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Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

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Old November 8th, 2016 Nov 8, 2016 1:16:24 PM -   #1 (permalink)
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Default Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

I believe the way these machines are currently promoted and marketed is neither ethically or morally responsible. I don't think consumers are provided with realistic information on what it costs to operate and maintain these machines. The cost is often so far beyond what is expected it's simply financially crippling to small business or casual operators. I hope this post saves a few people a painful, and possibly devestating, learning experience.

I post here quite often, as I'm often trying to learn how to make better prints, but the more I learn the less I actually use DtG white ink. (We have a Gt-381 which is a fairly durable machine.) I've instead just focused on getting better at screen printing and designing for vinyl transfers. We're currently down to 20-30 shirts using DtG white ink each month. I'm having a difficult time figuring what our actual cost per white-ink printed shirt is, at these low print numbers, but here's a rough breakdown:

Shirt - $3
Ink - $3
Maintenance - $3
Staff Time - $2.50
Pre-Treatment - $.50
Cost of Machine - $3 (Pays back a $10,000 machine after 3k prints)

So, I estimate a total cost of $15 per shirt, and I don't see this really getting any better unless we could get over 100 shirts a week, to bring the maintenance (and thus ink) costs down.

Then, not only is it expensive, but there are a handful of other problems with the process:

The quality just isn't so great. I'm just not seeing long-term durability from our prints.

People HATE the pre-treatment shadow and want us to launder the shirts, which would again add to the cost and production time, and make it even more difficult to keep them looking good enough for retail.

I'm way more prone to misprints when printing with white ink, especially since I do them less often, there are more variables in play, and the damn machine loves to hiccup on the first couple jobs.

The process isn't flexible. It's hard to keep a customer focused on 100% cotton garments.

Lastly, maintenance costs are not consistent because the white ink is not kind to these machines. Print heads in perticular are easily damaged by the heavy particles in white ink and are extremely expensive to replace.

Manufacturers want to convince buyers this is quick and easy money, anyone can do it, it's a great entry point to the market, and it's just not the reality.

White ink DtG printing feels like a good fit for an established shop looking to fit the last piece in a much larger puzzle, or possibly a very specific and established production line, but this just isn't a good fit for newcomers or small businesses.

Last edited by WGiant; November 8th, 2016 at 02:30 PM..
 
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Old December 4th, 2016 Dec 4, 2016 9:06:22 PM -   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

any examples of what pre treatment shadow looks like.. im on fences of getting a dtg.. just looks so promising but here lot of stories.. i think dtg works well with those custom made to order shops like teefury.com etc..
 
Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 5:12:52 AM -   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

I'm a DTG Printer (5 years running), and I disagree with the math provided.

Shirt - $3 (not bad but you're getting a nice shirt...not a G5000)
Ink - $3 | This is way off...if you say $2.50 of the $3 is for white ink, then at $400 for two white ink carts you are saying you'll only get 160 prints...and CMYK is cheap...Also if you compare ink cost on Epson based machines from KatanaDTG, OmniPrint or DTG the costs are way less, even at $199 for a liter of ink you'll get a min of 350 good size prints, which is $0.56/ea and $199 high for ink costs, $150 is the norm now, for white ink costs..
Maintenance - $3 | Really? With $3/ea you're say you need $3000 after printing 1000 shirts? That seems insane, and nothing like what I've experienced.
Staff Time - $2.50 | Not that far off!!
Pre-Treatment - $.50 | Not that far off!!

Just a few thoughts...
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Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 9:45:50 AM -   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobP614
I'm a DTG Printer (5 years running), and I disagree with the math provided.
You've been printing for 5 years, but probably not printing 10-40 shirts a week like many new shops will be. They'll be lucky if they can score case pricing on shirts, and they're going to burn a lot more on wasted ink and maintenance.

My numbers might be the doom and gloom side of things, but printing at low numbers they tend to be closer to reality.
 
Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 9:53:24 AM -   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyisland90
any examples of what pre treatment shadow looks like.. im on fences of getting a dtg.. just looks so promising but here lot of stories.. i think dtg works well with those custom made to order shops like teefury.com etc..
It's something hard to see in a photo, this is not my picture just one I found:

 
Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 10:53:19 AM -   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGiant
You've been printing for 5 years, but probably not printing 10-40 shirts a week like many new shops will be. They'll be lucky if they can score case pricing on shirts, and they're going to burn a lot more on wasted ink and maintenance.

My numbers might be the doom and gloom side of things, but printing at low numbers they tend to be closer to reality.
It really depends on the season and weeks for our volume, we offer screenprinting, DTG, and heat transfer vinyl, there are weeks where volume is only 5-10 a day...when we started out we were print A LOT of shirts for ourselves, family and the greater community to grow the business and keep the machine moving. We also learned to partner up with screenprint shops in our area to print there LOW qty job, at wholesale rates...and that has become 50% of our DTG business!

My thought it that you can't go into business ONLY printing DTG it's only part of a larger business, it's great to pair with emb or screenprinting, but it's not as profitable as either...but absolutely has it's market...don't let Anajet or Brother tell you, that you can compete on a 200+ shirt single color, white ink job on DTG vs screen, they both tried that when I talked to them!
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Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 10:57:12 AM -   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGiant
It's something hard to see in a photo, this is not my picture just one I found:

Red is a bad color for DTG and newer PT's from Firebird (FBX100) help that A LOT...also let it air dry for 20 mins before you press it and it's helps that a lot or hover the heat press for 30 seconds...or put it though a conveyor dyer on a faster speed then plastisol curing! There are many way to minimize that level of staining but it take skill and experience; it took us 2 years, and actually getting proper training to learn the best processes.
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Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 11:16:59 AM -   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobP614
We also learned to partner up with screenprint shops in our area to print there LOW qty job, at wholesale rates...and that has become 50% of our DTG business!
Great idea, if there isn't someone picking these up already I know the average small screen printing shop will be more than happy to sub these out or just pass them along.

