The BelQuette WeBlog

This is a blog about Direct To Garment(DTG) printing by BelQuette, Inc. Articles range from general information about Direct To Garment printing, to tips, instructions, and tutorials. We will occasionally post about upcoming and past events at BelQuette, but our primary objective is to provide a free source of helpful information for everyone with a Direct To Garment printer, no matter what brand or level of experience they have.

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Posted by on in General Guidelines

With anything in life, there is struggle. Oftentimes getting back to the basics in any given situation will provide you with a solution to that problem. The Direct to Garment (DTG) market is no different. Being in the direct to garment industry since 2004, there have been major changes in printing equipment but the basics of DTG has remained the same. Understanding how your printer functions is a crucial element in operating a successful DTG printing business.

One common concern DTG manufacturers, suppliers, operators and owners have is maintenance. Most maintenance procedures include cleaning a wiper blade, capping station, spit station, encoders, cleaning around the print head, oiling the head rail and shaking your white ink. Some of these are performed daily and others weekly or monthly.

Effectively performing your maintenance will ensure continual and uninterrupted performance of your equipment. At the beginning of your day, operators are encouraged to shake their white ink, initiate a head cleaning (performed by the system itself) and print a nozzle check. The nozzle check will help determine whether your system is functioning properly and as simple as it sounds, can help diagnose where there could potentially be issues. We’ll go a little deeper into this when discussing the ink delivery system, but the first and simplest diagnosis comes by cleaning your encoder(s).

Encoders: There are many types of encoders, but with direct to garment systems, there are usually two optical encoders used. An optical encoder is either a strip or a disc that appear gray in color. The coloration actually comes from printing extremely thin black lines in a row, usually beginning at over one thousand across a span of one inch. The first is typically called an encoder strip, encoder scale or linear encoder. This is the strip that is behind the print head carriage and runs left to right. There is an encoder sensor behind the carriage that reads these lines so it knows the position of the head at all times and when to fire a nozzle.


A dirty or scratched linear encoder will cause printing problems during printing. These problems could include unwanted lines being printed, mis-registered prints, the print head carriage traveling further than its allowed distance and other strange issues. In these cases, the system is not able to understand where the positioning of the head is and where the nozzles need to fire due to a miscount of these lines. Cleaning this strip off throughout normal maintenance procedures will prevent many of these types of issues occurring.


The second optical encoder is almost always a disc and it keeps the positioning of the platen movement correct. Most of the time this disc is hidden and not exposed so cleaning is not necessary. If it can be seen, then chances are cleaning it would be necessary. The linear encoder effects prints from left to right, whereas the rotary encoder effects prints from top to bottom. If there is an inconsistency with prints in this manner and you can see the rotary encoder, cleaning it off with a lint free cloth with isopropyl alcohol should fix the issue, if it doesn’t contact the manufacturer or distributor for additional assistance.

Outside of the various features offered, all direct to garment equipment have five basic areas in the ink delivery system: a supply source, ink lines, dampers (or cartridges), print head(s), and capping station/pump. Some may include filters or degassing systems that need to be taken into account, but most operate with the five basic areas mentioned here. Understanding the cause and effect for each area will give you the ability to quickly diagnose and overcome the issue(s).


Ink Delivery System: When DTG first exploded on the market, companies offered a bulk ink system. Even though consumers consider a bulk ink system to be a money saver, the problems that can be associated with an open system oftentimes outweigh the perceived savings. An open or bulk system is simply containers in which you pour ink into. If your system is used infrequently, waterbased inks can evaporate causing the ink to change its viscosity or thickness. The inks for your system are designed to be used with the associated print head and any change in the inks can cause persistent issues.

Another concern for an open bulk system is when ink bottle caps are opened, dry ink around the bottle rim can fall into the container, causing issues for your dampers. If your printer has an open ink system, it is imperative that in addition to your maintenance procedures, be sure to clean around the openings on your containers with a damp cloth. This simple step can help avoid dried ink from falling into your ink supply.

Positioning of your ink system also has a tremendous effect on the performance of your system. If your system allows for a change of positioning of your ink supply, finding the correct height can be found through trial and error. If you have an open container system that is six to eight inches high, as the ink is being used, the amount of ink in the container changes and causes a difference of pressure in your system. This causes you to either need to constantly change your ink system positioning or continuously maintain a certain amount of ink your system at all times. Bagged ink is much simpler to find this position since a bag laying flat doesn't change the height of ink remaining.

