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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone, I'm considering getting into the printing business, and have been lurking on this as well as other forums for the past few weeks soaking up the wealth of knowledge concerning DTG printing. I've noticed that alot of posts make mention of the fact that doing bulk orders with a DTG machine is not cost effective.

I'm in a market where there are a lot of people who are starting their own t-shirt line/brand/label, and are silk screening their shirts. Average orders range from 100 - 200 shirts for these people (partly because they need at least that much to put in a silk screen order) to about 500. ALOT of these shirts that are coming out are at max maybe 4 colors, and have simple graphics (or none at all), and a lot of text. I think that because of the amount of screens and cost involved to make colorful shirts is what keeps these people from making more elaborate designs for their t shirts.

That's where I want to come in. To be able to offer full/multi color prints to clients without a minimum amount they have to order, but also not a maximum amount either. I have taken an interest in SWF East/Mesa's line of DTG machines, particularly the Bullet. I'm looking at the Bullet because of the amount of shirts that it can print in an hour (I've read that the manufactures give faster than average print times), and that it can print on darks... which most people tend to buy. Another great feature of the Bullet that I like is the ability to print larger oversize images on a shirt. There are a lot of big boys here in Hawaii, and finding t shirts for people who wear 4-6X is rather difficult; not mention the print is usually small because of the shirt size. I wanna be able to cover up the back (at least proportion wise) of these large-size shirts. I know these big boys would be willing to pay between $20 -$25 bucks for a t shirt, because that's how much they are paying now for shirts here in Hawaii... and for designs they probably might not even care for.

At about $40,000 dollars, the Bullet ain't by no means cheap... I was planning on leasing the machine, as well as leasing a HM-1 for smaller jobs. Do you folks think this is a feasible plan as far as which type/size of machine to get? Will the cost of printing on big-boy shirts, and bulk orders on dark shirts not be worth it even if I get a high-capacity machine like the Bullet? Any thoughts/comments?
 

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The main issue is the cost of ink. I have a Brother 541, I'd say costwise a full color design on the front OR the back is on average is $1.25-$1.50. When you get into screenprinting by the hundreds, the printer is earning a profit at that price, and is able to do it quicker. Now, if you are selling directly to your end customer at $20 a shirt, you will be making your money no problem. Retailer's generally have at least 100% markup, although for Hawaii, it wouldn't surprise me if they wanted more along the lines of 200%. So keep that in mind if you are going to be selling to a retailer. My company does both, we have a gift store and we also deal with companies and events, and we have separate pricing schemes for both.
 

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White T's = No problem, do it all th time

Any T requiring white ink = Problems. We can see inconsistencies over large runs of shirts, that is why we do not do them anymore. We still do alot of 1-3 runs, but no more than that. We have also "spied" on the competition that says they can do it, buy buying 12-24 runs from three of the more vocal proponents, and not one order passed our QC. Shirt 1 would be different than 6, 6 would be different than 14, etc.....

We invested less than $500.00 bucks to determine that so far nobody (that we can find) has been able to do large runs on Epson based machines using white ink.
 

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Oh yeah, the Brother doesn't do darks, so I can't comment from experience on that. Everything I've heard though has been, "requires a learning curve" "costs three times as much for the underbasing", and "needs to constantly be ran or you'll have lots of issues". Unsure if that's still all true for all makes and models, as I've made my purchase and now don't keep up as much :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the quick reply guys, I appreciate it. Joe, I understand what you are saying, and it's kinda what I didn't want to hear.:p

Like I said, a lot of individuals want to start up their own label of t shirts, and usually put in orders of 1-200+ pieces for a specific design, but in various sizes (ex. 10M, 30L, 50XL, etc.). I know they want to make a profit, but also make the price appealing so that people will buy their label. This means that they will sell the shirt for an average of $12-$15 dollars a shirt (up to 3X), and more for larger sizes.

Let's say for example: If I'm doing contract printing on a dark shirt, full-color, design on the center back & left front breast, and the order is for about 200 shirts that vary in size; do you think I would loose out in terms of time and money if I print with a machine like the Bullet (which looks like it could handle about 8-10 shirts at a time)?

