Though inkjet printing has been done on textiles since the 1970’s (primarily in Japan on fabric rolls), digital printing on finished garments is a very new addition to the apparel graphics industry. Arriving at the beginning of the new millennium, direct-to-garment printing is a technology by which garments are printed by inkjet with four-color process inks, though many designs incorporate fewer colors in the graphics. Initially this technology was available for printing only on white or light-color garments, but a decade into its existence, the process has since progressed to now handle work on dark-color garments as well.
Excellent Quality Printing
With a wide variety of manufacturers selling “D2G” machines, this technology now gives excellent quality, and garments decorated by this method can be machine washed and dried with confidence that the ink won’t fade or degrade. It’s a great solution for executing small orders requiring on-demand delivery or multicolor printing without the burdens of making and setting up screens or installing and housing cumbersome screen printing equipment.
Limitations of D2G Digital Printing
That said, the technology has limits on its seemingly attractive advantages. For small orders of one unit up to a few dozen, decorated garments produced on D2G machines are competitive price-wise with multicolor screen printed garments. On larger runs, though, from three dozen garments and up, D2G-printed shirts become more expensive than similar jobs done with traditional screen printing. As the order quantity escalates, the price and speed advantages of screen printing over D2G accelerate. That’s because the per-unit cost of the special ink for D2G – from $.50 to $2 per imprint — is way more expensive than plastisol ink and the time necessary to print orders is vastly slower than screen printing. Compared to high-volume orders produced on automatic screen printing presses, direct-to-garment printing is downright expensive and wholly uncompetitive at higher levels of production.
Moreover, the cost-or entry into direct-to-garment printing starts at $20,000 for a single-head machine and nearly twice as much or more for dual-head equipment. D2G should be considered primarily for doing short runs, for retail stores and kiosks, and for orders needed “right now” or “yesterday.” where its technological advantages shine. For larger firms and companies specializing in selling to retail markets, D2G does offer major advantages and opportunities to “test” designs used in the solicitation of orders. Ifs also useful for printing actual samples for getting fast approval from customers of how an order’s design specs will actually appear.