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Finally – An Independent Test Service for the DTF Market

Keypoint Intelligence shares details on recently launched DTF test program.

by David Sweetnam, Director of Lab Services, Keypoint Intelligence

Every tradeshow is awash with DTF devices from baby desktop devices costing less than $10K up to $1.6m carriage juggernauts with integrated powder/curing units that can take up half a print shop. Until now, it has been impossible to get a true gauge of how they perform relative to each other; there are no ISO performance standards to reference, no standard test files to use for ink use, or quality comparisons, and washability tests that have never seen a washing machine or tumble dryer!

Enter Keypoint Intelligence

For more than 60 years, Keypoint Intelligence has built a globally respected reputation for delivering independent, trusted testing programs across a range of digital imaging equipment categories. These include everything from desktop office printers to production presses and wide-format signage equipment. 

We launched our direct-to-film (DTF) test program in 2023. The service is proving to be a great hit in this fast-evolving space, with many of the biggest names keen to seize the unique opportunity to showcase their product performance and be seen as open to independent scrutiny. While some buyers of DTF equipment may be seeing the Keypoint Intelligence (and/or Buyers Lab) brand for the first time, the same is not true for the major blue-chip vendors in the market, many of which have worked with us for many years – just Google “BLI Pick Awards” to see how vendors love to boast about winning our awards.


Pre-Planning Is Essential

Tests are conducted at the manufacturer’s facility over a two-day period. Vendors are provided with the test files and sample T-shirts (Next Level 3600 white and black 100 percent cotton) so they can establish optimal performance conditions.

Consistency in Print Settings Demanded 

Tests are conducted in both production and highest quality modes to demonstrate a device’s performance in a typical day-to-day operation mode – and when at its absolute best. The vendor selects the settings for these two modes. Importantly, the same settings are consistently applied (when assessing the mode) across all four key criteria (productivity, image quality, ink consumption, and washability). Too often we see messaging around productivity, image quality, and cost of print (ink use) that is impressive individually, but you know it is not based on the device printing in the same mode. This inconsistency can leave readers to guess the true relationship between mode and performance soundbite.  


Speed – For single sheet devices, we use a 320 x 350 mm vector graphic. Timings are taken from when the printhead starts to print on the film to when the printhead finishes printing. For roll-to-roll devices, we use a 540 x 450 mm target image with the printhead set to travel the entire width of the film.  

Ink Consumption – We use a standard 320 x 350 mm graphic. Ink consumption data from the RIP is recorded when printing in both speed settings in white and black T-shirt mode. We also test waste ink consumption when conducting printhead maintenance routines. 

Image Quality – Evaluation covers many areas of IQ including gamut size, spot color matching, fine line and font detail, and halftone/vector graphic reproduction. Color gamut and spot color matching are measured using XRite spectrophotometers and profiling analysis software. Fine lines and fonts are assessed using a magnification loop. Halftones and vector graphics are judged by two lab analysts in D50 light conditions, at a viewing distance of two feet.

Washability – Wash tests are conducted using household devices, washing is conducted at 30ºC and 800rpm, and drying (using a heat pump tumble dryer) is set to a hang-dry sensor setting. Color gamut shrinkage, color drift, font break up, and halftone degradation are assessed over 20 washes using both single-press and two-press (using silicone sheet) preparation.


Each device tested receives a detailed 12-page report, which contains all the data gathered over the course of testing. The reports are published on our site,

At the end of the year we meticulously examined the performance of all the devices tested to date, analyzing the spread of results, from the best to the worst, for each area and chose our Picks in various device categories.


The top-performing devices, which delivered a consistently high level of performance across our challenging test criteria were honored with a Pick Award. This award type is reserved for products that excel across the entire range of our tests – being quick is not good enough on its own if the wash results are poor, just as outstanding wash results will not suffice if the quality of output is substandard.  

We also consider design and technology innovation in our evaluations as they can offer key benefits to users in terms of business efficiency, reliability of performance, excellence of output, and increased profitability potential. 

Award winners are carefully selected to ensure that they deliver excellent performance and set the standards for others to aspire to. 


Over the course of 2024, we will be running a series of group tests to provide more education to this fascinating marketplace. Each group test will investigate a different factor that can affect successful DTF production. The first test starting up in Q1 looks at washing factors and how they can impact garment durability. Ever wondered what happens if you crank up the temperature to 60 degrees or leave the spin cycle at the 1200rpm setting? This group test will investigate a selection of DTF devices. Other group tests will look at factors like garment brand, film selection, desktop film ovens, and more.

To receive more information on our test services to book a free test or to receive a sample report please contact

This article was originally published via Keypoint Intelligence.

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