If the client wants to sell their shirt for about $12-$15 dollars to the end user, that means I would have to offer the shirt at about $6-$7 a piece with an order of about 1-200 shirts. Would the profit from an order like this really be worth it considering the time and ink/materials it would take to complete the order; even if I use a high-capacity machine like the Bullet?
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Wow, I got replies faster than I could reply to the first 2 posts...:p thanks guys.

Marc, great comment on the consistancy issue with white ink (even though that bumbed my trip:(). That truly sucks... here in Hawaii dark color shirts are more popular than white or light colors for some reason... maybe it makes people look slimmer, Idk.

Just a quick question to Marc: how much of a difference was there in the shirts you ordered? I mean, you folks have all of the shirts in front of you to compare. The client on the other hand, will end up selling the shirts to individual consumers that may or may not see another person with the same shirt (you see what I'm trying to get at), so they won't know the difference. Even I as a client who contracted the job wouldn't mind if 3 or 4 shirts out of a batch of 24 or so were a little off (not a lot, but a little). Were the inconsistancies in your order very noticable Marc?

I wish the industry would hurry up and find a stable/dependable way to print on darks! Argh!
 

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If you're footing the bill of the shirt, I do not think it would be profitable. Justin Walker is a forum member and in charge of Contract DTG's westcoast operations. He primarily uses a Kornit, which was a high cost machine, but I believe he pays less for his ink (he uses less on his shirts, and I believe it costs less as well).

If you search by his name on the forums here, you may learn some good insight into contract DTG for darks. I'd also suggest checking their website, they have a pricing list which may be vital for you to study before you decide to make the leap.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks for the info Joe. I have been reading a whole bunch of Justin's posts, but can't really recall him writing much about printing on darks with his Kornit. I have been to his site already, and took a look at his price list.

I am planning on stocking high-quality blanks at my business, but I guess I'll lose out if I accept bulk orders involving dark shirts. From the replies I've been reading, I'll do okay with whites and light-colored shirts for bulk orders.
 

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Oro,
Don't get us wrong, For the type of client your talking about..DTG can be a great tool for testing designs on short runs, but when you look at the economics of large runs and what the retail price points are... you start to hit a wall real fast. A 4CP print with a white underbase will take a screenprinter 15-20 min. to set up and if they're set up right, another 40 min to an hour to print 500 pc. The set-up and the screens are expensive for that 15 minute set up but the ink,labor and machine costs over rest of the time till completion is cheap compaired with what it would cost on DTG. You'd be lucky to get those 500 shirts in 2 days(on one machine). I love my machine.... it's just not as cost effective on larger runs. If I know it's going to go to that level, I educate my client and let them choose how much to spend.
 

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Joe, here's my take on this. When silk screening on dark's add one color for the underlay be it white or clear, so if you look at a dark shirt and only see 4 colors add one.
The reason its not a good idea to do high volume on a DTG is ink cost and time. 500 shirts can be silk screened in one hour at a cost of about .75 to 1.50 per shirt not including shirt. The ink cost for DTG is at least double that.
As far as choice of machine for DTG, I have read a lot of the posts complaining about white ink and the problems it causes on just about all the brands. People complain more than they complement and I looked at this. There have been very few complaints about the Anajet or Malcojet as they use a closed loop ink system. Yes the ink is more but in my mind its worth it. We just bought one and will print on it for the first time this Monday, It can be moved without Tech support and from the posts here maintanice is a breze and you don't have to print on it everday to keep it going.
We are also a silk screener so we will be able to pick which process to use. I hope this help you decide how best to proceed.
Good Luck, John
 

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I would say the main reason I would not do orders of 200 dark shirts is simply the cost of the ink :) If you look at it from a business standpoint, you give prices breaks per certain amount of pieces. With printing white ink and pretreating it comes to a point where the profit is too low with the price breaks. Light shirts I will print all day long :) Dark shirts I will only do so many before it is not good enough profit for me. On darks I quit giving price breaks at 50 pieces, over 50 no matter how many its the same price.

John, the anajet uses the same exact ink and takes the same maintenance to keep the machine running well. Please do not believe that there is any less involved just because it has cartridges, it simply isn't true and you may be disappointed if you start with your machine believing that. I too don't need to print with my machine every day, but it helps to keep your system flowing well as far as the print head and dampers are concerned. Also with having the cartridge system you will need to shake your white ink daily to keep it from settling. That was one of the pluses of my hm1 is that it had the agitator for the white ink that does that for me.

