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What's inside a DTG printer

What's inside a DTG printer and why does it matter. It is true quality does cost more, but it should not be disproportionally more.

Know your printers roots

Its common knowledge the highest number of DTG printers sold are using Epson piezo technology. Over the years various print engines have been used to deliver the ink onto the fabric. Some are classed as industrial other simply claim to be, this can play a big part in the cost of the print bar used and the RRP of the complete printer and what is included.

Today’s standards are very high, the print quality from most DTG printers today are almost as good as paper prints. Speed is all pretty much the same, claims of 27 second prints and less ink usage all have caveats when printers are compared side by side and the true figures revealed. My point is, don’t be flannelled by sales patter, check-up for yourself, you will rarely find a sales rep to question false information they gave you once their job is done !

When researching DTG printers there are a few important key points to research.

  • Ink delivery systems, bulk or cartridge based, cost per litre of white ink.
  • Transport systems, automatic height selection or manual adjustment.
  • White ink circulation, included, extra, complete loop through the cartridges.
  • Dampers used in the printer, industrial or domestic.
  • Platform used, industrial or domestic.

Ink delivery system
The system used to deliver the ink to the print head will have some bearing on the end cost of the ink. The most economical is bulk ink or refillable cartridges. Throwing away a plastic cartridge with a chip attached is not only more expensive, it has an impact on the environment. Good quality bulk ink systems are not cheap to manufacture, high grade plastics with zero leech effect on the ink, as used in medical grade culture growing equipment are the best but obviously the most expensive.

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Transport system
This one is a biggie, designing a flatbed transport system capable of rewind printing (two pass, white then colour) is no easy feat. Perfect mechanical registration is very hard to achieve when using a fixed bed. In time wear and tear will increase the chance of a fixed system showing poor registration. Twin belt drives are proven to be more accurate as they do not rely on the mechanism being perfectly inline or level in order to rewind correctly for the second pass.

White ink circulation
Without a doubt the single most important factor in successful DTG printing with white ink. Let's be clear on this, I am not talking about a pressurised system, this is very often used to baffle people and gloss over the fact circulation is not in place. A pressurised system is usually to aid the flow of ink to the print head when a complex labyrinth of pipes and bends is present in the printer. The best circulation systems will move the ink through the entire route it takes on the journey to the print head. This includes travelling in and out of the storage tank / cartridges. Some of today's intelligent systems only circulate when the printer is idle for a period of time. It is important the system still works when the printer is switched off with the power on and will automatically start after a power cut. Some older systems forced automatic head cleans to compensate for the lack of circulation. This did combat ink drying in the cap station but it increased waste dramatically.

Check the circulation system you are considering goes through the whole system including the storage cartridges. Without this you will need to remove the cartridge’s and shake the ink on a daily basis. This puts the seals in the printer at risk of leaking air due to dried ink congealing on the receptors.

A complex filter containing a non-return valve that feeds the print head with ink on demand. Many companies have tried to introduce non genuine dampers, on the face of it they save money. In real terms they cost you a lot more, a leaking damper can destroy an expensive print head in minutes. To demonstrate the difference between an industrial and domestic damper I have included two images.

You can see from the size of the filter mesh and ink chamber on the industrial damper why they will work for longer, they offer the head a consistent feed of ink and have a much larger chamber to collect particles in the ink that are to big to jet. The smaller damper is a domestic version designed for low cost home style photo printers like the current Epson 3880 model. These will block and need changing on regular time scale when white ink is used.

The conclusion here, bigger is better where dampers and white ink are concerned.

The printing platform
Commonly known as the print engine, this is the heart of the machine. It is very easy to see what you are getting once you know the model of print engine. Some companies will try and hide the base unit model, I see no reason for this unless there really is something to hide.

Check the cost of the printer you are looking at before modification. If it is available retail off the shelf it is generally not industrial. A good example of this, although the current R-Jet 5 is an Epson based printer, the print engine we use in manufacture is not available to buy on the high street. This in no way proves others are inferior, what it does mean, it is better suited to be used on a commercial level than a printer built around a domestic low cost printer. 

The conclusion here is, with DTG you get what you pay for, but some are charging a similar price for a lesser printer. At the end of the day it will be your choice which system to go for, please do your research not only on the printer but on the company who supply and support it.

Support and training will be very important with a new DTG venture. Resolute DTG will always try to help anyone, if you are having problems please do call us. We dont bite and you dont need to be an R-Jet user to get free advice.

Article Last Updated : 25/6/2014