Probably the largest advance in the area of garment decoration in decades, direct to substrate printers, are rapidly increasing the practicality of low volume printing. Now last minute printing orders or small run fill-in orders are no longer a problem. To buyers of promotional products, this technology is a boon for many reasons. The technology essentially eliminates set-up costs, allows for any size order, and gives you the detail and vibrancy of screenprinting while maintaining the hand of the fabric.
While embroidery is the decoration choice for uniforms and corporate image apparel, there are times when either the quantities or costs are a consideration. In the past screenprinting and transfers were the only other alternatives. Now you have a new weapon in your arsenal of low cost product choices.
Direct to Substrate printers work in much the same way as office ink jet printers. Their main advancement over a traditional ink jet printer is that they allow for the printing of vibrant colors on both Black and White 100% and cotton blend garments. Some fabrics do require pre-treating, and all fabrics require curing to make the image permanent. Direct to Substrate Printing, is exactly that, you print directly onto the item. Unlike other solutions that use inkjet technology, the DTS printers does not print onto a "transfer material" like Iron-On's. The DTS prints your image directly onto your shirt or other object. With Screen Printing, you must first separate the image into "color separations". From these separations you then create screens to which the ink is "pressed through" and onto your garment. After the print process you must clean the screens for reuse, using harsh toxic chemicals. This is time consuming and adds to the expenseThere are a few limitations to screen printing. First, screen printing can only be used on a limited number of items and garments. The DTS’s can print on textiles and non-textiles alike! Screen printing has a limited resolution. On top of that, you must create a screen for every color you use. DTS printers hve an amazing resolution and can print millions of colors. The DTS printers require no screens, little image prep time and prints shirts in seconds.
One thing that you might want to take into consideration when planning an order is that the cost for light colors on dark garments is usually higher as the process is more time consuming. The additional cost is due to the additional time it takes to print on dark substrates.
Because there is relatively little set up required to prepare a print, this method can be very cost effective.
Another advantage to DTS is that it combines very well with embroidery, Because the process does not affect the hand of the fabric, embroidering on top of it is no problem at all. Because you can print just about anything from photographic detail to bold graphics, DTS allow you to create precision images with unlimited blending of colors which is not possible with embroidery alone. You can then add depth and texture with embroidery on top of the image, to create a focal point. This combination affords both the detail from the DTS printer and texture from the embroidery.
DTG printing can also be combined with screenprinting, which is especially advantageous if you have a design that is constant such as a logo which needs to be combined with different names or titles. The logo can be screenprinted in bulk and the individual names or titles can be added later using the DTS printer.
While DTS printers are not the answer to all of your decoration needs, they certainly offer a very good alternative to screenprinting in situations where screenprinting would be cost prohibitive.