To find the correct position, a good starting point would be to level out your ink supply even with the bottom of your print head or the top of your platen. The reason your ink system may be adjustable is your elevation to sea level can have an effect on performance. The higher your elevation the less pressure internally there would be so your ink supply may need to be higher to force more pressure into the system since most are gravity fed. Very rarely do we see the need for your ink supply to go above the bottom of the print head. Some of the newer systems on the market are pressurized and this may not apply. Be sure to talk to your manufacturer or supplier about proper ink supply heights.

If your ink source is too high, as your system is printing there could be drops of ink on your shirt. This is almost always an indicator of too much pressure in your system which would most likely be attributed to this scenario. Even though there may not be any unwanted drops, too much pressure could also cause the system to appear to be clogged or nozzles dropping out, resulting in a banded or print where the color is not correct. If you are fighting this issue, the first thing to do would be to move the print head to the center and look at the bottom surface of the head. If you see ink build up on the head surface or specifically on the row of nozzles, then your nozzles are being blocked from a buildup of ink. Performing a system head clean should bring this back to 100% but without adjusting your ink delivery, this would be a constant struggle.

If your ink source is too low, then more force is being pulled backwards and not allowing the ink to flow into the dampers properly. This would cause what is known as ink starvation. The effect is similar to the nozzles being blocked when your source is too high, but looking at the bottom of the head should show a clean surface. If this is the case, then chances are as the nozzles drop out and the head is firing ink, it could be drying out your nozzles leading to head clogs that can be difficult or time consuming to work out. Each manufacturer or distributor may have a different method to recovering nozzles and it's suggested to contact them in these cases.


Now that we know the cause and effect of the ink source positioning, depending on which direction you need to move the source's position, it's good to work in small increments. If there was dripping, then I would move the ink source down about 1/4" and try again. Continue to do this until the dripping and/or buildup on the head's surface disappears. Of course the same goes for dropped out or clogged nozzles from the ink source being too low. If your system has an ink source where the height that cannot be changed but you have an open cartridge, then it would be good to invest in closed or sealed ink cartridges. Chances are, this would increase the performance and reliability of your printer.

Ink Lines: Most of the DTG printers available today were designed as paper printers with no ink lines. When ink lines were added to the systems there was no provision for a circulation of white ink. Color inks tend to not be an issue but if white ink sits unmoved in ink lines over a period of time it could harden in the lines causing that channel to not print. This is one reason we do nozzle checks daily. What we refer to as a channel of ink is the nozzle rows for that color. If a channel drops out, then technically that color isn't printing. This drop out could be related to a clogged ink line, which is very difficult to break free and almost always results in changing your ink line(s). This is why most companies advocate that the operator print daily even if it is a sample shirt. Once again, check with your manufacturer or distributor for proper procedures.


Dampers or Cartridges: Since the ink lines directly connect to the dampers or cartridges, determining if the issues are either the ink lines or dampers takes a little trial and error. Most of the older converted DTG systems have a cartridge with ink lines attached to them. The cartridges sit on top of the print head itself. These types of cartridges have an electronic chip on the end. A damper would not have this chip and will perform much better than a cartridge. When the print head moves, the internal pressure increases and decreases rapidly, a damper equalizes this pressure since the source is coming from the damper itself. As ink flows into the damper, it goes through a filter, a reservoir then the print head. If the ink is not properly filtered or has dried ink from an open system, these filters can clog quickly causing nozzles or full channels to drop out. This is why a proper ink source using high quality and properly filtered inks makes a tremendous difference with performance.


At the beginning of your day, if a nozzle check is performed and a channel is not printing, use the proper procedure from your manufacturer to recover your nozzles. If after they have been recovered and the channel drops out shortly after you begin printing, chances are the damper is not performing correctly. Recover the channel again and if the same results are seen, then change the damper.

Most of these types of systems have either three or four channels of white ink printing. In a four channel system, it's possible to print three channels of white ink at 100% and achieve solid and bright white ink. If a nozzle check is not performed and one of these channels are not printing, the damper may not be functioning. This would not allow the ink to flow through the ink lines causing a clogging in the line itself. Performing a nozzle check will allow you to know if the ink is flowing properly and aid in preventing a costly repair.

