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Hello,

i am trying to find information regarding DTF printing but cant find any posts anywhere?
is this printing style to new?
 

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i am trying to find information regarding DTF printing but cant find any posts anywhere?
is this printing style to new?
I'm guessing you are after the water-based inkjet transfers.
There is no much info because it's a new thing, and most of us have not tried it yet.
The prints do look alright, but I'm skeptical about the durability.
 

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@digitalprinter
So in addition to the printing machine in step 2, you show a pretty intense (expensive) looking "shake powder machine" in step 3. The process looks neither simple, nor inexpensive.

  1. What would you say are the most comparable or competitive print methods/technology? (DTG?)
  2. What would you say are the advantages of DTF over these other methods
  3. Disadvantages?
  4. Ball park pricing of the "printing machine" and "shake powder machine"?
thanks
 

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We are DTF Printer manufacturer,You might know this print process from us directly .
The name you have chosen is a bit silly.
1. DTF is an existing acronym for "direct to fabric".
2. The film is not the end product, so your process is not "direct".
My opinion at least...

you show a pretty intense (expensive) looking "shake powder machine" in step 3. The process looks neither simple, nor inexpensive.
It is much more simple than DTG actually, because it eliminates the dreadful pretreatment step.
It will also eliminate the cost of expensive mistakes. Messing up a large print on a premium shirt can easily cost $8 to $10 (cost of ink + shirt).
There are drawback as well though. Durability and print quality are the obvious/expected ones.

This machine is not complicated, but it's not meant for home use either.
You don't really need all this automation, unless you do really high volume.
 

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@digitalprinter post disappeared? Doesn't seem removed by moderator (promotion? seemed informative enough). Did he not want to answer the questions? Sensitive to criticism?
 

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I am using this type of setup for more than 2 months now and I can give a brief review for the same.
The name you have chosen is a bit silly.
1. DTF is an existing acronym for "direct to fabric".
2. The film is not the end product, so your process is not "direct".
My opinion at least...
The name comes from china and yes it is neither correct nor a good name for it. The correct name would be PET film Printer/Transfer, as it prints on a special PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) film which is later transferred to the product.

@digitalprinter
So in addition to the printing machine in step 2, you show a pretty intense (expensive) looking "shake powder machine" in step 3. The process looks neither simple, nor inexpensive.

  1. What would you say are the most comparable or competitive print methods/technology? (DTG?)
  2. What would you say are the advantages of DTF over these other methods
  3. Disadvantages?
  4. Ball park pricing of the "printing machine" and "shake powder machine"?
thanks
The machines used in setup:

A printer that can use these special DTF inks . Currently there are 3 types of printers that are available in market.
A basic L1800 conversion
24” DIY printers using Epson heads. Cheaper ones use XP600 heads and the other uses two 4720/3200 heads (one for white, one fore CMYK).

I used the L1800 first, cost me around 1200 USD for the whole setup with consumables.
Head died within 2 weeks. L1800 isn’t meant for these inks especially the white. You need to clean after every couple prints and it takes around 10-15 minutes to print a decent quality A4 size image. So in my opinion not worth unless u want to give it a try and have money to throw away.

I went for the double 4720 24” head printer, this head is a replacement to the older Epson DX5 heads which many DIY DTG machines use. The machine has ink circulation, wet capping and prints quite fast. Last week I printed 10000 5x5 inch designs within 3-4 hours, with colour and white top layer(which later becomes the base).
Inks used are water solvable just as DTG but tend to be a different formula, Also somewhat cheaper than most DTG inks. I am using Korean inks currently which are more expensive than what the Chinese are offering but still less expensive than DTG inks.

Power Coating
Once you print your design on the PET film, You need to apply TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) powder to it. The inks dry quite slowly so you have good 10-15 minutes to apply the powder to it.
This can be done manually or using a powder apply/heat machine.

