Early technology problems have been largely solved, making DTG an attractive and reliable decoration option for many shops.
By Terry Combs
Some garment decorators never entered this market in the first place, simply due to the horror stories they read on web forums or heard first hand from others who took the plunge. These decorators patiently waited for DTG to become more professional and production-worthy. Many of them are now reaping the rewards with the latest generation of machines. Is DTG now a perfect process? No, but what decoration method really is? Today’s machines are undoubtedly more dependable and capable of longer production runs than a decade ago. And people are making money with them.
Concerns of the Past
The biggest problems of the past were caused by the white ink. Specifically, the solids in the ink separated from the liquid and settled. This caused the printheads to clog, resulting in downtime, lost revenue, spoilage, and cash spent on replacement parts. While other factors can impact printhead clogging, the culprit early on was usually the ink. Attempts were made to circumvent the problem with solutions such as recirculating systems for the white ink, but this didn’t make the issue go away since the recirculation occurred away from the printhead, where the clogging actually occurred.
Other problems resulted from the fact that most of the early units, and many still in use today, were repurposed machines originally designed to print paper and other substrates. By reconfiguring the feed mechanism, these printers went from printing poster-size images on paper to imaging T-shirts. In other words, we were using these converted machines for substrates not intended, and more importantly, with ink systems not designed for the printheads. Feeding fabric along with a heavy shirt holder under the printhead proved to be quite challenging compared to moving paper or another lightweight substrate.
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