Hope this helps in explaining one of the main reasons doing big orders on darks is not a good thing. If your customer is willing to pay a high price, you may be able to do it.
 

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White T's = No problem, do it all th time

Any T requiring white ink = Problems. We can see inconsistencies over large runs of shirts, that is why we do not do them anymore. We still do alot of 1-3 runs, but no more than that. We have also "spied" on the competition that says they can do it, buy buying 12-24 runs from three of the more vocal proponents, and not one order passed our QC. Shirt 1 would be different than 6, 6 would be different than 14, etc.....

We invested less than $500.00 bucks to determine that so far nobody (that we can find) has been able to do large runs on Epson based machines using white ink.
This is one of the two biggest obstacles to larger orders (especially on darks) that I have encountered. You are always up against the time element (lucky to get 20 shirts per hour on darks) but the inconsistancy is what really frustrates me. I run a T Jet 2 and there are faster and better machines out there now....but I believe these are still the two biggest issues with larger runs. I would guess the third would be ink cost.
 

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i have dtg hm1 and print up to 150 shirts in a day i did have some problem in the begining with white but with the help of mesa i have dealt with those problems
 

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White T's = No problem, do it all th time

Any T requiring white ink = Problems. We can see inconsistencies over large runs of shirts, that is why we do not do them anymore. We still do alot of 1-3 runs, but no more than that. We have also "spied" on the competition that says they can do it, buy buying 12-24 runs from three of the more vocal proponents, and not one order passed our QC. Shirt 1 would be different than 6, 6 would be different than 14, etc.....

We invested less than $500.00 bucks to determine that so far nobody (that we can find) has been able to do large runs on Epson based machines using white ink.
Is it possible for you to be more specific about what kind of errors, that was found?

Like:
Fibers sticking through.
White ink not adhering sufficiently.
Banding.
Color gamut problems caused by wet color on wet white printing.
 

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As the industry matures you are starting to see some shops with multiple printers. One person can load and print on three to four printers at the same time which brings the labor cost down and raises the production rate. Screen printing, using automatic printers, will for the foreseeable future be the fastest way to print large volumes of dark garments. But the inherent advantages of digital garment printing, especially for multicolor printing (no color separations, no film positives, no screens, no screen setup and registration), will increase the trend of many shops to invest in multiple digital printers and steer more dark shirt printing in that direction.

Harry
 

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But the inherent advantages of digital garment printing, especially for multicolor printing (no color separations, no film positives, no screens, no screen setup and registration), will increase the trend of many shops to invest in multiple digital printers and steer more dark shirt printing in that direction.
Have to disagree, somewhat. We have been in the embroidery biz for 23 years, and for the past several years, the distributors selling single head embroidery machines would try to sell the concept that multiple single head machines were more efficent than single multi head machines. They used the theory that if the thread broke on one machine, the other machines kept running. In theory, that was accurate, but the COST of multiple single head machines was much higher than single multiple head machines. Let's face it, if this was the way to go, then all contract embroidery houses would be running multiple single head machines, and they don't
The best option here for a DTG owner is to have one or 2 good contract screen printers w/ auto presses as part of your business model. Print the small runs on the DTG, send the larger orders off to your contract printer. Yes, there's film, screen, setup charges, but when you add all that together on a large order, you'll find it only add cents to each shirt. Also, a customer simply is not going to pay the same amount for small runs, as they would on larger orders. They expect a discount for larger quantities. That's why even if you had several DTG printers, you could never get the cost down to what you would pay using a contract printer. Bottom line w/ DTG printers is that it takes the same amount of ink & time=cost to print 1 shirt as it does to print 500 shirts. The only advantage w/ multiple DTG printers is that you get increased production, but not much less COST.
 

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Is it possible for you to be more specific about what kind of errors, that was found?

Like:
Fibers sticking through.
White ink not adhering sufficiently.
Banding.
Color gamut problems caused by wet color on wet white printing.

Mostly just an overall difference in appearance over the course of the run. You could lay the shirts out and tell some slight dfferences that we were not willing to let pass our QC.

The items you mentioned were not so much the issue, except the final point.
 
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