Awards & Engraving

January '17

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42 • A&E JANUARY 2017 DETERMINING COSTS OF SUBLIMATION Aaron: Ink costs vary from machine to machine, and the biggest difference seems to be whether you have a wide- format machine (over 42 inches) or a small-format machine. A wide-format printer should have an average ink and paper cost of about $0.50 per square foot. With a small-format printer, you have an average ink and paper cost of $3.75 per square foot. Fortunately, regardless of whether you are using a wide-format or small-format printer, the production times are going to be the same. What can save you labor time is grouping similar products or mul- tiples of the same product together under the same heat press as the cycle time of approximately 1 minute remains— pressing 10 at a time reduces your labor cost. I also recommend grouping products together and running them at the same time to help eliminate ruined products, which can add to your costs. Due to the fact that different substrates require dif- ferent times, temperatures and pressures, setting up to make those substrates can be a challenge. If you are always switching back and forth, you will ruin products by missing those settings, adding to the cost to produce. There is little to no set up, so printing one or 500 doesn't change your costs too drastically. You can improve your cost on large orders by purchasing blanks at a lower price, and also with your labor efficiency. If you are making nothing but T-shirts, for example, your production team is going to get much better at it over time. Let's take a quick look at the break- down of a typical cost of creating a mug with a small-format printer. The blank mugs, including freight to you, will be about $3.00. Your ink and paper is approximately $.60. The pressing labor at a labor rate of about $15 per hour factors out to about $2.25. That is a grand total of $5.85. With a large-format printer, that cost comes down to about $5.30 per mug. Mugs sell as personalized gifts for about $15 to $20 retail. WHAT CAN YOU PRINT WITH DTG? Terry: In direct-to-garment printing, 100 percent ring-spun cotton is your best friend. Among these garments, some will print better than others. You need a tight weave and smooth fabric surface for the best finished print. Experimentation with new brands and styles is a must. You are not completely limited to 100 percent cotton—it's difficult to find hoodies in a range of colors that are 100 percent cotton. But a higher cotton content garment such as a 90 percent cotton/10 percent polyester, or 80 per- cent cotton/20 percent polyester will give you an acceptable print. Going down to a 50/50 blend will likely pro- duce a garment that you won't be com- fortable providing to your customer. WHAT CAN YOU PRINT WITH SUBLIMATION? Aaron: Sublimation is nearly the polar opposite of DTG; 100 percent polyester is your best friend. Sublimation can print onto certain blends, but the more poly- ester content you have, the more vibrant the image. Getting down to a 50/50 blend, the shirt will look washed out and faded. When it comes to items other than garments, you will also need polyester or a polymer coating. You cannot run to your local dollar store and grab items to decorate. You must purchase sublima- tion-ready blanks. Fortunately, if you can dream it, you can most likely find it as a sublimation blank. There are thousands of items ready for sublimation, from mouse- pads to holiday ornaments, to sunglasses, bowling balls, flip flops, baby blankets and more. What you can't print is anything that would need a white ink. There is no such thing as white sublimation ink at this time, but we get by that limitation because 99.9 percent of all blanks used start as a white background. If we want a black mouse pad that has white lettering, we just transfer the black and leave the white space open. The same goes for all-over garments and large items, it just requires a larger heat press. CONCLUSION These digital decorating methods are not only versatile, but they are also prof- itable segments that your business can take advantage of. These decorating tech- niques are not going to kill traditional analog printing any time soon, but you will find people innovating new ways to integrate the production efficiency of analog methods like screen printing with the quick set-up and ease of personaliza- tion you find with DTG and sublimation. Your customers are asking you for these digital services. You must become familiar with and embrace digital technology in your business if you don't want to be left behind. Aaron Montgomery has been involved with the garment decorating and personalization industry since 2000 and the digital printing industry since 1997. He has been actively involved in the industry trade shows via speaking, attending and exhibiting for the last 16 years. He also writes articles for the industry magazines and blogs on topics that include marketing, social media, the personalization market and gar- ment decorating techniques. He is dedicated to helping small businesses grow and succeed. You can find Aaron co-hosting the industry's oldest and most listened to Podcast - 2 Regular Guys ( You can also find blogs about a wide range of topics on his own website at Terry Combs is a 35+ year veteran of the garment printing industry, and has managed production shops large and small across the United States. He has written hundreds of management and technical articles for garment printing publi- cations and spoken at industry events world- wide. He is currently in sales and training with Equipment Zone, Franklin Lakes, N.J., working from Scottsdale, Arizona. His recent books, Screen Printing: A Practical Guide, and Direct-to- Garment: A Practical Guide, are available on Amazon. Keep up with Terry's classes, blog posts, speaking engagements and other resources on his website: www.terry- A&E DIGITAL DECORATION

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