Choosing a DTF printer? – DTF (Direct to Film) has rapidly become a leading garment decoration technology.
The concept has been around for a few years but has gained significant traction, quite simply it uses inkjet technology to print directly to a film, you apply an adhesive powder, then cure the film with heat. You now have a transfer which you can heat press directly onto a garment.
How does DTF compare to other garment decoration technologies?
DTG – You do not need to pre-treat dark garments when using DTG printers. This in itself is a huge benefit. With DTG you have to dry the pre-treatment prior to printing and have to cure the printer garments for good washability.
Typically the curing process takes 120 secs or more, involves lots of energy, time and equipment. For DTF you just need Heat Press for final application of the transfer. Similar to DTF it uses Water based process inks and white ink to create the print.
The best aspect of DTF is that it reduces the need of having boxes of expensive garments on the shelf. You can apply the transfers at a later date so improving your businesses working capital.
Some DTG vendors are offering DTF as an optional extra.
Cut Media – If you are using Cut Media then you are used to weeding. DTF transfers are printed on either Cold or Hot Peel Film and no weeding is required. DTF like DTG does not have all of the same options as cut media e.g. foils, metallics colours, fluorescents etc but or the vast majority of designs DTF will do the job so not a complete replacement.
Laser Transfer – Laser printed transfers typically have poor washability, lack of versatility and getting the white to work properly can sometimes be a challenge. DTF printers have white ink so you are able to print complex designs with white ink, easily and effectively. Direct to Film technology effectively replaces the need for white toner Laser printers.
DTF is more versatile, better washability and cheaper to produce than Laser Transfer.
Screen Printing – For multi-coloured work screen print is time consuming, sometimes messy, involves lots of equipment and experience. DTF is relatively clean, exact and easy to produce and generally for some designs ideal for low volume work.
Screen Printing is a very versatile technology and the range of inks and techniques are unlikely to be ever replaced by DTF. Screen Printing is still the most economic and cost effective for high volume work.
In reality most garment decorators use different technologies, e.g. both DTF and Screen Printing which gives the best solution for high and low production work. DTG will gradually be replaced by DTF, Laser Transfers and Cut Media will become more niche. However like all technologies it is not a Silver Bullet! (even if manufacturers say that it is!).
Which DTF printer to choose?
It is a busy marketplace there are many Chinese manufacturers which are rebadged by many different vendors. There are DTF printer conversions which you can find on eBay. There are a range of Powder Shaker / Dryers available to work with the printers.
The Shaker applies the adhesive powder to the transfer, it also cures the transfer within the same unit. You can do these steps manually, and in some circumstances that might be the best option.
When using a Shaker you do need to take into account that you will lose the first 2 metres (or more) of your roll of film as you need to pre feed the film thru the shaker. There are some solutions and ideas to get around this.
Unless you are a inkjet printer guru and technician we would recommend avoiding home made Epson printer conversions and opt for units designed for DTF. Why? functionality such as White ink circulation, maintenance and waste ink management are part of the unit. Also software for home made units can be variable in quality and you might have to create your own colour profiles. DTF using inkjet technology, you will become familiar with printhead maintenance very quickly.
The home made conversions don’t have this, the initial purchase price maybe cheaper but you will spent a lot of time repairing and maintaining your printer. Time is money, you will spend a lot of time on forums / social media trying to find maintenance solutions.
If you purchase a smaller printer you will need someway of curing the transfer sheets. You can use a DTF oven or a Tunnel Dyer – the WPS Premium Tunnel is perfect for this as it can run off a 13amp plug. It is significantly faster than using a DTF oven.
The larger wide format printers are normally used with an inline Shaker / Dryer unit. We recommend the DTF Printer SD-70 – it is quick, well made, comes with a usable RIP (good software is essential), small footprint vertical Shaker unit. More importantly it comes with support and maintenance services to keep your business running.
Use Quality consumables
it is easy to buy cheap consumables from eBay and then pay for it with maintenance or quality issues. In particular choosing the right powder is important there are general purpose powders and some designed to be more effective for dark garments and sports wear. The SD-70 has a range of consumables and inks which are certified and designed for the unit.
For Audley, Oric etc and WPS DTF A3 printer and home made conversions we recommend the Indie ink range of PET Film, DTF Inks and Powder. The vast majority of DTF printers use Epson print heads so there is a degree of compatibility.
As always if you need help then give us a call on 01614426555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org