Direct-to-Garment Printers Are Blurring the Lines Between Commercial and Industrial

Updated: Sep 21

By WhatTheyThink


Many apparel decorators have seen the direct-to-garment (DTG) portion of their businesses grow over the past several years. Now, some of these same companies are faced with the need to purchase additional printers so they can keep up with demand. Whereas those who own commercial printers might be frustrated with their slower than average print speeds, businesses that own industrial printers may complain about a lack of redundancy or production stops that are caused by machine issues. Historically, DTG devices have been divided into the following segments based on their maximum print speeds.

If you’ve been paying attention to some of this year’s new DTG printer launches, you may have noticed that the traditional gap between commercial and industrial printers appears to be closing. Today’s DTG devices are delivering faster printing speeds, better print accuracy, and more advanced technologies—all with a smaller footprint and a lower price tag. These new devices are blurring the lines between commercial and industrial printers.


New Introductions Are Closing the Gap

Brother

In January 2022, Brother International launched its GTX600 industrial direct-to-garment printer. This device includes new features like a projector system that automatically projects the design to be printed onto its intended position, which enables the user to see the design as it will appear on the garment before printing to avoid misprints. Brother’s Digital Line all-in-one pretreatment system can be paired with one or more GTX600 printers and conveyor dryers to maximize workflow efficiency. The system is available in two options:

  • A Synergy pre-treat unit consisting of a FireFly conveyor dryer manufactured by Brown Digital and a heat press.

  • The Schulze Pretreat Maker LINE machine, which can pretreat up to 300 garments per hour.

Both options combine the processes of pretreatment, drying, and pre-pressing in a single machine. Using three GTX600 printers, a digital line pretreatment system, and conveyor dryer, the system can produce up to 182 garments per hour. Brother is a frontrunner in promoting the “pod” concept, which combines multiple DTG printers, automatic pretreatment, and a dryer.


Aeoon Technologies

In April 2022, Aeoon Technologies launched its MAIKURO device, which is a smaller two-platen DTG machine that can print up to 65 garments per hour. The printer uses eight Ricoh Gen5 printheads that jet images at 600 dpi with a maximum image size of 40cm x 45cm (16-in. x 18-in.). The MAIKURO is a single gantry printer and, as this video shows, each platen is first printed with the white underbase followed by the color pass. While the device produces print speeds that are slower than the other products discussed in this article, Aeoon classifies the MAIKURO as an industrial DTG printer. This classification is somewhat misleading given the hourly production rate—at 65 dark garments per hour, the MAIKURO is really more of a high-end commercial or entry-level industrial printer.


DTG Digital

DTG Digital (a subsidiary of Pigment, Inc.) spent the past two years developing its new Q2 DTG printer. This device is configured for hybrid capability to print directly onto a finished garment as well as direct-to-film transfers on a single platform. The Q2 delivers industrial-level production speeds of 100 dark and 150 light garments per hour and has a footprint of only 1,006mm x 1,400mm x 1,931mm (42-in. x 55-in. x 76-in.). The printer also incorporates some robust features like a linear motion platen carriage guide with auto height adjustment, two-stage ink mist extraction, and a staggered four-printhead array. A unique aspect of the Q2 is the simultaneous printing of both platens.


Ser. Tec. SRL

Ser. Tec. SRL offers the Eagle TX S, which can print up to 120 garments per hour. This device can be configured with two, three, or four printheads and features printhead position control that automatically adjusts the printhead’s height based on garment thickness to avoid head strikes. The Eagle TX S can also print materials up to 15cm in thickness. A unique feature of this printer is the multiple dual-platen configuration. As seen in this video, the circular workflow allows for continuous loading and printing simultaneously.


The Bottom Line

While improvements continue across all segments of the DTG market, recent developments point to more advanced/robust commercial DTG printers and smaller yet powerful industrial DTG printers. The lines between these segments are certainly blurring, so today’s businesses have a broader range of options than ever before. The requirement for “high productivity” no longer means investing $250,000 or more for an industrial-grade DTG printer. Using the “pod” concept that companies like Brother are championing, multiple printers can be grouped together to produce volumes that have historically been associated with higher-priced industrial DTG printers. In the past, companies might have hesitated to invest such a large sum of money on a single printer that had the potential to shut down for one reason or another. This is precisely what makes the pod concept so attractive.


This article was published in WhatTheyThink September 1, 2022. Brother International is a SPESA member.


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