I do it manually when printing less area, say 1 meter of roll, anything more I let the machine do the work. This machine has another roll on the other end with a rewinder (a simple paper roll) which is then attached to the PET film roll from the printer. As the printer prints the roll is slowly pulled towards the powder coating unit and then later pushed towards the heating panel, which is basically a curved metal plate with heating rods on it. The finished roll is cut manually at the end.
So all this machine does is sprinkle powder on the printed ink, dust the extra powder from the film and then bake it. The finished product can be rolled and stored for as long as you wish.
One thing to be noted is that this machine does save a lot of time by doing all this quickly but at the same time it bakes a lot of TPU powder which when melted releases fumes. These fumes are a health hazard if inhaled for prolonged periods.
The machine has exhaust vents for these fumes which should be properly piped and led outdoor or in a smoke filtration unit.

Design Application
The final design can be applied on almost anything, for garments preferably using a heat press.

Maintenance
The Powder coating/heat machine requires no maintenance.
For the printer I believe requires same level of maintenance as any industrial ink jet printer. Need to print atleast every other day or take a nozzle check and maintain temperature. Cleaning if the nozzle check has missing lines or after printing a good amount of designs is recommended.

Pricing
Powder coating machines go for around 2-3k and printers 4-5k. The XP600 head printers are ~1k cheaper. These are China prices.
Consumables
Inks: You can find a lot of ink suppliers, all are somewhat cheaper than DTG.
Film: around $80-150 for 100 meters
TPU: $5-10 for 1kg
You use almost negligible TPU, I have printed 150+ meters and I still have more than 50% of my 20 kg bag.

Now we get to the final part, advantages/disadvantages, design quality and durability.
Before I give my verdict, let me tell you I am in garment manufacturing and I have had experience with every garment printing method there is, if not first hand but enough finished goods with every print technique.

Quality is equal to DTG if not better, it’s more vibrant than DTG as the inks aren’t soaked into the garment. Colours come out bright similar to good quality Laser transfers.

Durability is excellent. I have washed different fabrics with designs on them, 100% cotton and polyester, fleece, polyblends 50/50. All machines washed for 3 weeks every day. The designs don’t fade or crack.

It’s quite hard to peel them, if for e.g using your nails, even a tiny piece is hard to peel if it’s applied correctly. Also if ironed after every wash it sticks even better.

Feel:
Here is where I believe it loses points.
PET film designs kinda feel like a very thick screen printed design or a very thin vinyl.
It’s quite smooth but at the same time has good stretchability. Imagine having very thin stretchable plastic film on shirt, that’s how it feels.
But if your designs are small in size and or breathable then this feel is quite minimum.
Also the quality of feel gets better if heat pressed 1-2 times after the initial application.
The TPU plays a major role here. The better the powder the better the feel and durability.
I tried $5 TPU and it’s feel is thicker than $10 one. I believe it can be made even less as there are even better/costlier TPU qualities available.
For me the $10 works well but people are free to try.

Can apply on almost anything, I have applied to jute bags and even on glass with a simple iron.

The only difference or win for DTG in my opinion here is the hand feel.

I guess I have wrote a lot, been like 10 minutes since I started, so I will end here with some final thoughts.

DTF or PET film transfer uses something from both DTG and Laser transfer.

It uses a DTG type printer to print transfers that are as good as them while being durable, faster and somewhat cheaper without any fabric limitations.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I am using this type of setup for more than 2 months now and I can give a brief review for the same.


The name comes from china and yes it is neither correct nor a good name for it. The correct name would be PET film Printer/Transfer, as it prints on a special PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) film which is later transferred to the product..............................................................................
WOW Thanks for that info
 

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WOW Thanks for that info
Not informative enough? ;).

The post does mention some good points though.
1. Not all printheads can handle the white ink.
DTG conversions are based on P600 or P800 printers with the well known and durable DX7 printheads for a reason.

2. The consumables pricing is just as I thought.
The print cost will be pretty much identical to DTG.
There is no pretreatment, but the film+ powder will actually cost more.

3. The powder sprinkling/curing machine and the printer are somewhat overpriced.
a) The powder machine is just an unreasonably large metal box with a vibrating tray and a heating element.
b) There are genuine Epson 24" printers that cost less, and will print white ink.



