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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This was written for my job as I happily hand off this DtG printer to some other poor soul taking over after me.

Ganging white ink jobs and why we do it:

Ganging white inks jobs is not something described or recommended in the regular maintenance routines for our printers, but it is something we have been doing for about a year, and something I believe we should continue doing in the future.

Our Direct to Garment (DtG) printer is a Brother GraffiTee-3 (GT-3) unit. This unit can be set up in three different modes depending on how many or few white-ink channels are needed. A GT-341 has just the 4 CMYK channels and no white ink printing ability, the GT-361 has all CMYK and 2 white ink channels, and the GT-381 has CMYK and all 4 white ink channels. Our unit can be set up for any of these printing situations, but will most commonly be used as either a 341 or 361 for cost reasons.

The GT-3 uses an industrial ink-jet print head designed to handle heavy particles of ink needed to print on garments. The CMYK inks are similar to pigment based inks found in other inkjet printers and are relatively gentle on the ink lines, filters, pumps, and print-heads. CMYK printing has excellent vibrancy and uses relatively little ink per shirt, which makes it affordable, durable, and all around groovy. The White ink used for printing has much heavier particles and can easily clog many parts of the printer which means the maintenance routine either needs to be followed strictly, or the mistakes will be very expensive. Even simple mistakes such as forgetting to shake the ink, failing to move enough ink daily to keep the lines clear, printing with expired white ink, or not performing a weekly tube flush could all result in hundreds to thousands of dollars in damage. Unfortunately, we don’t really print enough white-ink shirts (15 per day) to keep the machine happy, so it requires even more maintenance. A rough estimate put a daily white ink flush costing around $3, and a weekly tube cleaning around $7 per tube. This is why the machine is typically used for CMYK or only 2 White channels at a time, to keep this routine maintenance down.

White ink line which are not printing several shirts per day are essentially burning money as they have white ink regularly pumped out of them. To combat this, the white ink lines are regularly kept hibernating. This involves performing a white-ink flush, which will result in the end with ink lines full of maintenance solution. This solution can also clog the print heads, but it takes 4-6 weeks instead of a few days. While the printer has maintenance solution in the lines there should be filter cartridges capping the lines or the maintenance solution can contaminate the white ink carts.

If all of the white-ink lines are filled with maintenance solution and capped with filter carts then the machine can be put into “GT-341 Mode (No White)” which is available in the printer settings through the control panel on the printer. This will prevent the machine from trying to regularly clean the unused heads, and stop the user from accidently sending white-ink jobs to the printer, which could cause all sorts of problems. It is still good to set the printer back to “Normal Mode (White Ink)” once every couple weeks and perform a “White Tube Flush” for each white ink channel with the maintenance cart in place, the air cap closed, and let fresh maintenance solution purge the old stuff from the lines and heads. Without this some damage could occur. Some users report similar success performing this step simply using bottled water (do not use tap water), which is much more affordable than the maintenance solution.

This is all maintenance which is not included in the regular maintenance routines for the printer, but those routines were written for shops printing 100+ white ink shirts each week, which we are not. We are doing something called “Ganging White Ink Jobs.” This means saving the few jobs which require white ink all for one time, filling the first two lines (W1 & W2) of the printer with white ink and sending jobs as GT-361 print jobs. Then, when we’re done printing white ink jobs those first two lines are once again filled with maintenance solution and capped with filter carts. This is our GT-3s resting white-ink state. CMYK only jobs can still be sent to the printer in GT-341 mode. The one issue which can arise from printing this way is maintenance solution dripping from the heads. This is rare but easily solved by simply flushing the dripping line with maintenance solution and putting the filter cart back in place.

Considering the rather excessive cost of daily maintenance, or even just the cost of filling the white ink lines and then flushing them out again, it is usually more cost effective to simply avoid small white-ink jobs all together. CMYK printing on a light garment is more vibrant, holds up longer, works on polyester & cotton, and costs both us and the customer less money. CMYK printing does not work on dark garments though. For dark garments it is better to use screen printing for order of 20+ shirts, or vinyl heat transfers for smaller orders with simple graphics. Both screen printing and vinyl are also more durable, more solid in color, work on both polyester & cotton, and leave no ugly pre-treatment on the shirt.

It’s really only small orders of full color prints on dark 100% cotton garments where the GT-3 white ink printing is useful, and these are not the most common orders.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Couple of quick notes:

1. I think DtG White Ink printing is something most small shops should NEVER get involved with in the first place, as all this work to keep the machine hibernating is a pain and frankly silly for such an expensive piece of equipment.

2. I think CMYK printing fot DtG is still a good process, and it has very little to do with my complaints above.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Im a one man band and make plenty of money with this printer, even with evil white ink, shock, horror!
You seem to have a one man crusade against it, well some of us are very happy with our choice, each to their own, happy printing.
True true.

I'll be done soon, but just wanted to share before I move on. For every success story there are five people coming on the boards with no damn idea what they got themselves into. A good chunk of them have underestimated how much maintenance it takes to keep the white ink lines running smoothly.

It's not in a salesman's best interest to impress this on them. I don't gain anything from these posts. I just hope they keep a few people from losing big.
 

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Brother does not recommend maintenance solution to be left in the lines long than 2 weeks without proper storage method per our manual. Please ensure that the maintenance protocols as per the manual are being followed in order to not void warranty on the printer. If you have questions on this and are located within US or Canada please call 877-427-6843; if outside these areas please contact your local Brother dealer.
 
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