Multi-function multi-substrate, is it the key for DTG

Complex hard substrate product

Managing director for Resolute DTG, Colin Marsh, talks about a new print process for textiles that’s moving the goal posts again.

Not many of us are aware that printing textiles and hard substrates on the same machine is now possible.

Using a single set of inks with no changeover procedure is the key to combining DTG printing with DTS printing successfully, but it might not be in the way you expect.

This new process does not use a traditional pigmented water-based DTG ink, the new trend is to use a type of UV curable ink suitable for most piezo print heads. This is still the normal CMYK with clear and white but it benefits from being incredibly flexible. Printing onto leather, luggage tags, wrist bands, lanyards, phone cases and many more substrates is nothing new, but throw a black polyester shirt or a high vis jacket on the machine and hey presto, that’s impressive.

The differences

There are two significant differences between this new UV process and traditional DTG printing. Absolutely no chemical pre-treatment is needed when printing dark textiles with a flexible UV ink, including polyester. This does make the process a little simpler over traditional pre-treating and cuts down on the skills needed to print that perfect shirt. All that is needed to prepare a garment is to simply heat press it for a few seconds to make sure it is flat, then load onto the printer. As the garment is printed it is automatically cured by the UV lamp, this again reduces the skill needed to cure water based inks. It is important to note that it is not considered hard to cure a traditional DTG print, the point here is, it is getting simpler as the technology of inkjet printing develops.

A simple bullet point list demonstrates what we already know as the pros and cons of this new exciting process.

Pros

  • Workwear can now be printed instead of using embroidery.
  • Printing workwear can be much quicker than embroidery.
  • Durability in the wash is very good even at high temperatures.
  • Logo’s can be high definition and as many colours as required.
  • High vis tabards, jackets and similar can now be printed in full colour.
  • Prints stretch and do not crack even under high tension.
  • Wellington boots, wrist bands, water proofs, bags etc printed on the same machine.
  • Phone and tablet cases, packaging, badges, candles, bottles printed on the same machine.

Cons

  • In general a UV printer is more expensive than a DTG printer of a similar size.
  • Flexible UV ink is currently more expensive than water-based DTG ink.
  • Cotton textiles have a slightly rougher hand than traditional DTG prints.

On paper it makes perfect sense to use one printer for textiles and hard substrates, a UV printer is generally more expensive than a DTG printer. But a single machine that produces both products should be much cheaper than buying two totally different printers.

One of the most common topics raised regularly these days is health and safety, is this new print process safe. Bearing in mind these are not the normal UV inks you might be familiar with, the process is currently going through rigorous testing. Oeko-Tex and WRAP will be the two most commonly asked for and I am told are currently well underway.

As with any new process there is going to be some scepticism, UV textile printing will have to prove itself in the future as did traditional DTG printing 10 years ago. The samples I have looked at were very good and I have to admit watching a dark garment printing knowing it is not pre-treated does have a certain amount of witchcraft attached to it. The plus side of being able to decorate promotional items and garments with one machine does also have its impact on the environment. Producing one printer where in the past two were needed is a massive step forward and reduces the carbon footprint associated with building inkjet printers substantially.

The images in this article are examples of actual products produced commercially on a single machine using flexible UV inks.

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