When approaching the world of Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, there are generally two primary schools of thought:
- Using a series of smaller, inexpensive Epson conversions for volume production.
- Using a single, large industrial machine for volume production.
Of course, each approach has its own pros and cons, but in this article we hope to explain why we feel that the first option is the more logical approach for small, medium and even large size businesses. There is nothing wrong with going the second route – many people have done so and succeeded! However, in terms of getting the most BANG for your buck, we firmly believe that our scalable production model is the way to go.
Each DTG printer has a maximum production rate, per machine. At a certain point, you will (hopefully) max out the production capacity of any given machine – when that time comes, it is important to understand the cost for scaling up your business model. When you purchase a large, expensive printer, you are essentially forced to come up with a similar investment just to raise your production limits.
With smaller, inexpensive DTG printers, you are able to scale up over time, incrementally – as you hit your production ceiling, it won’t cost a fortune to raise it as needed. This makes for a much smoother growth curve as you expand your business!
While a single, larger machine may seem to make sense for faster production, all is not always as it seems! Often times, equipment which costs significantly more will only produce a marginally higher number of garments, per hour. It is important to evaluate the true production limits of your selected machine, per dollar spent…… For instance, if you are going to spend $25k on a machine which can print 30 dark garments per hour, it is important to determine how many comparable prints-per-hour you can achieve when spending the same amount on a collection of less expensive printers. As an example, for several thousand dollars less than the hypothetical $25,000 investment amount, you can actually purchase 3 KatanaDTG EXPRESS printers which would produce the same number of prints, per hour, while providing a myriad of additional benefits!
ALL DTG PRINTERS FAIL AT SOME POINT, OR REQUIRE HEAVY MAINTENANCE TO RECOVER FROM DOWNTIME! With a large, expensive single machine, you are subject to unexpected downtime whenever any single component goes bad (a little ink where it is not supposed to be, a random power surge, general wear-and-tear, etc) – nothing is more devastating to a print company than to suddenly not be able to print. If your machine has onboard pretreatment and the nozzles clog, your entire system is down until you resolve the situation. If a print head goes bad, you are stuck until you can get a replacement (hopefully you are smart and keep spare parts on the shelf, to minimize unexpected downtime). Regardless of the cause, every DTG printer is going to have its rough patches.
If you achieve a comparable production rate with several smaller, less expensive machines, you are almost never at risk for full, catastrophic failure. When one machine is down, you simply continue producing on the remaining machines until the issue can be resolved! While you may lose a small fraction of your production capacity, you can continue fulfilling orders for your customers and ensuring everyone is taken care of.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Oftentimes, the cost to purchase a number of smaller machines (with a comparable cumulative production rate) is the same, or even less than the cost to purchase a single, expensive DTG printer. While this can make the decision a little easier, it is also important to understand the long-term cost of ownership for any given model. Our KatanaDTG printers are designed to be incredibly affordable right out of the gate, but also throughout the life of the machine! Every single part built into our system is affordable, and the majority of key components are standardized parts which can be purchased through a wide range of third-party suppliers. With most of the larger, more expensive systems, the cost for nearly every component is greatly inflated and you are extremely limited in regard to sourcing options. Good look finding printer components on the open market!
Additionally, our machines are built with quick-swap print modules, because our philosophy is that the actual print engines should be practically disposable – meaning that after a certain amount of time, it is simply less expensive to purchase a replacement module than to continue trying to keep a very old print engine alive in the field. Of course, in order to prolong the life of any given print module, you can easily and efficiently replace any component in the system for an incredibly reasonable cost, but at a certain point it makes more sense to simply start fresh. Our base systems are designed to be robust and durable, intended to last a very long time – since it is the print engine itself which is exposed to the greatest amount of general wear-and-tear, it makes sense to design it as an easily disposable “consumable” part. This doesn’t mean it won’t last a long time, in the field – we have print modules which have seen use and abuse for nearly two years and they are still kicking! However, when the time comes, the cost to start fresh will be marginal.
Regardless of which path you take, you are almost certainly going to require significant support to ensure your long term success in this industry. Whether you pay $100,000 for your printer or $10,000, if you want someone to provide on-site service you are going to need to pay for it. Some companies offer an expensive warranty package, which allows for on-site service and no direct involvement from you, when it comes to swapping out parts. However, if you exceed your warranty period and don’t want to pay a bunch of money to extend it, you are likely going to find your operating costs have skyrocketed to an unbelievable level.
While we offer a great warranty on our products, if you want or need a dedicated tech to visit you “on site” for additional service or training, the option is certainly available! The idea is that with the money you save on your initial investment (along with long term operating costs), you will be in a much better position to purchase additional support, when necessary.
Additionally, we are a company which was built BY printers, FOR printers – our team has been active as “end users” in the field for over a decade, so the training and information we offer comes from legitimate experience, rather than sales rhetoric and hype. Understanding what you are in for, as well as how to manage the process in the real world, is vital to your success.
Which path you choose is up to you, but it is important to take a moment to evaluate what you can actually get, when comparing equal buying power! Your production rates “per dollar spent” may be considerably different between different systems, including equipment at all price levels. More often than not, when comparing the “dollars and cents” value between larger and smaller printers, the more affordable approach seem to lean in favor of multiple smaller units. Of course, the added production redundancy is an incredible benefit, and the lower operating and ownership costs can sometimes make the difference between long term success and failure.
Trust in KatanaDTG to provide the common-sense approach to this industry, providing top-quality printing equipment for a lower cost while ensuring top quality printing and smooth, scalable production capability!