Just wanted to note that my original post is only meant to be warning on DtG White Ink prints. CMYK inks are a different ball game. They're much more affordable, as you mentioned, and much easier to upkeep IMO. When a customer sees how nice their logo can look on an Ash colored hoodie, and how it feels, it's a pretty easy sell. Light garment pretreatment is a nice way to really up the quality of prints too, and it's pretty idiot-proof compared with dark garment pre-treatment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobP614
My thought it that you can't go into business ONLY printing DTG it's only part of a larger business, it's great to pair with emb or screenprinting, but it's not as profitable as either...but absolutely has it's market
This was kind of my summary at the end of my original post. It works as part of a whole, or for some with a very specific market, but this isn't going to replace screen printing as the garage business of choice.

Last edited by WGiant; December 7th, 2016 at 04:58 PM..
 
Old December 7th, 2016 Dec 7, 2016 3:54:02 PM -   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

It doesn't matter what you are going to do. You will always have trial and error in every field.
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Old February 6th, 2017 Feb 6, 2017 7:11:53 PM -   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

I'll throw my two cents into the mix.....

FWIW - I had a shop for 10 years. Got out in 2011 because I thought I'd like the corporate world better. I have nicer benefits, but I hate working in an office. I'd rather make less and print t-shirts.

I had decent size shop. 2 Autos, 6 heads of embroidery, rhinestones, laser engraver, dabbled in button making (promo items). We did contract, online, and a little in-person work. DTG was just getting going and I didn't consider it viable at the time.

Coming back to it, DTG is one of the first things I'll add before I jump full time to a storefront and an auto. Embroidery will come later down the road.

The areas that DTG nails are the areas that were a true nightmare for our shop:
- Small high complexity runs (full color under 72 shirts)
- CMYK was a nightmare... regardless of size. I had newman roller frames, a tension table, and a good rip/film system and CMYK was always muddy on my Sportsman 6/8's.
- Simulated Spot Process was a great way to spend hours, even with tri-lock trying to get the damn job in registration. The bulk of my jobs were under 300 pieces with the sweet spot in the 36 to 144 range. Mostly spot color 2 colors or less. Longer jobs weren't as bad, but the margins drop as the size goes up. 48 pieces one color front is a wonderful job.... run those all day long and make money.
- Athletic Names / Numbers might or might not be DTG. Vinyl weeding peeling, pressing was a PITA.
- Samples. lol. If i had $10 for every time I got a call from a person with an art line who needed one of each for sales presentations.
- Makeups..... you run 300 shirts and the following day they pick them up and ask for 3 more..... of a job with 3 color front, 2 color back and you are slammed with work.
- pre-prints. We had some novelty shirts we produced in-house. Some of the content was licensed/heat-transfer. Some of it was our designs we had transfers printed. DTG nails pre-print in complexity of colors and design quality. It was cost prohibitive to do more than one color designs.

When I buy one it will be to bootstrap the pre-print business and take on small / high-complexity jobs that are profitable for the DTG. My top contenders are a used Brother or a OminPrint. I had too many bad experiences with Epson printers for film to take a chance on a DTG version. I consider Epson good, reliable, and disposable. We over-drove them for film and wound up burning them out every other year. I went through several 3000's and I forget the series that came after them.

The goal is to produce shirts profitably. Period. Contract out things that aren't in your sweet spot. You don't have to do everything in-house if you have suppliers you trust to inventory product and produce good imprints. The only reason to do something in-house is because you can make money on it.
 
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Old February 6th, 2017 Feb 6, 2017 7:16:00 PM -   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGiant
It's something hard to see in a photo, this is not my picture just one I found:

Are you machine pre-treating or manually spraying? Looks like you are really soaking the shirt.

Worst case wash the thing. A quick wash (gentle / rapid on some units) will probably do just fine.

We used to have to wash anything we used solvy on for Embroidery. It really sucked running 144 shirts through the washer 30 at a time. Customers want quality and you can charge for it. I think I read somewhere you are in Alaska. Everything costs more there.... You don't need to work for everyone, only those who will pay your rate. Let the bottom feeders go suck your competition into the dirt.
 
Old February 7th, 2017 Feb 7, 2017 1:09:36 PM -   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

DtG on dark garments fits nicely in a larger ecosystem, but it's a painful way to enter the market since the machines are much more efficient at higher white-ink print counts.

It's just an example shirt I found online, it is hard to show the pretreatment box in photo honestly, but in person some clients notice it really quick, especially those buying for retail.
 
Old February 7th, 2017 Feb 7, 2017 2:39:45 PM -   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGiant
DtG on dark garments fits nicely in a larger ecosystem, but it's a painful way to enter the market since the machines are much more efficient at higher white-ink print counts.

It's just an example shirt I found online, it is hard to show the pretreatment box in photo honestly, but in person some clients notice it really quick, especially those buying for retail.
Fair enough. I think it has a very specific niche filling the things that are painful to do with screenprinting.

A couple of great examples:
A spec sample
6 shirts, full color photo.

I used to handle the latter with photo transfers which were suprisingly durable, but an overall inferior product.
 
Old February 25th, 2017 Feb 25, 2017 3:28:26 PM -   #14 (permalink)
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I definitely agree from the standpoint of a very small casual business owner. I didn't realize how expensive it would be. If you're printing at least four hours a day then it may be worth it, but if you're planning to use it on a part-time basis it just doesn't really work out.
 






This is a discussion about Buyer Beware: DtG White Ink Printing is Probably Not for You that was posted in the Direct to Garment (DTG) Inkjet Printing section of the forums.

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