Is it for you and what are the benefits and negatives?
What is Direct to Film Printing?
Direct to Film printing (DTF) is using a printer to print directly onto film. The colour layer is printer first while a white ink layer is applied to the rear of the print. The print then has adhesive hot melt powder applied to the back of the print and is cured. The cured adhesive powder then becomes the adhesive for the image to adhere to the item vis using a heat press. (140c for 15s)
Items include (mot popular) clothing, canvas, hats, shoes, active wear and most other materials, due to the heat application process the item needs to be able to withstand the temperature of the transfer process and is long wearing and has a very light plastic style feel to the print.
Unlike other versions of printing like screen printing, DTG (Direct to Garment), the prints can also be shipped or supplied to others for the purpose of creating their own items vis the heat pressing transfer method.
DTF printers allow you to not only create items for yourself and your business, but also provide others with this ability allowing a multi channel income which makes the method very cost effective.
What is the positives and negatives to Direct to Film (DTF) printing?
Benefits of Direct to Film printing
Low Capital Expenditure: Compared to Direct to Garment (DTG), Printable Vinyl, Direct to film is quite low initial entry point in comparison to the other methods.
Durability: DTF prints last a long time and stand up to conditions better than DTG printing, due to not relying upon singular printed sections holding onto the item.
Low cost of production: Due to the ability to print on demand at no set up costs, this printing method is perfect for small to medium jobs (1- 150 items). With the cost of ink and film being relatively cheap in comparison to other inks and items like pre treatment, the cost per print is very small.
Quick: Once you perfect your printing methods, commercial printers can print an image and be cured in under 3 minutes. Desktop versions can usually achieve a print and cure time of under 10 minutes. Unlike screen printing, printable vinyl and Direct to Garment, there is no set up, cutting and ore treatment involved in the process.
Quality: Depending on the machine you are using and the support provided, e.g. colour profiles and quality of ink. DTF can achieve a wide colour gammut and accurately represent the item to be printed.
Versatility: Can be used on any colour garment, hats, shoes, jeans, jackets and many other materials and very versatile.
Negatives of Direct to Film printing
Maintenance: Like most printers that have white ink, the maintenance is important and if missed can lead to costly repairs. DTF printers even when maintained will provide some problems and you will need to understand printing methods and maintenance before looking to become a DTF printer.
Small lines and dots: Due to the way that the printer works, is you are looking for the perfect print, you should be using a 2-3 pixel choke as to not have white under base showing when not aligned perfectly. This does not allow for white ink and adhesive to attach to lines less than 4-6 pixels. while this is not on most prints, it is a limitation of DTF. (0.05mm for reference)
Transparency: When an image has transparent pixels, like outlines, or feint glows etc. the software looks at the image and maps the pixels, whether they are transparent or not, then lays white ink behind them. As an example, imagine a feint yellow glow being printed with 10% yellow ink then 100% white ink being laid down behind it, on a dark shit this looks like mainly white. Stay away from transparent pixels in your designs. TO be said, on most printing methods this does not work well, DTG, DTF or embroidery.
Not the cheapest method for single colour: Screen printing is and always will be the cheapest method for printing single colour onto shirts. For orders of 200+ single colour we advise either using screen printing or sub contracting to a screen printer.
Uneducated Customers: Being a very cheap and easy way to supply entry businesses with small run printing services, leads to people supplying poor/wrong artwork which can become problematic for them to accept their mistake. Problems can also arise due to not pressing correctly to the garment or using poor quality heat presses. We suggest you select your customers you supply your prints to selectively.
Is Direct to Film printing for me?
If you have had experience in printing and printer maintenance, not easily frustrated by problems, yes. Working with white ink and many moving parts. film, adhesive powder, temperatures, humidity, film tension and other variables, you will be sure to have the odd problem.
If you are a logical problem solver and persistent the print quality is amazing and perfect for runs of 0-150 orders. With the ability to also provide a printing service you can easy pay for the initial outlay within weeks if you have the demand.
Printing high quality DTF prints will always have demand and quick supply times are important. With our commercial printers being able to print anywhere from 20-30 lineal metres per hour, you have the ability to generate $3,200 per 8 hour day.
This combined with the ability to supply your own print on demand clothing and apparel makes it an easy choice, but be aware, you will experience problems. Be sure to purchase from a supplier that will help guide you through these problems and is experienced in the printing industry.
If you have no printing experience and do not understand how to prime a damper, know what choke is etc. we suggest that you purchase your prints from a printing service as the maintenance and problem solving will be past your skill level. Please feel free to call and discuss with us prior to purchasing.