A tip for you . . .

Go to Long Beach!

 

 

 

 

Go to the ISS Long Beach show. It’s on the 20th to the 22nd of January and it’s the best show for textile screen printers in North America, by far. You still have time to book tickets. Stay ahead of your competition, see what’s new, gather ideas, make contacts, and enjoy some warmer weather for a few days too.

Generosity is smart business.

I was recently dismayed to discover that my favourite art supply store was no longer offering free cookies. My first stop in the store was always the cookie plate intended for the pleasure of customers, art class attendees, and staff. Now, sadly, it has disappeared.

Obviously I made inquiries and discovered that the owner had canned the cookie plate because she felt that the store staff were overdoing it a bit. Now, I should point out that these were not gourmet cookies. At about $3.00 for a pack of 44 cookies they were among the cheapest on the shelf at the close-by grocery store. But that’s not the point – we liked them anyway. I think I can speak for the customers, art students, and staff alike when I say that it is the gesture we miss, not just the cookies. Something for free (doesn’t matter what it is or how small it is) gives pleasure and creates a feeling of well-being. It reflects well on the giver, in this case, the art store.

Buying goodwill for very little cost.

I think the art store owner has made a mistake. For a mere $90 a month (less than a dinner out for her and her husband) she has forgone the opportunity to generate goodwill among her customers, students, and staff. If she put out just one pack a day and reminded the staff that, while they were invited to help themselves, it was not intended as a meal substitute and was for the pleasure of customers and students too, I bet they’d govern themselves. And for anyone arriving after the cookies for the day were all gone, an empty plate still speaks to generosity whereas, no plate at all, does the opposite.

So how can I be so sure of this? Well, for about twenty years my business included cookies and chocolate bars with every shipment. Among other derived benefits, it differentiated us from the competition and created a lot of goodwill. People are quirky, and part of that quirkiness is the pleasure of receiving something for nothing, particularly something that can be eaten.

What do you do in your screen shop to take advantage of this quirkiness? If you’re not, for what you perceive to be economic reasons, you may be missing an opportunity by committing false economy.

A tip for you . . .

Listen, this works . . .

 

Sore muscles, back and feet after a hectic New Year celebration? Remind you of a tough day on the shop floor? Run a deep tub of warm water. Dissolve two cups of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) in the water. Set your drink up where you can reach it and slide into the tub. Relax, sip your drink and soak for at least fifteen minutes. You’ll feel so good when you get out that you’ll wonder why the stuff isn’t illegal!

The ghosts on the back of Tees.

No need to call Ghostbusters. Just change the way you stack.

It can happen that when you’re printing with a low-bleed or bleed-resistant white on dark Tees, you can end up with “ghost” images on the back of the garments.

Most people assume right away that the print has somehow penetrated all the way through the Tee to the back. Usually that’s not the case at all. What often happens is that the garments are stacked as they emerge from the dryer. Because the dye-block ink film is still hot and therefore the dye-block chemicals are still active, they “bleach” the dye in the back of the shirt stacked on top. The result is a “ghost” image on the back of the shirt.

The solution is quite simple and only requires a change in the stacking routine at the end of the dryer. Instead of building a single stack and completing it before starting a new stack, have five or six stacks going at once and stack them in a rotating pattern. In other words, the first garment goes on stack number one, next one on stack number two, next one on stack number three, and so on. By the time you’re back at stack number one the last print will have cooled off enough so as not to “bleach” the back of the next shirt on the stack.

No need to call Ghostbusters.

A tip for you . . .

You must understand the impact of your pricing.

If you’re thinking of leaving your screen printing job and opening your own shop, there’s something you need to know about pricing. Don’t make the mistake others have made when leaving a job to open their own shop. You can’t just charge for a print what your former boss charged or what the competition down the road is charging. Your new shop probably has a whole different cost structure (leases, rent, and other overheads) from the shop where you worked. And the guy down the road may be mindlessly low-balling his prices – do you want to follow him down the path to failure? Calculate your prices according to your circumstances and then see if you can be competitive, not the other way around.

Don’t light the lint!

As observed in earlier posts, this is the time of the year when there’s finally time in Canadian textile screen shops to attend to things postponed during the busy season. One such thing is the accumulation of lint, not only because it’s untidy but because it can be dangerous – as in lint fires.

Clean up that lint before it starts a fire!

