeated washing on white and light colored apparel made of 100% cotton and 50/50 blends. It features manual platen-height adjustment up to 4.8 in. (122 mm), Single and Double print modes, automatic head alignment and cleaning, and USB (1.1/2.0) and CompactFlash interfaces.
Shima Seki’s SIP-100F and SIP-160F are flatbed inkjet printers that use an eight-color reactive-dye inkset (light and dark CMYK) and support a maximum imaging resolution of 300 x 600 dpi. The two models share most features. Both offer a CCD camera for accurate material placement, touch-sensitive control panels, maximum printhead speed of 7.5 ft/sec (0.7 m/sec), head-height range of 0.12-2.1 in. (3-53 mm), and PC system with 40-GB hard drive, full-color LCD display, layout software and more. SIP-100F has 512 MB of RAM, while the SIP-160F has 1 GB. SIP-100F and SIP-160F support maximum image areas of 63 x 39.4 in. (1600 x 1000 mm) and 87 x 63 in. (2200 x 1600 mm), respectively. Both models also are designed to work with Shima Seiki’s apparel-decoration peripherals, such as the SUM 100 pretreatment station, SDM 100 drying station, and SSM 100 steam boiler.