Research from Businesswire - a Berkshire Hathaway company - reports that the global textile printing market will reach 28.2 billion square meters by 2026, while the data in 2020 was only estimated at 22 billion, which means that there’s still room for at least 27% growth in the following years.
The growth in the textile printing market is mainly driven by rising disposable incomes, so the consumers especially in emerging countries are gaining the ability to afford fashionable clothes with attractive designs and designer wear. As long as the demand for clothing continues to grow and the requirements become higher, the textile printing industry will keep thriving, resulting in stronger demand for textile printing technologies. Now the market share of textile printing is mainly occupied by screen printing, sublimation printing, DTG printing, and DTF printing.
Screen printing, also known as silkscreen printing, is probably one of the oldest textile printing technologies. Screen printing appeared in China and was largely introduced to Europe in the 18th century.
To finish a screen printing process, you need to create a screen that is made of polyester or nylon mesh and is stretched toughly on a frame. Then, a squeegee is moved across the screen to fill the open mesh (except parts that are impermeable to the ink) with ink, and the screen will touch the substrate instantly. At this point, you may find that you can only print one color at a time. then you will need several screens if want to make a colorful design.
Friendly to Large orders
because costs for creating screens are fixed, the more units they print, the lower costs per unit.
Excellent Printing Effects
Screen printing has the capacity to create an impressive finish with vibrant colors.
More Flexible Printing Options
Screen printing offers you more versatile choices as it can be used to print on almost all flat surfaces such as glass, metal, plastic, and so on.
Unfriendly to Small Orders
Screen printing requires more preparation than other printing methods , which makes it not cost-effective for small orders.
Costly for Colorful Designs
You need more screens if you have to print multi-colors which makes the process more time-consuming.
Not environmentally friendly
Screen printing wastes a lot of water to mix up inks and clean the screens. This disadvantage will be magnified when you have large orders.
Sublimation printing was developed by Noël de Plasse in 1950s. With the continuous development of this printing method, billions of transfer papers were sold to the users of sublimation printing.
In sublimation printing, sublimation dyes are transferred to the film first after the printhead heats up. In this process, the dyes are vaporized and are applied to the film instantly and then turn into a solid form. With the help of a heat press machine, the design will be transferred to the substrate. The patterns that are printed with sublimation printing last nearly permanent with high resolution and true-colored..
Full-Colored Output and Long Lasting
sublimation printing is one of the methods that support full-colored output on garments and hard surfaces. And the pattern is durable and lasting nearly permanently. Easy to Master
It’s just taking simple steps and is easy to learn, making it very friendly and suitable for newbies
There are Restrictions on Substrates
the substrates need to be polyester coated/made of polyester fabric, white/light-colored. Dark-colored items are not suitable.
the sublimation inks are costly which may push up prices.
sublimation printers may function slowly which will slow down your production pace.
DTG printing, also known as direct to garment printing, is a relatively new concept in the textile printing industry. This method was developed commercially available in the 1990s in the United States.
The textile inks utilized in DTG printing are oil-based chemistry that requires a special curing process. Since they are oil-based, they are more suitable for printing on natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, and so on. Pretreatment is required to ensure the fibers of the garment are in a more suitable condition for printing. The pretreated garment can be more fully integrated with the ink.
Suitable for Low Volume/Customized Order
DTG printing takes less setup time while it can consistently output designs. It’s cost-effective for short runs due to less up-front investment in equipment compared to screen printing.
Unrivaled Print Effects
The printed designs are accurate and have more details. Water-based inks combined with suitable garments can exert their maximum effect in DTG printing.
Quick Turnaround Time
DTG printing allows you to print on demand, it’s more flexible and you can turn around quickly with small orders.
DTG printing works best for printing on natural fibers. In other words, some other garments like polyester garments may not suitable for DTG printing. And the colors printed on the dark-colored garment can appear to be less vibrant.
Pretreating the garment takes time and will affect production efficiency. Besides, the pretreatment applied to the garment may be defective. Stains, crystallization, or bleaching might appear after the garment is heat pressed.
Unsuitable for Mass Production
Compared to other methods, DTG printing relatively costs you more time to print a single unit and is more expensive. The inks can be costly, which will be a burden to buyers with a limited budget.
DTF printing (direct to film printing) is the latest printing method among all methods introduced.
This printing method is so new that there’s no record of its development history yet. Although DTF printing is a newcomer in the textile printing industry, it’s taking the industry by storm. More and more business owners are adopting this new method to expand their business and achieve growth due to its simplicity, convenience, and superior print quality.
