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Where to start with DTF printing

Asking the right questions is a difficult thing to do when you don't know the questions you should be asking. Let's face it Direct-to-Film (DTF) printing is a pretty new technology and we are all out there trying soak in as much information as we can. At the same time, a lot of the information is incorrect or absolute "BS". Listed below is a start to some questions you can ask your DTF manufacturer or distributor of DTF printers.  You'll have your own questions that may be more specific to the types of jobs you do, but make sure you compare each printer on a level playing field so you can make an informed decision on your DTF printer.

Finding the best DTF printer for your business

What is the all-in cost? Many of the distributors and manufacturers are going to start with the lowest list price. Then as you progress in the process you may find out that many of the things you need to operate the DTF are not included in the price. Make each vendor that you are interested in provide you with a formal quote. Some may have them all ready for you, some will have to ask you a series of questions to see which options should be included.

Computer specification It is important to have a computer specifically set up for your DTF printer if you are running any sort of production. If the DTF system comes with a computer make sure you know the specifications and find out if the software is pre-installed. 

What RIP Software does it use? Raster image processor (RIP) is software that translates different formatted files into a raster image providing the printer with a matrix of dots so it knows what to print. There are many RIP Softwares out there, some are amazing and some fall really short of acceptable. If the RIP isn't included, be prepared to do some research on getting a RIP to work on that particular printer and one that will provide you with the color gamut you will need to print your art.

Does the RIP have color controls?  This is a huge question!!  What if you have a customer that wants you to match their company's logo color and it is a nice royal blue, but your printer keeps printing it as a violet.  This will not be acceptable to your client, and you won't be able to do anything about it if you don't have color controls. (this is a bigger subject that we will get into in another article because it is so in-depth and so important)

Shown above is Wasatch a very sophisticated RIP Software that is easy to use.

Installation / Training There are few things to unpack in this section.
1. If the company you bought from is going to install it, do they have trained technicians? Do they really know digital printing.
2. If it is a self-install, what happens if you make a mistake on installing it? 
3. If someone is installing this for me, how much time are they going to spend on training me how to print. There are specific things you need to pay attention to when printing production DTF. You want to be trained from someone that knows how to print on the machine, and not just put the pieces together.
4. How much training are they going to spend with you? An hour, half a day, a full day, make sure you get this question outlined in your quote or contract.

Computer specification It is important to have a computer specifically set up for your DTF printer if you are running any sort of production. If the DTF system comes with a computer make sure you know the specifications and find out if the software is pre-installed. We've all been there trying to install something on our computer and the driver isn't matching up right or we don't have enough ram, etc. Don't go through this pain and suffering, know exactly what you are getting into. Your project at hand is printing not wasting time waiting for a computer to process print jobs.

What RIP Software does it use? Raster image processor (RIP) is software that translates different formatted files into a raster image providing the printer with a matrix of dots so it knows what to print. There are many RIP Softwares out there, some are amazing and some fall really short of acceptable. If the RIP isn't included, be prepared to do some research on getting a RIP to work on that particular printer and one that will provide you with the color gamut you will need to print your jobs with accurate color profiles.

Installation of VELOX unit in shop in St. Paul, MN

DTF printing on an EPSON F2100

Still more questions to go

Your shop & equipment requirements 
Is your shop ready for this particular printer / DTF System?  What are the electrical requirements and do they list what the recommended environment should be for optimum operation.

Parts / Printheads / Availability 
What is the availability of parts and printheads, can you easily purchase on line? Do you have to wait for shipment from another country?

Supplies   Make sure that the pricing for supplies and availability is in line with others on the market. Sometimes you can pick up a printer very inexpensively but are tied into the inks and or maintenance kit that will dramatically affect the cost per print. 

Support After the sale does the distributor or manufacturer have a support system in place for issues that arise. It doesn't matter the printer, digital printing will eventually come with some challenges. How the challenge is addressed from the selling company is of utmost importance. Check out their answers on this important subject before purchase.

Preventive Maintenance This is an important topic that a lot of your sales people are going to get into, because they either don't know or there isn't a plan set up for it. Doing the preventive maintenance on your printer is going to prevent unwanted down time, save you money by keeping the technicians out of your shop, and will provide you with the highest quality prints.

These are just a few of our suggested questions. We want to make sure you do your research, ask plenty of questions, but don't be afraid of DTF, it can provide some very unique printing opportunities.  Best of luck!

SPSI's High-Production DTF System  - VELOX

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