Do you remember those old cowboy movies where the bad guy lays down a trail of gunpowder, strikes a match tough-guy style on the sole of his boot, lights the end of the trail, and the flame takes off like Usain Bolt? Well, that’s exactly what can happen if an accumulation of lint is lit.

The owner of a Vancouver textile screen shop once told me that lint had accumulated like a furry trail on the steel pillars and ceiling beams of their shop until one day, somehow, it was lit. The flame scurried up the closest pillar and back and forth across the ceiling beams. By the time the fire department arrived it had burnt itself out but they sustained a lot of smoke damage.

In another incident, this time in Calgary, a can of aerosol adhesive exploded in a dryer chamber and cause a lint fire in the exhaust system. I remember that in this case the shop was closed for some time for repairs.

So, the lesson in this? Take time to clean up the lint, not only where you can see it but in out-of-sight places too.

Closing for the holidays.

Feet up for the holidays.

Your blog editor (i.e. me) will be putting his feet up on the 23rd and won’t be back until the 3rd of January. Not news I suppose because you’re likely to be doing exactly the same thing.

Same goes for all four of the Stanley’s locations. So, keep this in mind for any orders you intend placing before the holidays. If your order has to be delivered, remember to leave enough time for that to happen.

A tip for you . . .

Pay attention . . don’t discount until you’ve crunched the numbers!

 

Don’t discount without first understanding what you’re really doing. Let’s use a simple example and say you sell an item for $1.00 and your cost is 70 cents. Your profit is therefore 30 cents. You have been selling 10 of these month in and month out which means a total monthly profit of $3.00. You want to sell more to make more at the end of the month, say you want $3.75 profit at the end of the month (25% more than before). So you offer a 10% discount to attract more sales. Now you’re making a net 20 cent profit per item. So to make $3.75 at the end of the month you have to sell about 19 items. That means working 90% harder to make 25% more. To make just what you were making before, you’d have to work 50% harder. . .  See why you have to think about it before you offer a discount to boost sales?

Preventing it from all coming out in the wash . . .

Damn! I should have wash-tested those prints!

Look, we all know that no matter how many washing labels we hang or print on a T-shirt about washing in cool water with mild detergent on the gentle cycle, that Tee is going to be tossed into the wash with the towels, socks, and dog’s blanket on the heavy cycle in hot water.

And we also know that if the print on the Tee wasn’t properly cured, some or all of it, along with your reputation as a textile screen printer and whatever washes out of the dog’s blanket, is going down the drain.

So, you need to do two things to ensure that all your prints are properly cured. First, test your dryer at least a couple of times a day to ensure that it is still reaching cure temperature. The best way to do this is with a Thermoprobe  (see post of November 24th). The second thing to do is a wash test, particularly on critical jobs when there may be a lot at stake in terms of money and reputation.

A good way to do a wash test is to cut the print in half. Wash one half with three heavy bath towels in hot water and liquid detergent. Tumble-dry the load on high for thirty minutes. When you compare the washed half with the unwashed half, there should be no cracking or loss of part or all of the print. If there is, the print wasn’t properly cured. Then you can establish the cause and correct it.

It’s much better to have a failure in your washing machine before the Tees are delivered, than afterwards in the customer’s customers’ washing machines.

A tip for you . . .

Project the shelf life of your transfers like this . . .

 

 

To test the shelf life of your transfer prints, place the transfer in a hot box or a hot room for 100 hours at a temperature of 50 degrees C (120 F). This simulates a year of aging on the shelf. After the 100 hours, take it out and allow it to cool to room temperature and transfer it in the usual manner in a heat press. How it transfers will give you insight into performance after a year on the shelf.

Time to pay attention to the tension on your screens?

For most Canadian textile screen printers the slower winter season is here. This means that there is time to do some maintenance tasks usually neglected in the busy summer season.

One of those tasks is attending to under-tensioned stretch-and-glue screens. When production is going full tilt it’s too tempting to use under-tensioned screens and get away with a few more jobs before facing the cost and hassle of re-stretching. Sooner or later you have to deal with it though because of the direct correlation between screen tension and print quality.

Tension meter

So why not schedule a screen tension testing project for the slower season? All you need is a tension meter – if you don’t have this vital item of basic textile screen shop equipment, now would be a good time to talk to Stanley’s about getting one.

