Sampling, prototyping, and on-demand printing are some of the benefits direct-to garment inkjet printers represent. Discover how four companies have made these machines important parts of their businesses.
Antioch, IL-based Digital Edge Signs ex-panded into garment decorating when the company discovered that printed ap-parel would be a logical extension of its sign business. Don Gecks, owner of the ten-year-old company as of a year ago, says Digital Edge initially developed its JAB Sportswear division to meet the demand from walk-ins, who he says wanted garments printed along with their banners and other displays. The wearables segment of the company now handles 1000 shirts a month, many of which are digitally printed on a Mimaki GP-604D.
“I have Mimakis on the Digital Edge side, and I wanted to stay with the same family,” Gecks explains. “The RIP system is the same, so the employees know the routine.”
JAB also has a six-color screen press to accommodate specialty work, such as printing organic inks onto hand-made garments. Other jobs head straight to the Mimaki, and Gecks notes that the average print run is a dozen or fewer pieces. The GP-604D uses a combination of discharge fluid and colored inks to image onto ap-parel. The discharge process also may be used by itself.
Gecks reports a steady increase in jobs for the Mimaki, and he states that the only negative he sees in his machine is a lack of white ink—something he emphasizes has not really been a big factor. “White ink is coming, so we’re waiting for that, but the biggest benefit is we can do two things at one time. We can put the shirt in and we can walk away and do another task,” he says.
JAB doesn’t man its Mimaki garment printer shift by shift. Instead, the company has adopted a more casual work pace when it comes to that particular machine. Gecks says he and his employees will attend to the printer as needed throughout the day. A simple walk-by reveals the status of a job, and Gecks notes that someone will always stop by to keep the process moving.
“We can just keep going back and forth between it and load another shirt and come back. It doesn’t require a full-time person.”
But one order that kept workers alert involved printing a logo on golf shirts. Gecks says that even printing at 720 dpi, the machine finished the garments so quickly that “we almost had to man it because by the time you turned around, you were done. It took longer to set the inks in the heat press.”
The machine’s needs for maintenance seem to follow the laid-back style in which the printer is used. Gecks reports that very little maintenance is required—no more than the daily maintenance for all printers at Digital Edge, he says. A fringe benefit JAB has found in digital garment decorating is that it attracts interest from young people. JAB welcomed high-school students enrolled in a graphics program to lend a hand last summer in digitally printing apparel. He recalls that they loved the process because, at four to five minutes per shirt, they could stand there and watch completed garments emerge from the printer. That, and it wasn’t tough work, he jokes.
Manufacturers of Garment Inkjet Printers
Digital Color Corp.
DTG Digital Garment Printers
Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.
Sanwave Int’l Corp.
Sawgrass Technologies, Inc.
Shima Seiki USA, Inc.
U.S. Screen Print & Inkjet Technology
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