I think they are just trying to make it look more complicated than it is.
Also I still don't believe the durability claims. I will only believe it once I have done my own wash tests.

So far I can tell you that the print are good but definitely not as good as DTG.
a) you cannot print small halftones for softer feathered designs.
b) The glue is visible at the edges, making it obvious it is a transfer.
This is an issue with screen printed transfers as well, but there are ways to hide it.
 

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Not informative enough? ;).

The post does mention some good points though.
1. Not all printheads can handle the white ink.
DTG conversions are based on P600 or P800 printers with the well known and durable DX7 printheads for a reason.

2. The consumables pricing is just as I thought.
The print cost will be pretty much identical to DTG.
There is no pretreatment, but the film+ powder will actually cost more.

3. The powder sprinkling/curing machine and the printer are somewhat overpriced.
a) The powder machine is just an unreasonably large metal box with a vibrating tray and a heating element.
b) There are genuine Epson 24" printers that cost less, and will print white ink.



I think they are just trying to make it look more complicated than it is.
Also I still don't believe the durability claims. I will only believe it once I have done my own wash tests.

So far I can tell you that the print are good but definitely not as good as DTG.
a) you cannot print small halftones for softer feathered designs.
b) The glue is visible at the edges, making it obvious it is a transfer.
This is an issue with screen printed transfers as well, but there are ways to hide it.
1 . DX7 heads are durable but quite expensive, currently most good DIY DTG's uses 5113 or 4720 heads. 4270 is a replacement head for the 5113. Durability isn't that good but price is low too. With the amount of printing i am doing i don't expect it to last more than 1 year, if lucky then 2. My only regret is that for the amount i spend on L1800 i could had bought 3 replacement 4720 heads.

If Epson makes a machine for this kind of setup, i would buy it in a heartbeat but until then it doesn't matter what kind of printer you use, if you don't get warranty on heads, it's pointless.

2. With my calculations it's less than DTG but off course it depends upon your location, For a 10x10 print it cost's me ~70 cents including every consumable and electricity consumed. And it's getting lower since more and more local suppliers are stocking these consumables in bulk and i no longer have to import in small quantities.

3. You are so right there, it's just a big hunk of metal that consumes 2-3 kwh. But my machine manufacturer contacted me recently and said if i wanted to upgrade to a V2 of the machine. It's half the size of the big boy i own and consumes less power, it even apparently costs less. I will attach a picture.

Durability you have to see for yourself, I am not selling this so i don't have to convince anyone, i was skeptical in the beginning too but i ordered some samples and tested myself.

Yes, my printer can do half-tones but it will not look the same as it does on DTG, as the print doesn't go into the garment, it's a transfer after all.
The Glue you mention is either the TPU not dusted properly before baking or the white under layer not printed properly. If the paper/roll alignment become crooked during printing, the base white layer become visible which shouldnt happen once you gain some experience with it.
i will attach some pictures of my printed designs on film.
These are some of my first test prints which have been on the table for like 2 months taking dust and powder. With and without white base. One is pasted on a plain A4 sheet.
271760


271755
271756
271757
271758
271759


Finally i think if answering the most asked question which is
"if its better than WT Laser transfer?
I say yes

Is it better than DTG?
In some way's yes but in some no. It's not going to replace DTG as DTG printing is in a different class. It's after all a transfer.

Who is it for?
If you are looking to print multi-colour designs in bulk, say 100+ a day, its the best available option for you. If you print less than 50, then stick to DTG.
I wanted something that could print my smaller batch garments(100-300 pieces) in multi-colour, so it suits me well. Before choosing any printing method one should look what you really require for your business.
 

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The new powder/curing machine looks good. It actually looks more expensive as well.

For a 10x10 print it cost's me ~70 cents including every consumable and electricity consumed.
That's for a CMYK print obviously without the white underbase.
As we all know, prints with white underbase cost 3 to 4 times more.


Finally i think if answering the most asked question which is
"if its better than WT Laser transfer?
I say yes
I agree. This is definitely better than white toner transfers.
 