Go through all your screens, note their tensions, and mark or put aside the ones in need of re-stretching. You don’t have to have them all re-stretched at once but going through this exercise will give you a much better idea of the state of your screen inventory and enable you to develop a plan to bring it up to snuff.

An inventory of properly-tensioned screens will be another step taken in the pursuit of excellent prints.

A tip for you . . .

Use your lids.

Use your lids.

In all the discussions about getting the most out of the ink dollar, something that’s incredibly important but hardly ever mentioned, is the container lid. Leave it off a water-based ink and you risk evaporation and contamination. And while plastisol ink doesn’t evaporate, it will certainly become contaminated with all the stuff that floats around in a textile shop. And then there are those clumsy spills that can end up in an open ink bucket. Oh, and what about the company pet? Do you really need colourful paw prints on your new office carpet? It’s easier to just make a rule that lids always go on containers.

The importance of monitoring curing temperatures.

I’m going to take issue with a piece in this month’s Images magazine that advocates using a laser temperature gun for checking the curing temperature of ink.

The author recommends using the gun to check the temperature of the ink film as the garment exits the dryer. I’m suggesting that by then the film of ink is already cooling and is no longer at the optimum curing temperature the manufacture recommends that it must reach for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe - Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe – Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

There’s a better way to do it – a way that will tell you when and where in the dryer the ink film reaches the required curing temperature. And that certainly won’t be once it’s out the chamber. The better way of monitoring the temperature of the ink film is to use a donut probe (commonly known as a Thermoprobe) rather than a laser infrared temperature gun, temperature strips, or any other method.

Not only will a Thermoprobe confirm the temperatures encountered by the ink film as the garment progresses through the dryer, but it will also indicate cool spots in the dryer. A laser temperature gun will not do all that for you, particularly if you’re checking the temperature as the garment exits the chamber. How do I know this? Well, if you use a Thermoprobe to plot the ink film temperature every 5 seconds as it moves through the dryer, you’ll end up with a bell curve which is turning down by the time the garment is exiting the chamber.

A Thermoprobe has a “donut” across which is strung two thin wires in a cross formation. The donut connects to a digital readout by a long wire. You place the donut on the ink film with the cross wires on the ink surface (the critical temperature measurement is that of the ink film) and monitor temperature on the digital readout as the garment moves through the dryer.

Now, of course, the Thermoprobe can be about four times more expensive than an infrared laser temperature gun so the decision is yours – do it cheaply or do it properly. But either way, do it regularly. At least two or three tests a day will help avoid curing problems.

A tip for you . . .

Don't unplug the Roland . . .

Don’t unplug the Roland . . .

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a Roland printer/cutter in your shop, do this now. Make two signs that say “DO NOT unplug this machine!” Take no chances – attach one sign to the machine where it is in full view, and attach the other to the power cord where it plugs into the wall. Why? Because even when you’re closed for the holidays and the Roland is idle, it recycles the ink every twelve or thirteen hours to prevent clogging. If someone unplugs the power, it can’t recycle the ink and you could come back to clogged jets. A couple of signs could save you a lot of hassle and expense.

Are you like the drunk looking for his keys?

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

Sometimes when I discuss money management with screen printers they remind me of the story about the drunk crawling around under a street lamp outside a pub. A cop turns up and asks him what he’s doing. The drunk points down the road and says that he dropped his car keys somewhere in the dark and that he’s looking for them. The cop asks why he’s not looking for the keys where he dropped them, and the drunk replies that he can see better under the street lamp.

So when printers obsess about the cost of ink (which is a minor expense in the overall scheme of things) instead of examining the big ticket items like labour cost, maintenance, rent and other overhead expenses, they’re kidding themselves by looking where it’s easier to see.

But if you feel that you have the cost of your big ticket items optimized and now want to check your ink costs, Dave Roper offers three steps for calculating your per-print ink cost in this month’s Images magazine. He says: (1) establish the per-gram cost of the ink; (2) weigh the garment before printing; and (3) after printing but before curing, weigh the garment again.

The difference between the weights in grams taken at steps (3) and (2) is the weight of the ink used. Multiply that weight by the cost per gram determined in step (1) and you have the cost of ink per print.

Now, for the big question . . .  When you find out how little the ink per print really is, ask yourself why you’d risk using a cheap ink when a great ink will still be a very low cost per print.

The cost of your ink per print will never be the difference between business success or failure. But uncontrolled big expense items could be.

The keys to cost control probably aren’t in the light – try looking in the darker places. It might take more effort but it will yield better results.

