What is Digital Textile Printing (DTG)?

comments (0) April 30th, 2019     

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What is digital textile printing or direct to garment printing, its application today, and much more, Zepper style...

When the Supersonic began to be transmitted, it was common to imagine the future as a kind of utopia where everything was solved at the push of a button. While most of the creations that appeared in the television program were crazy and even a little cheesy, there were also many others that managed to predict.

Think about it, the 3D prints, the conference calls and the smart clocks that turned out to be completely out of touch with reality back then are now everyday things.

If you think about it, maybe our outfits are not so ostentatious and we don't fly to school with a jet pack, but somehow if we live in that future that the Supersonic showed us.

This happens with digital printing. Fifty years ago we were still perfecting the art of opening a can, so if you had told someone that someday there would be a machine that turns hyper-realistic designs into garments, they would have thought you were crazy.

Below you will find everything you need to know about digital printing (DTG) of garments.

PART 1:

What is digital printing or DTG?

The digital garment printer is like the sophisticated premium printer you have in your office. Yes, it works exactly the same.

Basically the ink is injected directly into the material, with the only difference being on cloth instead of paper. It's the same, only more advanced.

A Brief History of Digital Printing

Compared to screen printing, digital printing is a newborn among printing techniques.

 

The history of digital printing begins in the 1950s when experts began to develop the technology. But it wasn't until the 1980s that the machines became available to the public for the first time. The reason they took so long was because they couldn't figure out how to keep the print heads from clogging up with dry ink. Eventually, they did it and the offices were never the same again.

It wasn't long before some people wondered if they could print on anything other than paper. Manufacturers of fabrics and t-shirts were particularly interested in this idea, since at that time screen printing was automated, but it had its limitations.

Finally, in 2004 digital printing was officially introduced to the world. During the SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) presentation in Minneapolis, US Screens and Mimaki introduced their prototypes. The US Screens model was called T-Jet and was based on a Japanese printer that had been designed to print on materials such as wood and bricks. The one Mimaki introduced was called GP-604.

Despite the good response from the audience, the printers had a problem. When they printed on white fabric, it looked great, but when they had to do it on black, not so much. This was because the white ink was not yet available.

When the problem was detected, US Screen turned to an ink manufacturer to develop the white ink. In November 2005, the product was ready and US Screen won an exclusive one-year contract. This radically changed the way the T-shirts were printed.

Despite the revolution, T-Jet production was very expensive and in 2008 production stopped. A year later, US Screens had been taken off the market.

 

PART 2:

The properties of digital printing (DTG)

Digital printing (DTG) differs from other techniques for several reasons:

Ink is injected into the fabric

DTG injects color pigments into the fibers. This means that despite the color injection, the finish of the product ends up being virtually the same as before printing. The ink also lasts longer.

*Wash your garments upside down and in cold water to preserve the vibrancy of the print longer.

 

Easier configuration

Compared to other techniques, digital printing requires fewer steps to configure.

It's expensive

The problem with digital T-shirt printers is that they are very expensive. A single machine can cost around 10,000€ to 200,000€, or maybe more. It should be noted that the high price is due to the fact that it has not been on the market that long. As technology develops, your costs will decrease.

Ideal to produce few units

No matter how ideal it sounds, digital printing is not the best choice for those looking to customize T-shirts in large quantities. This is because each t-shirt takes several minutes to produce and is therefore not very cost effective.

No limits when it comes to colour

Because digital printing is not limited by layers like screen printing, this technique can print almost any color and combination of these.

Complex designs are more than welcome!

Since this technique has the ability to reproduce intricate details, digital printing can print very high quality t-shirts. It is worth saying that the higher the settings, the longer it will take to produce the garment. It is up to each printer to decide which is the best ratio between speed and quality.

DTG design

Essential

Here's what you need to have to get started with digital printing.

Ink

Most digital printers use water-based inks. They used to be very expensive, but over time manufacturers have been able to reduce the price with new techniques.

RIP Software

RIP (Raster Image Processor) stands for raster image processor and is software that, while not necessary, helps simplify the digital printer workflow. It maximizes coverage, accurate color matching, and controls multiple printers from a single computer, among other things. Several of the best known programs are: Onyx, Colorburst, Image Print, EFI, Wasatch, Caldera and Ergosoft.

Design

Unlike screen printing and layered cut vinyl, digital printing reproduces the entire design at once. This is good news for those who like to work with Photoshop instead of Illustrator. Printers are compatible with both pixels and vectors and preferably files should be saved as TIFF or PDF, as these are types of formats that preserve image quality.

 

Pretreatment equipment

There are two ways of pretreatment in digital printing: there is a machine that does it automatically or it can also be done manually. Whichever way it is, it is necessary to have:

 

Pre-treatment liquid

Pre-treatment spray (or machine)

Heat iron (or any other equipment to dry the garment)

Printer

The models, prices, features, everything varies according to the needs. Among the most popular are Brother, ColDesi, Omniprint and Kornit. They can be divided into two categories:

 

Process

These are the steps usually followed during digital printing.

1 - Pre-treatment

To ensure optimum results, garments should be sprayed with a pre-treatment liquid. This step is particularly crucial when it comes to black T-shirts, as it allows the ink to adhere to the fibres of the fabric and give a vibrant impression. Some people do this step manually with a spray gun, but some digital printing machines include the step. The following video shows how a professional treats a t-shirt before it is printed.

 

2 - Drying

For the print to be sealed, it is very important to dry the garment. It can be done with an iron or simply hanging it so that it dries itself.

3 - Preparation of the design

The design is prepared for printing using special software. If the garment is dark, an extra layer of white ink is added at this point.

3 - Load the printer

The garment should be put into the machine with great care. For best results, the fabric should be completely smooth. A single wrinkle could ruin the entire process.

4 - Print

Press the button and print!

posted in: tshirt printing

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