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Hi all

Been skimming through different apparel sites to scope out some business models, noticed that cafe press is now offering direct printing. Now, being that i currenly run a screenprinting shop, i'm finding cafepress' direct printing service a bit hard to swallow.

The one particular aspect that really gets me is how they can offer direct printing for one-off garments, without substantially raising the price over a heat transfer? I went through their order process and attempted to order a fleece hoodie with a full color PHOTO on the front of it, and selected direct printing as my method of application, and the price remained at $25. Not only is the price $25, but they said it could be at my door in 2 days - these details alone make me think that this can not be traditional screen printing - no set up charge and no fees per color used means that they cannot be accomodating for much higher COST involved in this.

For example, its much cheaper to print a one color design ( one screen ), than it is to print a process color job ( at least 4 screens + films + registration?) (particularly on fleece!) , so how can they afford to charge the same amount, regardless if it is a heat transfer, a single color direct, or a process color direct? Is it likely that cafepress is such a behemoth of a company that they can afford to take the hit in production costs or is there something else going on here?

I have this sneaking suspicion that cafepress is actually just using huge direct garment printing machines like the Tjets. I also think its smarmy that they always use 'Direct Printing' as a term, but you can't find the word 'Screen Printed' anywhere on their site! If anyone has some knowledge on the subject id love to hear, its just that it seems like theyre breaking every rule in the business book for actual screenprinting if thats what theyre doing - does anyone else agree with me on this?
 

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whats this cafepress conspiracy now? i cant write the word 'cafepress' without it automatically making a link to their site? somethins rotten in denmark!

¢afe-pre$$ - take that!
 

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rustwerx said:
the one particular aspect that really gets me is how they can offer direct printing for one-off garments, without substantially raising the price over a heat transfer?
That's because they are still using a transfer method to print the "direct printing". Direct printing does not equal screen printing in this case :)

Direct printing means that they are using one of those big machines that prints with inkjet right onto the garment. Not a screen print with plastisol ink through a screen.

I went through their order process and attempted to order a fleece hoodie with a full color PHOTO on the front of it, and selected direct printing as my method of application, and the price remained at $25. Not only is the price $25, but they said it could be at my door in 2 days - these details alone make me think that this can not be traditional screen printing
It's not and no where on the site does it suggest that it is traditional screen printing :) They only use heat press and direct printing via one of those big tjet-like machines. I don't think they use the tjet, but a similar type machine.

- no set up charge and no fees per color used means that they cannot be accomodating for much higher COST involved in this.

so how can they afford to charge the same amount, regardless if it is a heat transfer, a single color direct, or a process color direct?
Because they aren't using screen printing :)

Is it likely that cafepress is such a behemoth of a company that they can afford to take the hit in production costs or is there something else going on here?
They've grown in the 7 years they've been online, but I wouldn't call them a behemoth of a company. No conspiracy though...they just don't screen print their garments. They are pretty known for using heat press.

I have this sneaking suspicion that cafepress is actually just using huge direct garment printing machines like the Tjets.
You would be correct.

I also think its smarmy that they always use 'Direct Printing' as a term, but you can't find the word 'Screen Printed' anywhere on their site!
They don't use the word screen printed because that wouldn't be correct. If they were screen printed, you can bet they would plaster that all over their site :)

They only recently started doing one-offs on dark colored garments (only a few months ago). Before that they were strictly white/ash/light colors like most heat press printers.

They do explain their direct printing technology though if you look through the help pages on their site.

If anyone has some knowledge on the subject id love to hear, its just that it seems like theyre breaking every rule in the business book for actual screenprinting if thats what theyre doing - does anyone else agree with me on this?

Where did you get the idea that they were using screen printing? I don't think I've heard screen printing called direct printing, but that could just be my limited knowledge of terminology.
 

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Although seperate technologies... kind of? I think within 2 years there will be no differennce or distinction between the two. It's not screen printing becasue there is no screen? There already is screen printing without a "screen".
 