Looking for a new profit centre?

Off in a corner printing money . . .

Off in a corner of the textile screen shop printing money . . .

Many years ago, I had a large manufacturer of wood cabinets as a client. They had a factory (probably about 15,000 square feet) full of woodworking machines and stacks of wood. It was a noisy, dusty and dangerous place. Have you ever climbed in and out of a helicopter while the engines are running and the main and tail rotor blades are turning? Well, the wood factory was noisy, dusty and dangerous in a similar way.

But off in one relatively quiet corner of the factory, away from the main activity, stood a solid, metal, heavy-looking machine about the size of a small car. It had a slot just over four feet wide at about waist height into which an attendant fed thin sheets of what looked like 8 x 4 plywood. The machine sucked in the sheet of wood at the rate of about a foot at a time.

Inside the machine a heavy metal dye thunked down on the sheet of wood. After every thunk, about a hundred wooden ice-lolly sticks slid down a chute into a container and another foot of wooden sheet was sucked into the machine. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. It continued relentlessly all day without a pause.

Wooden ice-lolly sticks was not my client’s primary business, but it was his best profit centre. He had a market for hundreds of thousands of lolly sticks with a few ice cream factories. The machine was as ridiculously profitable as it was simple to operate.

So what has this got to do with textile screen printing? Well, what if you could have a small, self-contained machine standing off to one side printing say, labels, gloves, sleeves, or socks? It wouldn’t interfere with any of your existing profit centres but could be the most productive few square feet of your shop. It could open up a whole new niche market for you.

Worth looking into, don’t you think?

Give Stanley’s a call; ask them about the idea.

Share your fascinating technique.

It’s old hat to you, right? Nothing too special. It’s something you do every day. In fact, you could do it in your sleep.

You take a design, burn it into a screen, slap it on the press, grab some ink, make a few strokes with a squeegee, pull the Tee off the pallet, and drop it on the conveyor belt. What’s the big deal?

Well maybe it’s no big deal to you, but what about people who’ve never seen the process of creating a printed Tee? What about your customers who have no idea what goes on behind that door with the unfriendly sign: “Employees Only”? What about Joe Public who could become a customer?

You can do that? I had no idea!

You can do that? I had no idea!

People are fascinated by production processes. People are fascinated by the creation of graphic images. People are fascinated by fashion, by wearable art, and by clothing that makes a statement. T-shirt printing is all these things. It’s fascinating.

So why not show off your production process? Why not show all of it from the creation of the art to final quality control of the print? I’m obviously not suggesting a daily parade of bus loads of school kids or tours by the local retirement home, but rather selective showing to customers and potential customers.

It’s the ultimate way to demonstrate confidence in your production process and the skill and creativity of your employees (instilling confidence in your customers is a sure way to keep them coming back).  But, even more than this, once they see how the process works and what you can do, it’s bound to stimulate their creativity. And that could mean more orders.

Think about it. Get rid of the “Employees Only” mindset. Share the fascination and reap the benefits.

A tip for you . . .

Here's my tip about using the right emulsion when doing high density printing.

Here’s my tip about using the right emulsion when doing high density printing.

 

If you’re going to do special effects prints such as high density or suede prints, you’ll need a high-solids emulsion for the stencil. All brands have one or more emulsions specially designed for prints requiring a thicker deposit of ink. These emulsions allow you to build a thicker stencil with fewer coats. They’re also usually photographically faster to facilitate full exposure.

Rapid response is part of the T-shirt business, but is this a record?

One of a few designs available from www.nastywoman.co

One of a few designs available from www.nastywoman.co

On Wednesday night, 19th October, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off in their third and final debate. From among all that was said that night, two phrases Trump uttered seemed to catch the most attention, “nasty woman” and “bad hombre”.

Back to the debate in a moment, first something about sports finals and Tees. I have two vivid memories of late nights in a print shop licensed to print major league sports memorabilia. They were during the final games of championship series –  one a World Series and the other a Stanley Cup. In  both instances, two automatics were set up to print a “winner” Tee – one for each of the finalists. Everyone was gathered around a TV set waiting; the calm before the storm

As soon as the game was over the machine loaded with the winner’s design, sprang into action. Very soon shirts straight out of the dryer and still warm, were heading out – some to retailers and some straight onto the streets while the post-game shows were still on TV and revellers were still in the bars. This was impressive enough but still not as impressive as what happened after the debate last week on the 19th.

