In the early days of Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, manufacturers and distributors of DTG equipment couldn't even offer the option of printing with white ink. It was non-existent, at least on the open market, but soon this new industry would be introduced to white ink printing, in all its glory and major complications.
The problems that occurred left a scar on this technology. It's no wonder so many people are apprehensive in moving towards a DTG white ink solution. The inks would settle within the same day and they weren't ready to push through an ink jettable print head, but the industry demanded it and so the DTG White ink industry was born.
So what is my take on white ink printing? It can be a slow and frustrating process, but when done right, along with a good business model, DTG white ink printing can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
The learning curve for DTG is much higher for someone who is not a technical person. Adding white ink printing to the mix, blurs the lines of simple understanding and comprehension. Why? Information overload! We always encourage our customers, if they have not experience with DTG printing, to start out with CMYK inks only. Learn the system, the RIP, the electronics, mechanics and maintenance. Once this information is mentally processed and digested, and the user feels comfortable with using the system, move on to white ink.
The DTG printers and ink itself, have come a long way. It takes much longer for the white ink to separate and it's much more jettable. So where does the problem lie? Maintenance from not using white ink to using white ink is slightly more, so we need to look elsewhere. The vast majority of white ink issues today is found in the pretreating process itself.
When it comes to pretreating, there are many variables to consider. The shirt color, weight, fabric, weave, brand, model and even where it's manufactured all play key roles in a well pretreated garment. Up to this point, most users would apply pretreatment with a paint sprayer, some with mixed results, some with good consistency. Even early on, automated systems were being developed to tackle this process. Because of the many variables, there was more of a science needing applied, but the automated systems would do much better than using a paint sprayer.
Today, we are moving more towards the scientific approach. Applying what we have learned in the industry, to create a better pretreat system where you simply touch the screen and tell it what brand and model of shirt you are using and the system does the rest. It's a much needed step, and soon, printing with DTG will be as easy as pushing a button. Of course, this comes at a price, the easier the process, the more saturated the market becomes. It's a necessary step, but as technology is improved upon, more people will enter the DTG market causing more competitive pricing in the retail market. It's inevitable, it's going to happen. So the question of whether someone should wait for using white ink really should be, how quickly can I master the DTG Printing process so I can move on to white ink printing?
The sooner someone refines the CMYK process, the quicker they can learn and retain the white ink process. The early adopters of any technology often can feel jaded because of issues with the same technology they were so eager to invest in. One of the adverse effect of becoming an early adopter is you also quickly become an expert.
That's not a bad thing, is it?