Patterson Printing in Bridgeview, Illinois has been screen printing for many years. We have been very successful in these areas, however more and more clients were asking for more challenging jobs. They would ask for 6 shirts with 4 to 5 colors in print. We could screen print it but that would be very challenging and time consuming for such a low quantity job. We never want to turn down a client or a job so these situations became increasingly urgent to resolve.
In 2013 when we had been experiencing more and more of these jobs coming in, it became a major importance for me to figure out a better way to print these items. I had known about DTG (direct to garment) printing for many years but hadn't decided to dive in for several reasons. Some of those reasons were the high cost of the machine, the very new technology, a completely new industry and nightmares I had heard of from other printers. Since DTG first arrived in 2007, those issues were major reasons for being cautious about purchasing such an expensive machine. By the time 2013 came around, I felt confident that most of these issues had been resolved. I did my research comparing ink cost, print speed, part replacements etc. and I decided to purchase a MP10i Anajet DTG printer. Of course I was excited and I understood that there was a learning curve, but boy oh boy did I struggle.
Understanding the pre-treatment, trying different brand pre-treatments, different shirt styles and manufacturers, different colored shirts turned out to be quite the challenge. It took several months to become fairly decent at getting a sell-able t-shirt. However, the biggest problem was the printer. Anajet at the time didn't have field techs, they only had on-line support. Having someone work on my printer required me to drive 2 hours each way and often leave my printer there. It broke down a lot; not due to me printing, but it was simply a poorly designed machine. After a year and a half I was able to get the company to come to me and have a loaner printer on standby for me at all times. This wasn't easy to do, but there was no other choice for them.
It has been about a year since Anajet agreed to work with me, and since then all of my hopes and dreams of doing DTG printing are coming true. All of the short runs, whether 1 color or full color are sent to that machine, while our screen printing department is humming with all the larger jobs we have coming in. I would say that DTG printing in itself is not super profitable in comparison to screen printing, but it is convenient and allows me to handle all jobs no matter how small they are. The convenience alone makes my business more profitable since my screen department is not distracted by inconvenient jobs.
In recent times, companies like Brother and Epson have developed their own machines for DTG printing which makes me wish I had waited, but hindsight is 20/20. It has made us a better company due to the challenges we faced along with the influx of new customers. The good thing is, that new customer that needs 5 shirts done today on our DTG machine may need 144 of them down the road.
If you wanted to order a shirt with this many colors 5 years ago, the minimum number to order would have been 24 pieces. With DTG printing you can order only 1 if needed.