Print Head(s): There are several types of print heads on the market but the most widely used systems utilize a single head with eight channels of ink. The top portion of the print head is called the manifold. This is where the spikes push into the dampers allowing the ink to be released into the head. As the ink travels through the manifold, it passes through a filter before it reaches the head itself. If the ink lines and dampers are not clogged but you cannot recover the ink channel or most of the nozzles in that channel, there is a good possibility the manifold filter is clogged. There are methods to recover the manifold called backflushing, but if this doesn't solve the issue, changing the manifold itself should solve the problem. Of course, if the manifold isn't the issue either, it may be time for a new print head.

Most print heads have over a thousand nozzles on the surface of the nozzle plate. Each nozzle is the thickness of a human hair, so it's no wonder improper ink handling during processing can cause ill effects. It’s not always the ink itself but air bubbles entrapped between the nozzle plate and the inside head cavity as the cause of blocked nozzles. To determine if you are experiencing a print head clog or an air bubble, print a nozzle check then perform a basic system head clean. Perform a second nozzle check and compare the two. If the nozzles are now printing, it could have been air bubbles or a clog, but if the same nozzles are dropped out, it would indicate a head clog. If the nozzle is now firing but others are dropped out, chances are it's an air bubble traveling inside the head.

Most of the time a head clean will address this issue but try to refrain from doing too many consecutive head cleans. After around the fourth head cleaning, you could be creating a foaming inside of the head which would make the head appear worse than before. Oftentimes you can let the head sit for 30-45 minutes and the foam would dissipate and perform as normal. Since all systems could be slightly different and they may not use the same type of print head, contact the manufacturer or distributor for proper procedures.

Capping Station/Pump: Capping stations typically are comprised of three elements, the cap top, wiper blade and pump. They may all be contained within one unit or they could be separated. The function of the capping station is to pull ink through the lines during cleanings, to keep the head surface clean from ink or debris and to stop the head from drying out. Part of the maintenance could also include what is called wet capping. At the end of the day, placing a little cleaning liquid in the cap and parking the head over the station also can aid in keeping the head from drying out. Be sure to check with the manufacturer or distributor to ensure this is a proper procedure to use. Not all dampers will stop a back flow of ink or prohibit the ink from flowing into a waste container.


The cap top has hard rubber or polymer seals and should be free from any nicks, cuts or ink build up. Clean this daily with a foam swab and cleaning solution to avoid nicks or ink buildup. When the head sits on the cap top but the seal is compromised, the pump may not pull properly and/or the nozzle plate could be exposed to air. If the head is exposed for prolonged periods with no use, the nozzles can easily dry out, once again causing clogs. During your normal maintenance procedures, be sure to examine and clean the cap top thoroughly.

Cleaning the wiper blade takes very little time, but a dirty blade can wreak havoc on any direct to garment system. If the blade is not cleaned properly, dry ink will be pushed back into the nozzles. The effect would be packing dried or thickened ink into these nozzles and possibly not allowing for recovery. A dirty wiper blade could also leave the surface of the head with ink build up blocking the nozzles from firing properly. If the wiper blade is in this condition, it may be simpler to replace it.

The pump, as mentioned before, pulls ink through the system. With inkjet systems, head cleans are necessary to keep the ink flowing and the nozzles firing properly. If the pump is not pulling correctly but everything else seems to be functioning, then the effect is the entire head will have poor performance. The pump is usually not the first thing looked at as the cause since they have a low failure rate, but it is something to keep in consideration when determining printing issues. It’s important to note, a pump will not effect a single channel in a multi-channel head. When a single channel is not performing properly, it’s better to start from the ink source and work your way towards the capping station in diagnosing the problem.

If at any point in your ink delivery system there are additional filters, an ink circulating system and/or degassing units, you would want to check these areas as well. But again, beginning at the ink source itself and working your way through the system will allow for quicker troubleshooting.

Understanding the basic principles of how an inkjet system works, specifically direct to garment, can simplify your printing process. This simplifying can lead to more confidence in printing and far less down time resulting in higher profits and happier employees and customers.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

 The age old question that has plagued man for centuries.  Well, maybe not that long.  What is the best shirt for direct to garment printers? Ringspun cotton or carded cotton. We've answered that question in video form!  Because who reads anymore?  