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CoolHandLuke said:
Although seperate technologies... kind of? I think within 2 years there will be no differennce or distinction between the two. It's not screen printing becasue there is no screen? There already is screen printing without a "screen".
thnx guys! i'd say now i guess my question would be how does 'direct printing' compare to a 'screen printed' garment? It seems like direct has alot of the same qualities as screen printing, do both methods feel the same on the shirt? At least for me, a well done screenprint is the standard in quality, and all these new methods are trying to approximate that quality, so i'd like to know how direct printing holds up.
 

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Definetly not as well, but the faded look is in! I still use screen printing right now. The quality is better and the colors are much brighter. However, within a few years I don't think you'll be able to tell the difference.

If you need to one-off a lot of shirts, it's defiently the way to go! Even though the quality isn't there, you can't beat the costs! But the machines don't come cheap!
 

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rustwerx said:
thnx guys! i'd say now i guess my question would be how does 'direct printing' compare to a 'screen printed' garment?
Right now, the colors are more "muted"/not as vibrant and don't have the same color accuracy that you can get with screen printing.

The hand is similar (depending on how heavy your screen printing coverage is).

The direct print technology is just getting started though, so like CHL said, in a few years, the quality will probably be much better (and maybe the cost of the machines will come down in price as well)
 

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I guess the best way to determine the quality of DTG printing is to contact a company and order one. Or if you are looking to contract some printing ask for a sample. The DTG print technology eliminates the screen burning and set-ups. It is used mainly for the 100% cotton fabrics and the colors are bright, not so bright on the blends. Keep in mind that it is only as good a print as one that would be run on any other inkjet printer at up to 720 dpi, taking into account for the texture of the fabric. The DTG printing will never replace screen printing for specialty work like puff and metalics but IMO the process color (cmyk) screen printing industry is washed up. In my area you can't get process color in less than about 300 per order anyway. The DTG printing is ideal for one off and short run jobs. The white ink with DTG is more difficult to accomplish but with the right file and technician operating the machine, it is a thing of beauty.
 

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I'm going got offer my uneducated opinion here, but I also think that traditional screen printing will be on it's way out for the most part. Heat transfers have been improved greatly in the last 10 years and will continue to improve, putting some hurt on the screen printers, unless they adapt and offer plastisol transfer printing also, but heat transfers may also be out some day. It will not be soon, but as Direct to Garment printing improves in both quality and price, even "die hard" screen print companies, and the heat transfer companies will change over to DTG for at least some of their product. If DTG printers get affordable enough, there will be over saturation of the market. None of this will happen overnight though, and maybe I'm completely wrong. LOL

An example would be hand painted signs and billboards for instance. Both are practically extinct. Both have been replaced by cut vinyl, and even that is currently being challenged by wide format printing directly to vinyl.
 

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Does cafe press use the Fast t-jet direct to printing machine or some other brand? My friend bought a shirt from a cafe press shop and the printing was perfect. I am getting a DTP machine as soon as I find out the exact one cafe press uses so I can get the same quality. I tried cafe presses 800# but the hold times are long. If anyone here know's the exact model I would appreciate it.

Thank you
 

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Muncheys said:
Does cafe press use the Fast t-jet direct to printing machine or some other brand? My friend bought a shirt from a cafe press shop and the printing was perfect. I am getting a DTP machine as soon as I find out the exact one cafe press uses so I can get the same quality. I tried cafe presses 800# but the hold times are long. If anyone here know's the exact model I would appreciate it.

Thank you
I wouldn't necessarily get the one Cafepress uses. There are currently about seven brands of DTG printers, plus these things are not at all inexpensive. That kind of money requires some homework to see which printer would be best for you. I would go to a trade show to see all the different manufactures. I'm planning on attending one in IL coming in August.

Also, I'd like to add that so far, all the DTG printers still require you to set the print with a heat press. These are things that I have read, but still have no personal experience with, so it's all just food for thought.
 

