June '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 5 J U N E P R I N T W E A R || 87 Washability is just as important as print quality as this determines how long the print lasts and looks good. With a digital print, the image fades along with the substrate. to ask the sales staff plenty of questions. If your budget is limited, consider a do-it- yourself direct-to-garment printer. Remember, the printer isn't the only cost. The RIP program is also important. In fact, when the RIP is made especially for direct-to-garment printing and optimized for the amount of ink used, it helps save time. However, a bad RIP costs time and money when the prints come out poorly or in the wrong color. Another important factor is the ink. Depending on the manufacturer, the cost varies, and you must be able to justify your prices. Higher-end machines most likely come with tried and true ink. If you don't recognize the ink's name brand, poor wash- ability and clogging could become issues over time. The cost per print is also higher with direct-to-garment in relation to screen printing ink. You must understand that you offer a different service. Direct-to-garment printing fills the need for custom work, minimum runs, single print jobs, and in- tricate artwork. Competing against a screen printer that produces high runs in one or two colors will break you. You cannot com- pete. Provide customers with an explana- tion of your fees. You charge more because you offer a service most screen prints can't do, and the fee is the cost of doing business. While white ink systems have improved, they can still be an issue. Let's say you pur- chase a new printer and learn how to use it. Now it's time to find business. Three weeks later, your first print job comes in. You go to print your first job with a printer that hasn't been printing for three weeks, but the print head is clogged in some of the white channels. Now you have to buy a new print head, which isn't cheap, and your first customer has to wait. That's not a good start. Printers have a recommended maximum downtime of three days to a month. If you can't follow the required maintenance, di- rect-to-garment printing isn't for you. Be- sides, if you let it sit for a month, how much money are you making? Because direct-to-garment printing uses water-based ink, the production environ- ment has certain requirements. For in- stance, the temperature should be around the same as an office environment. If it's too cold, the ink will thicken or even freeze, and if it's too hot, it becomes an issue for the operator. Also, keep the room humidity above 45 percent at all times. A dry envi- ronment affects the ink flow because of the water content in the ink. Low humidity causes printing problems, such as banding, clogged nozzles, and ink starvation. If you cannot keep up the requirements, hold off or find something else. However, this doesn't apply to all di- rect-to-garment printers. Those with a good circulation system or wet capping do fine in low humidity. Direct-to-garment printing can lead to huge profits with a fast return on invest- ment, but take your time, research the mar- ket, and create a plan. This is your finan- cial future; protect it with the right invest- ment—whether or not direct-to-garment printing is right for your business.

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