ImagesMagUK_June_2024

www.images-magazine.com 58 images JUNE 2024 Andy Hancock of Indie Ink weighs up the pros and cons of DTF printing from a sustainability perspective, and suggests a four-point plan that all DTF users can follow to reduce their environmental impact How sustainable is DTF? I was recently invited onto a panel discussion hosted by WTiN (World Textile Innovation Network) to discuss the sustainability of the DTF (directto-film) printing process. The discussion briefly looked into various aspects of DTF printing and how this relatively new technology impacts the planet. Since the event, I have spoken to many industry colleagues in an attempt to establish just how sustainable the DTF process really is. Garment wastage It is important to point out upfront that all garment decorating techniques have an impact on the environment, whether that be from the ink used, chemicals involved in the cleaning processes, or discarded transfer media. Having said this, one of the biggest environmental impacts of any garment decorating technique is the discarding of a garment itself. Take, for example, a cotton T-shirt. The European Union recently published an article stating that 2,700 litres of fresh water is required to create a single cotton tee (from the growing of the cotton to the manufacture of the garment itself). And this figure is calculated before the energy-intensive process of fabric dyeing is factored in. Therefore, when we look at garment decorating, one of our major focuses needs to be on reducing the amount of spoiled garments. DTF printing On the face of it, the DTF process has some negative impacts from an environmental perspective, especially regarding the usage and discarding of film. However, it also has some environmental positives when you look at the technique as a whole. ■ Garment wastage Many printers I have spoken to have told me about the significant reduction in wasted garments when using the DTF process. Unlike with some other decoration methods, a defect in a DTF print can be spotted before the print has been transferred onto the garment itself. This results in a discarded print but a saved garment, whereas if a defective print is noticed only once it is on the garment itself, the garment is spoiled and inevitably goes to waste. This reduction in the number of wasted garments when using DTF is a hugely positive impact of using this process. ■ Longevity of print The DTF process requires a hot-melt powder adhesive to be added to the print. Using this thermally activated polyurethane adhesive coupled with a good ink results in a highly washfast print. This means that the printed garments then have the potential to last for a long time before being discarded by the consumer. A longer garment life span equates to a further reduction in garment wastage. Film The DTF process’s most obvious pitfall from an environmental aspect is the polyester film (PET) used for the transfer media. This substrate is discarded after a single use, which, on the face of it, Andy Hancock

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