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EPSON- Digital Factory Apparel (The Rocketeer)

Digital Factory Apparel Epson Edition is developed by Cadlink Technology Corporation. The system is designed to make it very simple for the user to be able to drag and drop their files, straight from the program they are editing in. Importing Designs Directly into Digital Factory Apparel Design files can be imported directly into Digital Factory Apparel, without the need to open the files in their original design applications. Use this workflow where you have a design file that must be printed without having access to the original design application. For example, the customer has sent you a design file, and you need to print the file “as is” without importing it into a design application. Note: The supported image formats are subject to change, though common image formats are supported (e.g., EPS, AI, PDF, BMP, JPEG, TIFF, etc.). For designs that contain an alpha (transparency) channel, the image format should be either PSD, PNG or TIFF.

The diagram shown below shows how easy it is to manage your job. 


When using preset queues, it will automatically detect and remove black within a design allowing the black fabric to show through. This will save ink and enhance the finished product. BelQuette has developed a custom profile that will help enhance the users images. Saving them time on having to dial in the proper colors and fades for their images. Here is an example of the process we've taken.


There is a wide range of processed colors and high quality image printing. The conversion of color spaces (RGB to CMYK) will create unwanted color shifts. Since most apparel printers work with CMYK, Digital Factory Apparel Epson Edition is able to provide sought-after color results. Properly using white ink is important for printing images onto black or dark colored fabrics. Digital Factory Apparel Epson Edition’s has advanced the use of layer technology automatically, to create an underbase layer that can be sent to a production queue directly from a design application. When using Digital Factory Apparel, BelQuette was able to dial in some good calculations to make this process simple and easy. Posted below is an image we printed using these calculations. 


For more information on Digital Factory Apparel contact 1-877-202-0886  

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Ever wonder how they put that hilarious TV show quote on your favorite shirt?  Yeah I didn't care much either, but ever since I started DTG printing I noticed myself looking at people's shirts a lot more wondering about the size and quality of every print.  If you're brand new to the industry, DTG can be a little overwhelming at first, but so was riding your first bike.  To help you, here's 5 things to know about DTG written by a DTG beginner.



5.  It's pretty new

We've come a long way in garment printing.  Back in the day they used ancient devices called screen printers.  That's right, they actually did this by hand.  Screen printing is a technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil to receive a desired image.  Screen printing is still widely used today.  It's a lot cheaper than digital printing, easier to print large areas, and the finish is sometimes thicker, which some customers prefer.  On the downside, screen printing isn't ideal for small orders and the set up is just downright ridiculous.  Just look at THIS video and see how much work actually goes into screen printing.  Compared to DTG, screen printing is like trying to read War and Peace while rock climbing.  Direct to Garment printing is a relatively new technology that only began in the early 2000's and is just now hitting its stride.  It's a great time get involved in the DTG industry.  



4.  It's easy but there's a learning curve

Now I'm not going to tell you I was printing out perfect shirts left and right the first day I got my hands on a DTG printer.  Honestly, I must have gone through half a dozen shirts before I got the perfect print I wanted, but it was always something simple I screwed up.  The image was too blurry because the printhead was too far away.  The shirt wasn't pretreated in the correct spot.  The design came out slightly crooked because I loaded it incorrectly.  It almost seemed like the machine knew I was a beginner and it was initiating me like I was a college freshman trying to get into an exclusive fraternity.  DTG seems pretty simple on the outside.  Load the image to the computer, put the shirt in the machine, and press the button.  But there are factors that you normally would not be aware of if you're new to the industry.  So although digital printing is much easier compared to screen printing there is a slight learning curve to overcome, but after that it's smooth sailing.




3.  Printing on light garment shirts is so much easier than dark garment shirts

Printing on dark garment shirts isn't exactly splitting the atom, but compared to printing on light shirts it is more difficult and time consuming.  For one thing, pretreat is required if white ink is being used.  That means you have to pretreat the shirt, heat press it, print the image, then heat press it again.  Sounds a lot easier than it really is, but much like #4 on the list...there's a learning curve.  The old way of doing things required you to pretreat your shirts using power sprayers and such.  Luckily I'm new to the DTG industry and am fortunate enough to use a pretreatment machine to do all the work for me.  Some machines allow you to only pretreat the areas you want, saving you time and money.  If you're starting your own business, deciding whether or not to print on dark garments is a huge decision that shouldn't be taken lightly.



