What to look for when buying a second hand DTG printer

Thinking of buying a second hand DTG printer? Colin Marsh, managing director of Resolute DTG, provides some hints and tips on what to look for and what to avoid.

As the DTG industry continues to grow, the companies using the technology in general continue to grow. This brings a need for larger faster equipment and is the reason for the ever increasing used DTG printer market in the UK.

It is a minefield out there with lots of good bargains but also lots of printers that are fit only for the scrap heap.

The following information is a general guide of what to look for when purchasing a used DTG printer and what questions to ask to avoid being lumbered with a hefty repair bill or worse still a printer that is too far gone to be repaired.

Lifespan – how old is the printer?

The expected life span of a well maintained DTG printer (small to medium format) can be as much as 10 years, in realistic terms it will be more like five to seven years before major parts will need replacing. This is of course dependant on the amount of work the printer has produced and if it has been serviced regularly by the company who sells it.

Ask for proof of the original date of supply, this will be clearly printed on the warranty document or the original invoice/delivery note. If you cannot obtain the original date of supply tread very carefully.

How many owners has it had?

Why is this relevant? When you purchase a DTG printer from a reputable company, new or used, you will receive training on how to look after the printer and use it correctly. This is crucial as DTG printing is not like printing onto paper.

When printers have had many owners, some training will have been passed on to the new owner but it gets diluted or worse, personalised, meaning dangerous short cuts might be used which can cause damage.

Service history

Just like a car this is very important. Don’t just take someone’s word for it. If you can obtain the serial number of the printer most official dealers will be happy to assist you in obtaining information that will confirm or not the information you are being told by the seller.

Ask to see the printer working

Ask to see the printer working and watch the whole process to make sure it is all ok. Never buy a printer that is claimed to work but for some reason has no ink or white ink installed. If you cannot see an acceptable print when you view the printer it is probably best to stay well away.

CMYK nozzle check

Print a nozzle check

All inkjet systems produce a nozzle check as a test to see if the head/s are ok, ask the seller to do this for you and inspect it closely.

Make sure there are no missing nozzles in the pattern and no deflection which can be as bad as blocked nozzles.

Inside a clean three-year-old DTG printer

What’s under the hood? 

Keeping a DTG printer clean is essential to its longevity. When looking at a used DTG printer lift the covers up and have a good look inside. Build ups of ink and fibres are a bad sign and can contribute to moving parts wearing out much quicker than normal.

The RIP software

Sending a job to a DTG printer is not like using a normal desktop printer. You will need a specialist RIP to drive your printer and assist you with creating the under base layer when printing onto dark garments. These can range from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds for a high automated version.

Make sure you have all the necessary pieces of the software, most have a security dongle and license files that allow you to use the software. Without it you will not be able to print anything or perform some of the maintenance tasks required.

Counterfeit printers

Unfortunately, as the DTG process grows it attracts cowboys claiming to be qualified to service DTG printers.

We have first-hand experience of people making a printer look like an R-Jet 5 when it is not. Also servicing them and breaking them. This can be a very expensive mistake so please be careful what you are buying is the real thing.

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