With higher productivity solutions hitting the market, how will the industry respond?
The hybrid approach has a number of advantages that, in theory, remove many of the limitations of both processes. DTG units can be positioned at any print station, giving printers flexibility in setting up jobs. Underbases can be printed conventionally, eliminating the DTG white layer that often consumes the most ink (and adds the most cost) and slows down the printing process. Provided that the ink films are compatible, a screen-printed underbase also removes the need to pretreat the garment, saving additional time and money. Image elements that can’t be replicated in CMYK – spot colors, metallics, and a host of other special effects – could be screen printed after the DTG unit lays down the CMYK image. Printers could run just about any configuration of the two technologies (including no DTG printing at all) from their existing automatic presses without the need to install another print line or dryer.
“And, you can do it with a small press that takes up less space,” observes Vince Cahill of VCE Solutions, an inkjet consultant who also owned The Colorworks garment screen-printing business for many years. “Think about all of the screens. If you can cut the number down to 25 percent of the screens you’re currently using, that’s huge. In some facilities, especially those using rotary screen, the room where they store the screens is bigger than the print operation. It takes up a lot of real estate, and real estate costs money.”
At drupa 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, Chinese screen equipment manufacturer CNTop (left) showed a 22-station oval screen press running the company’s T5D10 DTG station, which uses Ricoh Gen 5 printheads and is available in CMYK or two six-color configurations (CMYKcm or CMYK + orange + blue). According to the company, the DTG unit can print 400 A4 (8.3 x 11.7-inch) shirts per hour, or 200 shirts at the maximum image size of 19.7 x 27.6 inches. (CNTop is not listed in the equipment charts because it is not currently distributed in the US.)
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