While some print production sectors have seen volumes drop this year. Direct to garment printing has fared better than most. Nikolaos Vardakastanis, DTG product manager at Epson Europe takes a look at the impact of the pandemic and how the latest systems have been designed to support easy integration into existing operations.
According to data from Eurostat’s monthly production index up to August, printing and reproduction dropped by about 30% compared to pre-virus levels. After hitting bottom in April, production volumes started to recover.
By July, manufacturing printing and reproduction values were 8% or 10% respectively below the pre-pandemic levels. Office related, promotional, and catalogue printing were among the sectors hardest hit.
But the pandemic created many new opportunities too. Signage applications for social distancing and other fluctuating business requirements, as well as traditional sectors such as book printing, saw growth in volumes. Another industry that experienced a rise in sales was DTG printing. We saw strong performance as existing businesses, in particular those with online ordering capabilities, explored ways to add new solutions or increased capacity to their portfolio. These companies addressed the increase in orders with additional systems to handle the extra demand. In particular some German customers saw online orders lift dramatically for printed cotton garments and in the UK, clients took the opportunity of government loan schemes to make a relatively low investment to expand their offerings.
These investments, along with others, were boosted by the high printing quality, enhanced performance and increased usability capabilities that DTG printers can now deliver.
With that in mind here are five key areas that should be considered when investing in a new DTG technology:
1) Ease of use
When introducing a new solution or enhancing existing offerings, the ability to be up and running immediately and consistently is crucial.
DTG systems that are ready in seconds and allow jobs to be set up quickly and smoothly can make all the difference to optimising efficiency and reducing errors. User-friendly touch screen prompts enable faster set up times and reduced print problems. They can even allow the operator to push the start button while print data is still being processed.
High and consistent performance is paramount in all production environments. To that end, print head technology that delivers fine detail and dot precision consistently and accurately on a much wider range of garment types is highly important. Some print heads can instantly self-diagnose their own health, too, reducing costly production issues.
Print results can be further enhanced by the right inks that enable sharp, bright images with superior washability on dark and light garments,
On top of that, the new ink droplet placement technology ensures more accurate dot alignment even at high print speeds.
Productivity can be enhanced by cloud-based software solutions, accessible via smart devices and PCs. They allow end users to efficiently manage their production, monitor their ongoing printers’ status, access detailed and comprehensive reports, remotely monitor their product line performance and take immediate action when and where it is required
Other benefits include a bulk ink solution making reloading and resetting ink a quick and easy job and new technological features such as those that automatically monitor the condition of nozzles. With the latter, if a nozzle is clogged, print quality can be adjusted to ensure consistent printing. It also works constantly behind the scenes to maximise reliability and reduce downtime.
4) Intuitive design
Platen designs can also significantly reduce the production cycle time. For example, a hanger platen assists the operator with fast loading and minimises mispositioning errors. Then there are features such as auto platen gap adjustment that detects the height of the garment automatically and moves the printhead up and down to maintain the optimum gap for high quality results.
This improves performance on different clothing types, making it simple to switch between items such as T shirts, sweatshirts and cotton bags. The optimised gap between the surface of the garment and the print head ensures stable print quality and eliminates the need for manual operation for platen height adjustment.
To be in the mix to win work, operations will need to adhere to Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certifications.
With these considerations, and others, in mind, we have recently expanded our portfolio with the addition of the Epson SureColor SC-F3000 our new high production DTG printer. The SC-F3000, like our other solutions, is built on Epson’s DTG print philosophy that is based on four main principles – reliability, quality, consistency, and scalability. We design and build every single component of our products. This way we can ensure the printers work seamlessly and reliably with minimal downtime.