To perform DTF printing, some machines or parts are essential to the whole process. They are a DTF printer, software, hot-melt adhesive powder, DTF transfer film, DTF inks, automatic powder shaker (optional), oven, and heat press machine.
Before executing DTF printing, you should prepare your designs and set the printing software parameters. The software acts as an integral part of the DTF printing for the reason that it will ultimately influence the print quality by controlling critical factors such as the ink volume and ink drop sizes, color profiles, etc.
Unlike DTG printing, DTF printing utilizes DTF inks, which are special pigments created in cyan, yellow, magenta, and black colors, to print directly to the film. You need white ink to build up the foundation of your design and other colors to print the detailed designs. And the films are specially designed to make them easy to transfer. They usually come in sheets form (for small batch orders) or roll form (for bulk orders).
The hot-melt adhesive powder is then applied to the design and shook off. Some will use an automatic powder shaker to improve efficiency, but some will just shake the powder manually. The powder work as an adhesive material to bind the design to the garment. Next, the film with hot-melt adhesive powder is placed in the oven to melt the powder so that the design on the film can be transferred to the garment under the functioning of the heat press machine.
Designs created by DTF printing are more durable because they are scratch-resistant, oxidation/water-resistant, high elastic, and not easy to deform or fade.
Wider Choices on Garment Materials and Colors
DTG printing, sublimation printing, and screen printing have garment materials, garment colors, or ink color restrictions. While DTF printing can break these limitations and is suitable for printing on all garment materials of any color.
More Flexible Inventory Management
DTF printing allows you to print on the film first and then you can just store the film, which means that you don’t have to transfer the design onto the garment first. The printed film can be stored for a long time and can still be transferred perfectly when needed. You can manage your inventory more flexibly with this method.
Huge Upgrade Potential
There are machines like roll feeders and automatic powder shakers that help to upgrade the automation and production efficiency greatly. These are all optional if your budget is limited in the early stage of business.
The Printed Design is More Noticeable
The designs transferred with DTF film are more noticeable because they have firmly adhered to the surface of the garment, you can feel the pattern if you touch the surface
More Kinds of Consumables Needed
DTF films, DTF inks, and hot-melt powder are all necessary for DTF printing, which means that you need to pay more attention to remaining consumables and cost control.
Films are not Recyclable
The films are single-use only, they become useless after transferring. If your business thrives, the more film you consume, the more waste you generate.
Why DTF Printing?
Suitable for Individuals or Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
DTF printers are more affordable for startups and small businesses. And there are still possibilities to upgrade their capacity to mass production level by combining the automatic powder shaker. With a suitable combination, the printing process can not only be optimized as much as possible and thus improve bulk order digestibility.
A Brand Building Helper
More and more personal sellers are adopting DTF printing as their next business growth point for the reason that DTF printing is convenient and easy for them to operate and the print effect is satisfactory considering there’s less time needed to complete the whole process. Some sellers even share how they build their clothing brand with DTF printing step by step on Youtube. Indeed, DTF printing is especially suitable for small business to build their own brands since it offers you wider and more flexible choices no matter the garment materials and colors, inks colors, and stock management.
Significant Advantages over Other Printing Methods
The advantages of DTF printing are very significant as illustrated above. No pretreatment is required, faster printing process, chances to improve stock versatility, more garments available for printing, and exceptional print quality, these advantages are enough to show its merits over other methods, but these are just a portion of all the benefits of DTF printing, its advantages are still counting.
How to choose a DTF printer?
As for how to choose a suitable DTF printer, we have another article
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The market for traditional labor-intensive screen printing has experienced growth thanks to steady population growth, and residents' growing demand for clothing. However, with the adoption and application of digital printing in the industry, conventional screen printing is facing fierce competition.
Growth in digital printing is attributed to its ability to address technical limitations that are inevitable in conventional printing applications, and its use in small-volume productions involving varied and customized designs, which proves to be a weakness of traditional screen printing.
Sustainability and wastage of textiles have always been a major concern of cost control problems in the textile printing industry. Additionally, environmental issues are also a major criticism of the traditional textile printing industry. It’s reported that this industry is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. While digital printing allows enterprises to print on demand when they have to complete small order production and to keep their business in their home country without having to relocate their factories to other countries where labor is less expensive. Therefore, they can guarantee the production time in order to follow the fashion trends, and reduce shipping costs and excess wastage in the design process by allowing them to create reasonable and quick print effect tests. This is also a reason why the search volumes of the keywords “screen printing” and “silk screen printing” on Google have dropped 18% and 33% year over year respectively (data in May 2022). While the search volumes of “digital printing” and “DTF printing” have increased by 124% and 303% year over year respectively (data in May 2022). It is no exaggeration to say that digital printing is the future of textile printing.