Peter Wright of Amaya Sales UK discusses the questions to ask when choosing the best DTG printer for your business
Do you have a DTG printer in your business? Even if the answer is no, the chances are that you have considered it in the past or are considering it now. The question is, how do you find the correct printer for your business? There are many DTG printers out there and plenty of salespeople trying to sell them to you. The professional printers range in price from around £7,000 right up to just short of a million. Basically, there is a DTG printer out there to suit everyone.
First of all, you need to work out your production needs. It could be that if you are just building a business up and want to see if DTG printing could be a benefit, you would be better off trying one of the many DTG fulfilment printers out there. These companies will print your order, from one shirt upwards, and then ship them with your label direct to your customer. If you’ve decided to invest in your own DTG printing set-up, at the smaller, entry-level end of the scale you could spend between £7,000 and £12,000 for a good quality printer that will produce around 100 prints a day on dark shirts and 140 on light coloured shirts. If you pay, say, £17,000+, you could have a printer that will print around double that number on a single platen system. Some print shops opt to purchase two of the lower cost models to give them more flexibility.
You could buy two printers for around £18,000, produce the same amount of shirts, but have the security of two separate units: if you have a breakdown on one, then you still have the other to work on. One of our larger customers has around 40 TexJet printers all working in a modular configuration. The next step up is to multi-platen systems. DTG Digital has systems with up to eight platens for medium to large volume production; the DTG multi- platen printers start at £15,600. The fully industrial printers from Kornit and Aeoon are ideal for high volumes and are built to withstand 24-hour production. These printers are priced from £150,000 upwards, depending on the production and quality required. The Kornit also has an integrated pre-treat, which speeds up the production process. Just as some printshops buy multiple £9,000 printers rather than a single £17,000 printer, some printshops prefer to install multiple £17,000+ printers instead of one fully industrial printer for precisely the same reasons as outlined above.
The next step in purchasing a DTG printer is to find three suppliers and ask for a demonstration. All salespeople have their favourite designs to showcase their printer, but I suggest that you take two graphic files with you, preferably in a PNG or a good quality jpeg format, to see how your prints look. There are many sites online where you can find designs, but please make sure they are at least 300dpi. Normally, the salesperson will print two or three shirts for you. Most demo centres should have garments for you to print on, but it’s a good idea to take some of your own. That way you can make sure they are suitable for DTG – if not, hopefully the salesperson can advise why.
Ask them to print some very small lettering so you can see how the quality stands up. Some printers are not very good at this, which is mainly down to the size of the ink drop. The printers with drop sizes of 3pl (picolitres) can produce very small letters with accuracy. Remember to check out the colours on the print in relation to your design‘s colours, but do bear in mind that colours on the screen are often not that accurate. It‘s always a good idea to have a go at using the printer yourself as it‘ll give you confidence and show you how easy it is to operate (and how easy it is to change the platens).
This is a good point at which to ask about maintenance – how often will you have to carry out maintenance, and how easy is it? And what will happen if you need to leave the printer off for a certain period of time? Some printers can be switched off for up to 30 days while others will need to be left switched on for the ink to keep circulating, or may need to be flushed out after being turned off. The latter two will waste ink. Ask the salesperson to run through the return on investment, including the cost of ink, as this is a major factor.
Make sure it‘s clear what will be included in the sale – for example, the printer, a set of ink, Rip software, platens and a starter kit of spray gun, pre-treatment solutions and protection paper. Ask if there are any add-ons, such as a web- to-print solution – how much will the software cost and what training is needed? Customers should ask about tech support – will the technicians visit in person or is it a ’return to base‘ warranty? You should choose a supply company that will visit you to train you up and repair any problems. As to how many technicians a distributor should have – we have four plus telephone support and we probably have around 600 printers out there. Fewer technicians to customers risks waiting longer for service, so ask the question.
After the visit, take the sample garments you’ve printed home and do a wash test to see how the prints hold up to being laundered. Once you‘ve decided which printer to buy, from payment to install should be about two to three weeks. Ask about the installation procedure and how long the technician will spend with them. We send out a procedure letter before the install that explains what the customer needs to do beforehand, and what we will carry out. The training should be carried out on the same day as the install. Take your time in evaluating your requirements, find the best supplier and start making money.