2.  There's some maintenance involved 

When you come in the morning there will be maintenance.  When you leave at night there will be maintenance.  If something goes wrong.... you guessed it.  There will be maintenance.  This has mostly to do with the white ink settling down in the lines and clogging up the heads, but if you keep your machine active and maintained there shouldn't be much to worry about.  If you don't want to take responsibility of maintaining the machine everyday, then DTG might not be for you.  The maintenance isn't hard, it just take time.



1.  It's not cheap, but over time it'll pay for itself

Getting into digital garment printing can be a huge financial risk.  The machines are expensive and the cost of supplies & consumables can add up.  Ink costs vary for different companies, but you're looking around $300 per liter of ink which will print out about 750 shirts if using only CMYK and no white ink. Subtract the cost of each print (usually around $0.15 - $0.25).  Then multiply by the square root of an isosceles triangle.  OK, everything but that last part was true, but depending on how much you sell each shirt the machine will eventually pay for itself.  Everything after that is profit. Do your research first and attend a few trade shows like ISS, NBM, or SGIA.  Most of the time vendors will give huge discounts on initial equipment purchases during trade shows, saving you a ton of money.



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The company that has brought so many advancements in the Direct-to-Garment industry, including putting the power of digital precision into a pretreater with the revolutionary EdgeTM Pretreatment System, is now a proud reseller of the Epson DTG line. We will continue to support our already renowned products with the same service our customers have come to know and trust, and we will also continue to innovate and bring new and exciting products to the market. With the power of the Epson brand, and the DTG workflow solutions that BelQuette is famous for, we are committed to bringing our customers the absolute best in Direct-to-Garment products as we proceed into the future as an integral part of this expanding industry.

See Epson's press release here:

Epson Announces Specialized Reseller Network for New Direct-to-Garment SureColor F2000 Series Printers

See also: Epson is the New Kid in Town...

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Posted by on in DTG Industry


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In the DTG realm, discussion over the use of re-purposed print heads is commonplace. Some manufacturers question the ability of re-purposed print heads to withstand the rigors of daily printing with direct to garment inks. BelQuette has used re-purposed print heads since the very first Flexi-Jet rolled off of the assembly line. At that time, direct to garment was new, and being that co-owners Brett Weibel and Mark Mombourquette were in part helping to further the technology, a purpose built print head was simply not available. The reality is, print heads are very complicated, and there are only a few companies in the entire world that have the know-how, machinery, and patents to build them. Everyone else must either secure an agreement for the use of a certain model, or re-purpose one that is readily available.

BelQuette incorporated Epson’s DX5 print head into its DTG design plan because of its high resolution and speed capabilities. Not only was the DX5 a very high quality product, but it was also fairly inexpensive, making its use competitively advantageous. After a few very successful years of manufacturing the Flexi-Jet, which was the industry’s first Epson 4800 based flat-bed printer, BelQuette leadership decided to take the things they had learned about DTG printing, and build a faster, and more robust DTG model. One very key thing that was learned from tests during this transition was a proprietary process by which direct to garment ink could be filtered, degassed, and bagged, optimizing its potential in the Epson print head. This proved to be very helpful in reducing clogs and maintenance. When BelQuette introduced the Mod1 printer, it was seen as a major advancement in direct to garment, and set a new standard for the industry in regards to ease of use and maintenance.

Since the time the Mod1 was brought to market nearly 4 ½ years ago, new printers claiming advancements and simplicity have come along. But users continue to confirm that the Mod1 with its re-purposed Epson DX5 print head, and its proprietary BelQuette bagged, degassed, and filtered ink system, is one of the least expensive to operate, and easiest to maintain direct to garment machines available today.

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Posted by on in DTG Industry

We'll be heading out today for our next trade show, ISS (Imprinted Sportswear Show) Fort Worth.

Why do we go to trade shows?

1) We display our products and talk about our company.

2) Potential buyers get a taste of what to expect with our technology.

3) To get the word out about DTG!

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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.
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Customer, "My DTG printer is not working!!!" 
BQ Support, "What seems to be the problem?" 
Customer, "I can't keep the ink flowing and I constantly am getting head clogs!" 
BQ Support, "What does your wiper blade look like?" 
Customer, "Where's the wiper blade?....."
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