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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Trade Shows, Buyer Confusion, and Print Heads

OK, so this post is going to be focused on the people who are using DTG printers, instead of those
who might be buying the awesome products that Direct-to-Garment machines bring. So, if you are not interested in the inner workings of the DTG machine, you can check out here.

One thing buyers have to be aware of when purchasing a DTG printer is the availability of parts. A very important, and often misunderstood aspect of the printer is the print head. First of all, there are only a few companies in the world that actually manufacture print heads. Every DTG manufacturer utilizes a print head that was designed by one of those companies, and despite the rhetoric, no DTG manufacturer currently has the ability to make their own print head. On the other hand, certain DTG companies have purchased exclusive rights to utilize a particular print head, and are very guarded about releasing any specific information as to the nature of this business transaction. This causes rumors to float around about how you should not use Company A because their print head will not be available because the print head manufacturer is going to stop making them. Or they may say Company B will be there to support your needs because they make their own print head, which as I have already stated, is not accurate.

Many prospective buyers attend trade shows such as SGIA, ISS, and NBM, where one can usually see a vast assortment of Direct-to-Garment printers, and get an opportunity to talk with representatives from the companies that either manufacture or distribute these machines. While buyers attend these trade shows for the purpose of becoming more knowledgeable about the products that are available, it is not uncommon for them to leave feeling somewhat confused by the seemingly contradictory information they receive. The reality is that all DTG printers are based on a similar technology model. Regardless of the claims against "modified printers" or claims that printers built for DTG from the ground up are somehow better, the truth is, all of these printers are the descendants of the desktop inkjet. And this is why many of the DTG printers that are available today are modified from other printers. For example, currently, Epson sells the r2000 printer and it utilizes Epson's DX5 print head. This is the same print head that several DTG manufacturers also use. A fear tactic that is sometimes used to sell against printers that utilize print heads that originate with other printer models is that when the original manufacturer stops making the printer, the print heads will no longer be available. However, this does not mean that the DTG manufacturer has no access to the print head. Some DTG manufacturers keep a large stock of print heads on hand and can service their customers for years to come. This means that if you purchase a DTG printer today that utilizes the DX5 print head, your manufacturer should be able to supply brand new print heads should the need arise. Print head cost is a weak point for some manufacturers, which is part of the reason they use such fear tactics when selling against other companies. One DTG printer can have as many as 6 or more print heads, with a cost of $1,100 each, while a printer that utilizes the DX5 generally only needs one print head at a cost of $700-$900.

The bottom line is, whichever printer you choose, be sure to understand the full cost to benefit ratio of any features or parts mentioned. How much are you paying to get the printer that uses "original" or "exclusive" print heads. How much are you paying for the ink? Is the printer really that much faster? Did you time it? The right printer could mean the difference between profitability in 6 months or 2 years.


  1. bless my stars I found your blog in the sources section on the Wikipedia page for DTG printing, if you'd be so kind as to answer a question that's really troubling me I would be grateful.

    I'm an illustrator I create high resolution digital paintings on photoshop and someone recently told me I should look into printing and selling some of these designs on t-shirts so I've been looking into t-shirt printing and what is the best method for me to get my paintings onto t-shirts with high quality prints, I'm planning to have low quantities and high pricing, so a high printing cost for a high quality print on 100% cotton can be absorbed. so could you please help me out with this? Thank You Sir


  2. Harshal,
    Great question. There are several options for getting your images on to clothing. Heat transfers will get your print on to the shirt, but this method does not attain the high quality you are going for. Based on your comments, you will want to go with a process that can attain not just high quality look, but also a high quality feel. The best way to do this is digital direct-to-garment. Another consideration is whether the company you purchase your machine from is able to ship their product to your country, and give the support needed to help you get up and running. If you are based in the United States, you will have many companies to choose from. Pricing can vary greatly from company to company. Things you will want to consider are machine cost, ink cost, maintenance cost, and head replacement cost. Some companies also offer financing options, and this can be very helpful if you need to keep your cash flow free. Be very careful about used or homemade printers, as they probably won't come with a warranty, and you need to make sure that you can get support for your product. I recommend checking out the forums too. Here are a couple of addresses:

    DTG printing is a great way to profit from your art! I hope it goes well for you!

  3. For anyone trying to market shirts, screen printing is far more cost effective, holds better on the 50/50 and polyester fabrics many customers prefer. Shrunked up 100% cotton shirts are not going to bring repeat business. I understand if you are must selling a few here and there going DTG, but for those who are looking to run a serious business, screen printing is the way to go. I do run a screenprinting shop, so I may be a little biased ;)

  4. I have purchased a machine a3 size DTG from china and from the day one it is not functioning. I want to know any other machine which will work perfectly. we have a garment factory in India. I MAN Apparels, mail id:

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