Rob Sisson, technical support team leader at Xpres, unpacks what training a new DTG owner should expect from their supplier
In business, there is a widely held proverb that suggests ‘time is money’ and in the garment decoration industry it’s no different. Users should therefore expect a degree of tuition from their supplier to enable them to crack on with production from the get-go, once their system has been installed. There are many subtle nuances to DTG printing that make adequate training imperative for all operators. An appropriate level of training can provide a complete understanding of workflow cycles and how to implement optimised settings to ensure consistent, high-quality output.
A standard introduction should cover everything from pre-treatment to system operation and maintenance. It is recommended that any operator of DTG systems has a complete understanding of the entire workflow cycle to employ best practice processes from the outset. A training session of two to three hours is generally long enough to get someone up and running, and should be included with the purchase of the DTG system.
Xpres recognises that the Epson F2100 DTG printer is a considerable investment for businesses of all sizes, which is why we believe it is crucial to have absolute confidence in your ability to print garments as intended by the system. We usually take some Kustom Kit Hunky Tees (KK500) when training as these are a good quality cotton, but we suggest that customers also have their own garments in relevant sizes available to test on the day so we can help achieve the highest quality results on their usual products of choice.
Understanding the full capability of software is essential to maximising the quality and output of your DTG printing. Basic training should therefore include a comprehensive software overview to enable the operator to load files, manipulate the positioning of artwork, use pre-sets and hot folders – or queues if using RIP software – and adapt print settings such as resolution and pass rates dependent on the job in hand.
Printing onto darker garments involves applying a layer of white ink as a primary surface then printing coloured inks on top. To aid print adhesion, print quality and consistency of the white layer, pre-treatment liquid is applied before the white ink is printed. Pre-treatment is an essential process when printing onto darker garments: inferior pre-treat solutions or improper application can result in poor vibrancy, staining of the garment and reduced washability. A good trainer will highlight the importance of this process and cover any general tips and tricks along the way to avoid any undesired effects. During our training sessions, we often undertake demonstrations using incorrect levels of pre-treatment fluid to illustrate the negative effect it can have on the final print.
Before you’re in a position to print, it is also important to have had basic training on loading garments into the system and our advice is not to guess or experiment with this task. Correctly positioning your apparel is straightforward, although ensuring an adequate level of tensioning using the bed frame or grip pad and knowing how to adjust the platen height are essential steps in terms of achieving optimal print results. Much like learning to drive, these are simple tasks, but only once you’ve been shown how!
Post printing, inks must be cured to stay fixed in place on the garment. Whether you’re using a heat press or tunnel dryer may depend on the scale of your production or indeed the size of the job, but the importance of this procedure remains crucial. Sufficient training will impart the necessary knowledge to accomplish this part of the process successfully and on whichever appliance you use to cure your prints.
The importance of maintenance
Following maintenance guidelines can ensure the longevity of the system. Appropriate training should be specified with regard to various aspects of printer care, including print head, suction and anti-drying cap cleaning, along with replacing consumable parts such as filters, flushing pads and wiping units. Whilst there are many tutorial videos on the upkeep of DTG printers, there is nothing like getting hands-on with expert advice on tap should you encounter any problems with these aspects of system maintenance.
Throughout every step of training, it is important to ask questions in order to gain the fullest insight into the DTG printing process. What may seem like a trivial query could unlock the secret to achieving prints that you never thought were possible. Like anything, practice makes perfect and if you’ve had some time away from DTG printing, it may be useful to brush up your knowledge with some refresher training. This is also advisable for new staff members who have recently joined your business who will benefit from receiving expert, up-to-date advice as opposed to picking up bad habits.
Properly trained users will not only be fully competent with the system, but they will also have a refined ability to accurately price jobs. Operators with an improved understanding of pre-treatment costs, expected ink usage, suitable garments and required labour will ultimately result in efficient production, system longevity and satisfied customers – giving you a sustainable business operation.