Being involved in direct to garment printing from its inception, has been one of the most exciting yet challenging print processes Colin Marsh’s 39-year career in the printing industry, and for the last 10 years at Resolute DTG. Here he discusses the latest development of the Green Button DTG process.
The leaps and bounds in direct to garment technology have been vast, I have witnessed the process go from, ‘you need to be a technician to use it’ through to being, ‘a simple green button process’ that practically anyone can use with little or no experience.
How is direct to garment printing (DTG) now a green button process?
At Resolute, we have the advantage of being a multi-brand distributor, this allows us to combine the very latest in DTG equipment which makes Green Button DTG possible.
The dark art of hand spraying pre-treatment is now behind us. With the launch of programable machines, capable of generating no overspray and very little waste the process is now so simple its almost therapeutic. Traditionally the whole garment was sprayed before printing, although most pre-treatment machines have the ability to spray in certain areas, in reality most people do not bother to make any adjustments as this could be a timely process and a little hit and miss, until now.
With the recent launch of the Viper MAXX from iGroup Technology in the US, pre-treatment has just hit another level. In my opinion, coupling a pre-treatment machine like this with a modern DTG printer offers a Green Button Solution. Operators are proven to requiring much less training when using this combination.
The fully programable pre-treatment machine works a little like a three-axis printer using a spray nozzle instead of a print head. With over 30 pre-sets for area and four pre-set levels of pre-treatment that are selected by visual icons on the touch screen, this is by far the simplest offline pre-treatment method available. The quality of the pre-treatment is also far superior to most other methods. This is due to the scanning bar micro weaving as it sprays with a very short distance between the nozzle and the garment. The solution is forced into the small pockets in the fibres giving a very high-quality finish. The printed image quality is exceptional with few or no pin holes appearing in the white ink even on suitable sweatshirts and hoodies.
Simplifying the process to a range of user selectable pre-sets with editing possible when required, allows training to be web based. This suits a high percentage of companies as training can be localised and deliverable multiple times with no real costs involved.
Once your pre-treatment is complete you will then need a Green Button DTG printer to create your prints. My choice here would be the high production Ricoh Ri 6000. Using the larger than average touch screen makes operation a breeze, print jobs can be sent to the printer from any PC on the same network via ethernet connection, wifi, usb cable or direct from a USB pen drive.
The operator is prompted with a message on the screen when a new job arrives, jobs can be stored in the on-board computer for use at a later date or simply deleted once the print run is complete. Consumable levels and maintenance are all monitored by the on-board computer and no PC connection is required to perform any of the routine maintenance. An alternative to the Ri 6000 is another new printer from Ricoh, the Ri 1000 which is currently rolling out globally and scheduled to land in the UK very soon. This completely new design from Ricoh offers the same large touch screen interface with intuitive prompts making it very simple for an operator to use with very little training. The printer has all you would expect from a modern system designed with many years of studying the DTG market in mind. Ricoh has included onboard white ink management, auto maintenance and a very clever wiper mechanism which reduces the amount of maintenance input required by the operator. When you walk up to the printer in the morning, you are greeted by instructions, the printer detects when these have been actioned and you can start to print.
The final process is to cure your prints, in a busy environment auto opening heat presses are a must. A simple buzzer can be easily missed in a busy print room, especially if other processes like screen printing and embroidery are also in production which results in a stained garment. With many of these already available this part of the green button process already existed. One feature on an auto open heat press designed for DTG that is new is an auto hover process which aids in curing off prints that are heavy with ink before closing heat press for final cure. If your business has a tunnel dryer suitable for curing DTG prints, this would be the easiest and quickest method.
Seeing is believing, all of the above information can be put to the test in our showroom in Chesterfield.