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Decal_Designs said:
I wouldn't necessarily get the one Cafepress uses. There are currently about seven brands of DTG printers, plus these things are not at all inexpensive. That kind of money requires some homework to see which printer would be best for you. I would go to a trade show to see all the different manufactures. I'm planning on attending one in IL coming in August.

Also, I'd like to add that so far, all the DTG printers still require you to set the print with a heat press. These are things that I have read, but still have no personal experience with, so it's all just food for thought.
great info guys. i just checked out the site for DTG Flexi-jet brand printers, looks like a great product for under $20k. One way i can assume these DTGs vary from whatever cafe-press is using, is that these flexi-jets dont seem to do more than one at a time, whereas im sure cafe-press must be using a machine that allows you to print 2/4/6 at once on a belt feed or something. anyone know of a brand of DTG printer that is more suited for bulk printing?

If anyone finds out what cafe-press has going on for printers, id like to know. actually, even just a brief list of other DTG printer manufacturers would be sweet! thanks!
 

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This is the one we are looking at the Fast T-Jet Jumbo you can print multiple shirts and designs at the same time. It is around $30K but with this investment any of us can be a Cafe Press, Zazzle or etc.
 

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CoolHandLuke said:
Déjà vu to this discussion.
I could have sworn you said that already. Maybe not. :)
 

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CoolHandLuke said:
Déjà vu to this discussion.
sorry if this discussion is like beating a dead horse, its all news to me if that makes you feel better.

nice to see that the Kornit model comes in at an affordable $200,000. :rolleyes:

Any particular reason the Kornit is $200k and every other DTG model i've seen weighs in between $20-$60k? Seems like an awful lot more money for equipment designed to manufacture the same product.

I'm really surprised they didnt put this tech into a printer that can print a superior plastisol heat transfer, and then be applied to the shirt - would save them the problem of needing platens to mount shirts, or worrying about printing on dark substrates, not to mention you'd be able to gang a helluva lot more transfers on the machine at once vs. tshirts - now that would kick ***!
 

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I'm pretty sure that will be next, and it's probably already being worked on.
 

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Decal_Designs said:
I also think that traditional screen printing will be on it's way out for the most part. Heat transfers have been improved greatly in the last 10 years and will continue to improve, putting some hurt on the screen printers, unless they adapt and offer plastisol transfer printing also, but heat transfers may also be out some day.
Personally I'm not at all worried about heat transfer killing off the screenprinting market - it's proven itself to be an effective niche, but I don't think it has enough advantages over screenprinting to really take over (and way too many disadvantages). Plastisol transfer has one or two advantages over screenprinting directly, but since it's just screenprinting onto a carrier paper you might as well cut out the middle step and stick with screenprinting.

When you get right down to it, big business simply doesn't use heat press. There's the obvious exception of Cafe Press, but their business isn't to use heat press, so much as to enable smaller businesses to exist. Heat Press technology was always just a stop gap solution - it will, without a doubt, be obsolete eventually. I don't see that happening in the immediate future, but I am certain it will happen (if I had to put a figure on it I'd guess 8±4 years, but that's baseless conjecture).

...but direct to garment printing (i.e. a big ol' t-shirt printer) scares me a great deal. I'm only just getting started really and I'm investing a lot of time and energy into screenprinting... while some of the skills will translate I'm very worried that all too much of it will end up being quaint archaic knowledge all too soon.

I still just don't know. Will screenprinting be like your hand signpainting example, or the digital photography revolution? Or will DTG just prove too hard to manufacture cheaply and impossible to perfect (i.e. improvements to white ink)? While only time will really tell... yeah, that has me worried. The technology just isn't ready yet, but that's always been the way with technology. At first it's bulky and not worth the effort (c.f. mobile phones), but soon enough it's ubiquitous.

I figure I have to go with the only technology that is mature right now, but no-one wants to become obsolete.
 
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