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The new powder/curing machine looks good. It actually looks more expensive as well.


That's for a CMYK print obviously without the white underbase.
As we all know, prints with white underbase cost 3 to 4 times more.



I agree. This is definitely better than white toner transfers.
It really is cheaper than what I have, the metal costs more. The machine itself doesn’t have any complex expensive parts. The new one is mostly plastic.

No I am talking about CMYK+W, I don’t do only CMYK ever. The manufacturer told me the white helps in even better adhesion as the TPU bonds more to it than the colour inks.
So all my prints are with white base.
And even after using costlier Korean based inks, the Chinese ones are ~10-20% cheaper.

But as I said not everyone can achieve this number. It depends upon your location/supplier.
 

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It really is cheaper than what I have, the metal costs more. The machine itself doesn’t have any complex expensive parts. The new one is mostly plastic.
I know it's not complex.
I can see that it is just a cube frame on swivel castors, and made from aluminum extrusion profiles, but it looks much better than the huge empty metal box.

No I am talking about CMYK+W, I don’t do only CMYK ever. The manufacturer told me the white helps in even better adhesion as the TPU bonds more to it than the colour inks.
You can print 10x10 inch with white underbase for 70 cents including the film?
How much do you pay for the ink?

My Epson P800 printers use 3.75ml CMYK and and 12.5ml white to print an A3 size image.
That's $2.10 in ink only cost, when using the cheapest Chinese ink I could find ($70/liter).
 

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My Epson P800 printers use 3.75ml CMYK and and 12.5ml white to print an A3 size image.
That's $2.10 in ink only cost, when using the cheapest Chinese ink I could find ($70/liter).
Rare of me to question the professor, but unless I'm missing something,
  • $70/L= $.07 per mL x 16.25mL = $1.1375 for A3
  • A3 = 193SqIn (approx)
  • 10 x 10 = 100sq in
  • 100 / 193 = .518
  • 51.8% x $1.1375 = $0.59 (@ $70 per Liter, 10" x 10")
(Making assumption @vvamic is using inches, but I didn't see that was spelled out - and if cm, 100sq cm would be much smaller, therefore MUCH cheaper.)
 

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Rare of me to question the professor, but unless I'm missing something,
Yeah... I couldn't use the $70 Chinese Ink for the white layer. It was just too thin and would not stay on the surface of the shirt.
The 12.5ml are at $140/L white that works, combined with $70/L Chinese CMYK, which was surprisingly good.
The other thing is that I keep my notes in pounds, so I guesstimate the exchange rate 🤓.

Maybe the crappy Chinese white will print better on the non absorbent film.
I guess I'll have to buy some more and test it.
 

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You can print 10x10 inch with white underbase for 70 cents including the film?
How much do you pay for the ink?

My Epson P800 printers use 3.75ml CMYK and and 12.5ml white to print an A3 size image.
That's $2.10 in ink only cost, when using the cheapest Chinese ink I could find ($70/liter).
I don't know about that but DTF uses much less ink compared to DTG as it doesn't go into the garment nor does it absorb into the film. Infact the colour layer is so thin, you can wipe it off after print from the film with a cloth leaving nothing but a small smudge on the cloth. White is a bit thicker and adjustable in the RIP. I usually go with 70% for dark and 50% for light garments with excellent results.

You can find Chinese DTF ink's for like 20-40USD/Liter (white is usually around 10% more). My ink's are slightly more expensive and probably the best you can find in market for DTF within reasonable price.

After using around 2 Liters for CMYK each and around 3-4 of white, I calculated it to be 0.0067 cents (.50INR) per sq inch. And this is including all consumables used (Roll, TPU, inks). But it does go slightly more in the end coz after all we are all human and we do make mistakes. e.g out of the 100m of roll i have always ended up wasting ~10 meters (nozzle checks, misalignment of roll etc)
 

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So, @vvamic, where could one find more information (model, source, instructions) on the DIY dual 4720 head 24” printer? Or, better yet, would you recommend an equal quality solution at 13" (would it be worth going down, I just do apparel)?

It would be much appreciated.
 
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