December '20

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7 2 G R A P H I C S P R O D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M D irect-to-garment (DTG) is no longer a single type of tex- tile printing; it's now a whole range of types, from DTG printing of up to 35 garments per hour on a basic Epson, Anajet, and Brother machine, to printing as many as 220 garments per hour on high-capacity Kornit machines—and everything in between. Methods of drying the pre- treatment and the printed image also run the gamut, and affect not only the output of a DTG system, but also the appearance and salability of the printed garment. Factor in recent advances in DTG- specific drying technology, and it becomes clear that a prudent dryer purchase starts with an understanding of how well the dry- er will complement the printer, and how it will impact your capacity, quality, and bud- get requirements. PRETREATING OF FABRICS PRIOR TO INKJET PRINTING Most direct-to-garment printing requires fabrics to be sprayed with a pretreatment that prevents water-based inks from be- ing absorbed too quickly into the fabric. For white and light-colored garments, pretreatment may be unnecessary, but it is essential when inkjet printing on dark- er color fabrics. How the pretreatment is applied and/or dried greatly impacts the quality, capacity, and profitability of the DTG process, as does the method em- ployed to dry the printed image. HEAT PRESSES DRY AND FLATTEN To produce high-quality printed images, the fibers of pretreated fabrics should be flattened prior to inkjet printing. This is ac- complished in one of two ways depending on the type of printer employed. Conventional DTG printers require gar- ments to be pretreated and dried prior to printing. For the highest-quality images, and to prevent clogging of inkjet print heads, raised fabric fibers should be flat- tened. The conventional method of si- multaneously drying and flattening of pre- treated fabrics is with a heat press (Figure 1), which can also be employed to dry the printed image, minimizing capital invest- ment and consuming only a square yard or less of floor space. Pros and Cons of Heat Presses, Flash Cure Units, and Conveyor Dryers for Direct-to-Garment Printing B Y M A R K V A S I L A N T O N E Figure 1. A heat press, shown here on a utility cart, can dry pretreatment, flatten raised fibers, and dry the DTG print- ed image at a low cost, but also at low rates with reduced quality. (All images courtesy Mark Vasilantone) A P P A R E L D E C O R A T I N G

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