After 20 years in printing, as a designer and a field technician, there have been some MASSIVE changes across the entire industry, and it seems like we are seeing new technology everyday. Today, we are going over two major technologies that have been shifting the way printing, apparel, and e-commerce businesses across the world operate. DTG and the newcomer DTF printing combined with the internet have increased customer expectations, delivery rates and profits for every company involved in the industry. If you are debating on which printing system Direct To Film or Direct To Garment, then you need a good understanding of the advantages and dis-advantages of both. Lets look over the PROS and CONS of DTG and DTF printing below.
DTF is fairly new in the industry and has taken over the market due to a host of reasons.
COST - a good DTF starter system can be purchased for around $2,500, which will include everything you need to add DTF options to your business.
VERSATILITY - DTF inks and applications span a MUCH WIDER gamut of products, from t-shirts to coffee mugs....it's actually amazing to see the ingenuity some businesses have when utilizing their Direct To Film system.
EASE OF USE - DTF systems are fairly easy to learn and operate, there are no pre-sprays, or unusual loading instructions. Systems like the L1800 or R1390 are basically plug and play. If you have ever printed with a desktop printer, then you'll be printing beautifully in no time with an affordable system.
Although there is ALOT of upside to owning one of the smaller DTF systems, there is one BIG hurdle that no DTF system can match most DTG systems on.....SPEED.
SPEED - Even the higher end units with automatic shakers and curing ovens cannot keep up with the speed of a Kornit or Brother GTX. If huge production numbers in a short span are your goal, then you'll need more than one DTF system and obviously more employees
DTG PRINTING PROS & CONS
Lets move onto to Direct To Garment , DTG. Direct To Garment printing has been the optimal printing method for on demand customized prints for over 10 years now. The technology has gained in popularity and advanced tremendously in that time period. Much of what the Direct To Film print systems do and how they do it, is based off the tech that DTG systems have been using for years. The inks, and substrates across both systems are basically the same.
What has allowed DTG to become so popular over the years is simply because there was no real alternative, you either screen printed shirt orders or your business had a DTG which allowed for single run, easy set up and low cost.
SPEED - There is nothing like standing in a drop ship facility surrounded by DTG's printing 1,000's of one of orders a day and getting them to customers sometimes in same day delivery. DTF systems, just by their process cannot match that kind of output. Your business would need twice as many employees, which we all know if costly in more ways than one.
MANTIENCE- Direct To Garment Systems typically require alot more maintenance, mainly due to the pre-treat necessary for applying the prints, and due to the fact that the substrate (in most cases cotton shirts) are physically being pulled into the printer, causing a much higher risk of destroying a printhead if a head strike occurs, and leaving behind a constant dusting of cotton inside the system and components. The pretreat required in most Direct To Garment systems is literally a mixture of salt, water and glue (Kornit systems are an exception, but their FIXA spray is very corrosive as well) which causes rust and constant cleaning to insure that parts of the printer and the pre-treater stay functioning properly. NONE of those issues are a concern with DTF systems.
COST- Direct To Garment systems costs vary greatly, from $10,000 to $2,000,000. Those cost alone keep many business owners out of the print on demand market.
Direct To Films systems are a welcome addition to the industry and are spreading in popularity quickly , some of the reasons why are listed above. I myself am excited to see this newer technology come to market, and love watching how it is literally changing the game for business owners and customers.
If you are a small business that needs fast access to the print on demand market to meet your customers needs, then DTF is the way to go.
If your a drop shipper with 1,000's of custom orders a week, then DTG might be your better option.
Thanks for reading. Let us know what your thoughts and experience is with the two different printing technologies. Post in the forum, lets get the word out and hope everyone hears.
Joel Bowman - Certified Printer Technician