The chances are that Trump didn’t know in advance that he would utter those two phrases. So obviously nobody else could have anticipated them. And yet, by the next morning,  Manufacture New York, an organization whose mission is to: ” . . . reawaken and rebuild America’s fashion industry, foster the next wave of businesses, and create a transparent sustainable global supply chain . .  ” announced a series of “nasty woman” and “bad hombres” Tees and tote bags.

Not only that, but they also had a web site set up where you could order the Tees and totes.

Now that sets the bar pretty high for an industry already known for its rapid response. It may even be a record.

 

Credits:

Ecouterre first reported this story on the 20th of October, the day after the debate. You can check out their excellent web site here: www.ecouterre.com

Nasty Woman and Bad Hombre Tees and tote bags available from www.nastywoman.co

Print shop pets.

They’re a common sight in many small businesses (even some large businesses) and the textile screen printing industry in Canada is no exception  – I’m talking about the company pet.

Joey Fangs

Joey Fangs

Stanley’s head office in Edmonton has two cats, Cooter and Daisy. The Calgary office has Burley, an English chocolate lab. Images of Colour in Edmonton had a fearsome-looking rottweiler, Bailey, who was a great watchdog unless the unwelcome visitor was a fly – he was terrified of flies. Barney, a shih tzu, worked at Hirsch Signs of Medicine Hat where he had his own email address. Barney has since passed away but his position has been filled by a cat, Joey Fangs, named for his unfortunate dental problem. The Edge Screen Studio in North York has Lexi, a chow chow, and Izzy, a Yorkshire terrier – they’re on a job-sharing arrangement but can sometimes be seen together at work.

These are just some of the pets in our industry. There are many, many more. And while I think it’s a nice feature of any print shop, the company pet comes with a caution. Here’s an excerpt from the Company Pet chapter of my book, The Characters Who Can make Or Break Your Small Business, to illustrate the point . . .

“One such visitor was a consultant who occasionally tested for methane emissions in all the units in our industrial park. (There had once been a dump close by, and although the area had been reclaimed for baseball fields, there was still apparent concern about migrating methane gas.) He wore an electronic gadget on his back about the size of a day-hiker’s backpack. Attached to the gadget was a rubber hose, which was in turn attached to a hollow wand about the size and length of a walking stick. At the end of the wand was a rubber cup the size of a teacup that emitted a sniffing noise as the machine drew air through it. In Ryley’s defence, the consultant did look a bit abnormal, particularly when waving the sniffing wand about.

Their first encounter set the tone for all subsequent visits. Ryley was woken from a deep sleep in the sunbeam by a sniffing noise and a rubber cup inches from his nose. The rubber cup instantly suffered the same fate as a veterinarian’s stethoscope that was once suddenly and unexpectedly pressed to Ryley’s chest. In both cases, he did what Jack Russell’s instinctively do. He shook the rubber “rodent” fiercely to break its neck while clamping down with powerful jaws until he could be persuaded it was dead. If you’ve ever tried to persuade a Jack Russell terrier to release something firmly clamped in its jaws before it believes that the quarry is ‘dead’, you’ll know there are few endeavours more pointless.

This type of behaviour would probably not be tolerated in big companies where the pets-at-work concept has recently become fashionable. Typical of big companies, some have issued policies and procedures to govern pets at work, and while that might seem too bureaucratic for the taste of most small businesses, discretion still has to be exercised. A total laissez-faire alternative is not a good idea either.

Some visitors will be afraid of dogs, some visitors won’t like cats, and some visitors will be allergic to certain animals. Few people can conduct business with a dog slobbering all over them or a cat strolling around on the meeting room table. If any of these visitors are customers or potential customers, the company pet could be bad for business.

The company pet isn’t going to exercise discretion around visitors; you have to do it.”

A tip for you . . .

 

listen to me, it will save you a lot of hassle . . .

Listen . . . This will save you a lot of hassle

 

The edge on your coating trough is very important. Protect it whenever it’s not in use. The soft aluminum edge must be kept smooth and free of nicks. A rounded trough edge will put down slightly more emulsion than a sharp edge but it (rounded edge) tends to be less prone to damage.

 

Determination and initiative. . . inspiring.

A Roland NB-20 printer/cutter . . . the start of a business.

A Roland NB-20 printer/cutter . . . the start of a business.

