The advantages and opportunities of DTG printing

Encarna Luque, senior product manager for inks and business development in textile and decoration for Roland DG EMEA, outlines the advantages and opportunities of direct to garment printing.

The first direct to garment (DTG) printer was aptly named Revolution.

Created in the 1990s and patented in 2000, the entry of this innovative form of printing technology marked an important crossroads in garment manufacturing.

Indeed, DTG printing has been growing in popularity ever since, and has proven itself as an increasingly viable solution during the past 18 months, a period which has seen the print industry feel the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its latest Printing Outlook survey, the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) reports that 29% of printers managed to increase production levels in the final quarter of 2020 and 33% were able to maintain a steady output. However, 38% were still feeling the adverse effects of the pandemic with a decline in activity.

But as tight lockdowns appear to be behind us thanks to remarkable progress in vaccination rollouts, a recent Roland DG study suggests the mood among print professionals is one of cautious optimism.

DTG printing and the road to recovery

Direct to garment printing, we feel, is set to step into the spotlight.

Why? Put simply, there are many advantages that are proving popular within the industry and helped it to remain resilient during this tough period.

Chief among that is the versatility that DTG printing brings to the table. The ability to print on a variety of materials allows print professionals to expand their product offering both extensively and cost-effectively. Given what the past 18 months has brought, low risk options are proving all the more attractive.

Clothing and apparel, soft furnishings and interior décor are just some of the doors that DTG printing can open – for those already in the space, demand for soft-signage and personalised products have played core roles in the resilience of the sector.

We’ve touched on another key advantage here. A core trend we have experienced in the printing industry over recent years has been personalisation. The surge in online shopping witnessed through the pandemic has resulted in heightened expectation for personalised e-commerce, including the ability to deliver customisable products.

This is where DTG printing becomes extremely relevant. The versatility and accuracy of DTG printers make them an ideal option for print businesses hoping to tap into this growing market, these machines also being compatible with digital web shops which have risen in popularity in recent times.

High quality, lower cost

Another important priority for businesses of all kinds during the past 18 months has been to futureproof themselves financially.

Here, DTG printing represents a way to lower production costs. Versus traditional screen printing, it typically carries a lower cost per product, and since DTG machines require no advanced setup, products can also be printed on-demand. This avoids the accumulation of redundant stock and the cost implications this brings, helping to improve profit over the longer term.

Such cost savings can also be achieved without sacrificing quality.

Indeed, DTG printing supersedes screen printing in several ways. It has the ability to capture highly intricate details and produce durable, vibrant, full-colour designs, photos, logos and text – all at quicker speeds to fall in line with customer demands for fast order fulfilment.

What’s more, these efficiencies all help DTG printing to boost a printer’s sustainability credentials. The ability to produce one-off designs and on-demand products is helping to tackle the problem of overproduction, which is beginning to blight the textiles industry. The inks used by DTG printers are also often water-based, further helping to reduce the environmental burden of printing activities.

What lies ahead?

All these key advantages are providing compelling reasons for the DTG printing market to grow.

Currently, indicators are pointing towards increased adoption in the immediate future, partly in response to the ongoing and growing consumer demand for personalised goods.

In the UK, for example, a Roland DG study predicts that 2021 will see more than £1 billion spent on customised products. And worldwide, the market for personalised gifts is expected to surpass $38 billion by 2027.

Within this, an ever-expanding list of digitally printed household items is the reason the printed interior décor market is currently going through double digit growth, with expectations that its value will reach $7.8 billion by 2023.

These are all promising signs for the DTG printing sector.

For printers considering making the switch, the key question now centres around how to go about the transitioning process. Our advice is simple – first and foremost, analyse the needs of your target market, study trends in supply and demand, and then locate and test the equipment that will cater to these findings.

DTG printing offers cost-effective solutions across small and larger sized operations, and no matter the scale of your activities, it is always worth dedicating time to fine-tuning and testing the different types of materials you are working with, along with pre-treatments to ensure a perfect print.

With the advantages and opportunities of DTG printing being laid bare over the past 18 months, now is the perfect time for printing enterprises to futureproof their businesses.

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