Phil McMullin, ProGraphics sales manager at Epson UK, offers advice on how to use your DTG and sublimation equipment to expand into new markets

Phil McMullin, ProGraphics sales manager at Epson UK

The global digital textile printing sector is expected to continue developing at a rapid rate, growing into a $8.8 billion industry by 2027, according to a 2020 Allied Market Research report. You’ve seen the statistics, purchased the equipment, and fully committed your shop to digital textile printing.

What you may not realise is the equipment you’ve purchased – both direct-to-garment (DTG) and dye sublimation printers – produces excellent output beyond traditional textile prints that can push your business into different markets to attract new potential customers.

In 2020, the need to expand your customer base is vital as many traditional sectors targeted by printers, such as live events and hospitality, are currently in limbo.

The following are six ways – outside of traditional use – to leverage the textile equipment in which you’ve invested.

DTG printers

DTG printers traditionally have been used for cotton T-shirt and sweatshirt printing. While the iconic tee will always be a wardrobe necessity, DTG printers also have several other uses. In addition to printing on cotton, they can create new, custom and personalised items that can be sold online – giving businesses the ability to upsell and add to current business offerings.

1. Customised accessories Custom accessories offer an easy upsell for any business already creating custom T-shirts for colleges, wedding parties (especially at the moment with restricted numbers allowed at events as it allows customers to create memories for those unable to attend) and family celebrations. Tote bags, towels, hats and custom pillowcases are only a few examples of the extra add-ons that can be created. Cotton-based items can be customised to match shirts, giving customers incentives to provide positive recommendations and return to you for future orders. When sold separately, these easy-to-create accessories offer a good margin and increased profits.

2. Attachments offer greater flexibility Many companies offer DTG printer-compatible attachments that provide greater flexibility and can increase product offerings. For example, using an attachment can enable printing on baseball caps and visors. For decorators looking to advance their skills, there are attachments that can be used to allow you to design and print on cotton-based shoes, helping your shop stand out from other local garment decorators.

3. New solutions DTG printers historically have been used for 100% cotton and cotton/polyester blends. As the textile industry expands, so does the use of DTG equipment and the versatility of pretreatments and hardware. Using correct pretreatments can help a business expand into new markets and textiles.

It’s now possible to do a DTG print on 100% polyester garments thanks to new pretreatments, offering decorators even more sales opportunities. Polyester is traditionally associated with sportswear and, while sports events might be few and far between at the moment, athleisure is still a big trend thanks in part to work from home. Not only that, but sports and events organisers are being inventive despite the restrictions: the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in October may have been only for elite athletes, but 45,000 runners took part in the virtual London Marathon on the same day by running 26.2 miles in their local area instead, raising vital funds for charities.

Epson launched the desktop SureColor SC-F100 A4 dye sub printer in October 2020

By contacting these organisers now to discuss opportunities, when local events do restart you’ll be in a good position to arrange taking your printer on-site to print names and bib numbers directly onto polyester running T-shirts to commemorate the participants’ race day.

Dye sublimation printers

We see dye-sublimated textiles in all types of clothing, from athleisure apparel to simple dresses, tops and more. This technology has allowed fast-fashion trends to be achievable for small design houses, while reducing both textile waste and water consumption. In addition to fashion, dye sublimation printers are gaining popularity in the soft signage, photography, and customisable and promotional products markets. The following provides additional insight into how to leverage your dye sublimation printer in each of these markets to expand your service offerings.

1. Rigid metallic signage Metallic signage is a popular way to modernise traditional printed signage. It can be used in retail stores, outdoor venues, office spaces and more, making it an appealing prospect to the type of customers you probably already have on your books. Dye sublimation prints easily transfer to metal and other rigid signage material and so they can be used for flat interior and exterior retail signage, table tops and much more.

2. Photography With today’s technology, images can be touched up and printed onto metal. Dye sublimation allows the printing of brilliant photography; using specially designed transfer paper, photo output can be transferred onto metal panels to create vibrant images with minimal grain and magnificent focal points for use in commercial, retail and residential locations.

3. Tangible memories Whether for personal or business use, customised and personalised items are a thoughtful gift. People enjoy receiving products customised specifically for them, especially at the moment when meeting in person is not always possible, while companies can create promotional products and gifts for their employees and customers, such as mugs, mousepads or lanyards. Leveraging specific heat-transfer equipment, dye sublimation printers create transferable output for a wide variety of porcelain, glass and textile-based items that can be gifted to loved ones. Create customised interior items such as cutting boards, glassware and wine tote bags – all items that will never go out of style.

The original version of this article was first published in Impressions magazine.