Images Magazine recently featured a small print shop in the U.K. Always on the lookout for anything that might inspire Canadian textile screen printers as they face the challenges of a tough market, I was intrigued by the inspiring, upbeat tone of the article.

The couple in question had been running a home and gardening service when they wanted to have clothing printed for their business. And, as often happens, one thing led to another and soon they were intrigued by the textile imprinting industry. Now here’s what a lot of Canadian textile screen printers are going to find hard to believe – they decided that an imprinting business was a more attractive proposition than a home and gardening service. Undeterred, they launched an imprinting business, but not in the traditional manual-screen-printing-press way of many start-ups in this industry.

They bought a desktop inkjet Roland BN-20 printer/cutter. They began producing T-shirt transfers. They cut a deal with a local embroiderer. They marketed on social media. They bought sublimation printers and started printing mugs and caps. They struck up a relationship with a local college and became the subject of a marketing study. They did a deal to take in a couple of apprentices from the college. In short, they ignored the talk of doom and gloom in the imprinting industry and found innovative ways to work around it. Within a year they won a Best New Business award.

That’s all I wanted to point out. These two people should serve as an inspiration to Canadian textile screen printers. But it requires innovation and a willingness to look for those creative ways to supplement the traditional output of a textile imprinting business.

For the rest of the story, check out the October edition of Image magazine online. Let it get you thinking.

Oh, and Stanley’s is a Roland supplier.

A tip for you . . .

Pay attention to this tip . . .

Pay attention to this tip . . .

 

If you’re sensitizing emulsion you need to do so about twenty-four hours before you use it to coat a screen. The time is needed to allow the diazo to dissolve completely and for the air bubbles accumulated during stirring to escape. If the air bubbles are not given this time to escape, you’ll end up with pin holes on the screen.

Hey, manual shop! Let’s talk squeegee.

Treat your squeegees better.

Treat your squeegees better.

The squeegee is often the Cinderella of the manual textile shop. It usually looks like it could do with a good clean, it’s plain looking, it has to work very hard, it’s health is neglected, and it’s often blamed for the printer’s health problems (like sore forearms or, worst case scenario, carpal tunnel  syndrome).

Yet it has such a pivotal role in the shop that without a squeegee, the entire shop would grind to halt.

So what should we be doing to make sure that this essential item of equipment is always in good shape and ready to play its part? Well, for starters we need to treat it with more respect than Cinderella got from her family. This means making sure that the squeegee has the right durometer blade for the job at hand. It means cleaning the squeegee properly immediately after use. It means having a squeegee rack where the different squeegees can be stored in their designated, labeled slots to dry and be easily found when needed. It means having a blade sharpener so that when the squeegee’s rubber edge becomes dull it can be sharpened.

All of this will mean happier squeegees and therefore better production. You don’t have to go so far as to give your squeegees names, but at least treat them better than Cinderella.

 

 

 

Direct to garment. Where’s it at now?

Direct to garment still not breaking any speed records

Direct to garment still not breaking any speed records

The reviews of direct-to-garment printers are still mixed. Today I heard about one textile printer who wishes he hadn’t bought his Epson and another who’s awaiting delivery of one.

Also today, I saw a magazine ad for a Mutoh ValueJet 405GT which, for a price tag of USD19,995.00 offered 5-colour prints, a wide print area, a small footprint, and a user-friendly Windows driver. Somewhere else on the page it talked about printing on whites and darks and claimed to be fast, simple, affordable, and easy to operate.

Fine, but how fast?, I wondered. Lack of speed has always been one of the knocks against direct-to-garment printers. I emailed Mutoh for details. An answer came in minutes – their customer service department appears to be on the ball. But, as I should have expected, it wasn’t a simple answer. Speed depends on (among other things): substrate colour; dpi of the artwork; type of curing method; dimensions of the print;  and necessity for pre-treatment of the garment.

Not counting loading and unloading time, just printing time once the garment is loaded, the speed apparently ranges from 8 garments to 40 garments an hour, depending upon the variables mentioned above.

So there you have it. Direct-to-garment printers in the $20,000.000 range are still not breaking any speed records. The question still seems to be one of whether you have the low-volume/high-price market to accommodate a direct-to-garment printer.

If you’re considering one of these machines, do what you should do with any other equipment purchase, crunch your numbers carefully and realistically and talk to owners, both happy and disgruntled, before reaching for your cheque book.