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Expert Apparel: DTG Gets Serious

(June 2015) posted on Tue Jun 23, 2015

Early technology problems have been largely solved, making DTG an attractive and reliable decoration option for many shops.

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By Terry Combs

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing has had a brief history in our industry as a viable decoration method. Though there was some prior experimentation, machines capable of producing repeatable and salable products have only been available for a decade. Let’s take a look at this brief history and where we stand with DTG today.

The Experimental Years
I like to compare the first decade of DTG to the early days of automobiles: Much experimentation and discovery, and much pain and suffering for those who jumped in early. And as with cars from the last century, not only have the buyers come and gone, but the manufacturers and distributors, as well.

Many decorators entered the DTG arena early, sensing its potential. From the beginning, the ability to print short runs of as few as one garment and full-color photographic images certainly has been appealing. In the early days, we could only print CMYK on light colored garments. About two years into DTG’s existence came the advent of white ink, at which point the decoration potential exploded. But then, the reality of dealing with an entirely new printing method set in. New machines, new inks, new everything – it all translated to issues that none of us had ever experienced.

Many early entrants were discouraged by the results, limitations, and spoilage, and frankly, by the process in general. With the early machines, lost registration, banding, and limited ink capacities among other issues slowed production and caused high reject rates. The losses varied, but it wasn’t unusual to have spoilage of 5 percent or more. The greatest frustration was that these issues occurred randomly and erratically.

There were certainly successes, as witnessed by the large internet companies that grew from those early days into multimillion dollar companies. And there was failure and frustration. For many, the risks that come along with innovation and new opportunities were worth the time and treasure expended. But, many early innovators simply gave up on the concept.


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