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Keypoint Intelligence Unveils a Cutting-Edge Testing Program

New direct-to-film program offers thorough evaluations.

By Johnny Shell, Principal Analyst, Keypoint Intelligence

The direct-to-film (DTF) business is booming and is taking big chunks of business away from the commercial direct-to-garment (DTG) industry. For those unfamiliar with DTF the technology in essence is a five-step process: 1) an image is printed onto a transfer film, with a white ink mask applied after the colored inks; 2) an adhesive powder is applied, which sticks to the white ink; 3) the film is cured (heated) to seal the image and adhesive powder to the film; 4) the film is laid over a garment with heat and pressure applied using a heat press; and 5) the film is peeled off the garment with the adhesive and image transferring to the garment. DTF is seen by many as an attractive alternative to DTG (where ink is applied directly to a garment) due to its lower running costs and the far wider range of fabrics/substrates that it supports.

The Achilles heel of DTF as a technology when it first appeared was reliability, with customer support and device build quality also playing a major part in the resistance of many to make the switch. The reason was (as was the case for the DTG market) that the early devices were not coming from the established blue chip print vendors after years of painstaking research and development. Instead, they were typically devices “cobbled together” using Epson i3200 printheads scavenged out of wide-format printers, using fabric inks that had not been designed to go through the printheads and utilizing adhesive powders and films with “suspect” manufacturing consistency.

However, the game is changing, the early adopters are learning from their mistakes and the blue-chip vendors, who initially thought DTF was a short-term fad and would fade away, have now recognized that DTF is here to stay and have entered the fray.   

As the market heats up, there is now a real need for buyers to get an objective, unbiased opinion around how these devices perform. At a trade show, it is almost impossible to gauge relative performance from one DTF device to another as every vendor is printing different images and transferring on different garments using settings you cannot typically review in detail. There is no industry standard test file for assessing ink consumption or productivity and washability performance, as anyone in the garment decoration industry knows, varies enormously based on the garment fabric itself and washing conditions.

Enter Keypoint Intelligence’s new direct-to-film testing program, designed to use a standardized testing procedure of DTF printers to produce data for a true “apples-to-apples” analysis of key printer performance factors and demystify some of these business-critical factors.

“What Is Tested?” Glad You Asked!

Testing focuses on four key performance areas: productivity, image quality, ink consumption, and washability. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  • Productivity (How much money can I make?): A standard test file is printed in draft, production, and high-quality modes, and the print area per hour is calculated.
  • Image Quality (How good are they going to look?): A wide variety of quality factors are assessed across the different quality modes. Color gamut (how big a color space is available to reproduce challenging images), Color Accuracy (can the device match corporate logo colors), Text and Fine lines when the devil is in the details, and of course halftone and vector image reproduction.
  • Ink Consumption (How much are they going to cost?): The amount of ink consumed when printing a standard test file in draft, production, and high-quality modes. Waste ink during a standard cleaning cycle is also documented. This will provide the industry’s only directly comparable dataset when assessing this critical profitability factor.
  • Washability (Are my customers going to be happy with their purchase?): Consistency is delivered courtesy of using a standard image file, T-shirts (black and white) supplied by one vendor (Next Level) from a single manufacturing batch and standard wash/dry equipment and settings located in the UK’s test lab. Degradation of color space, color accuracy, text legibility and image reproduction are all recorded over 20 wash/dry cycles providing buyers with critical quantified washability data you won’t find anywhere else.

Where Can I See the Results?

When testing is completed, data is analyzed and results are compiled in a report and presented to the vendor for review and comment. After that, the final reports will be published in our Textile & Apparel Printing Service (TAPS). To learn more about TAPS and how you can gain access, please click here.

An Invaluable Benchmark to Help Sales Today and Enhance Future Product Development Tomorrow

Some vendors could stop struggling to prove the quality, performance, and cost of their DTF hardware and start using the experts at Keypoint Intelligence. Our testing service allows vendors to benchmark their current and future devices against our database based on their customers’ buying criteria of quality, productivity, and costs. Our ISO-certified labs allow vendors to validate their product’s quality, performance, and costs claims through an independent third-party testing service. Vendors’ sales and marketing teams can be armed with crucial differentiators of their DTF printers that can set them apart from their competition. Additionally, any negative findings could be fed to their R&D departments for future improvements.

If you’re interested in having your DTF or DTG devices tested, contact us to submit your product(s) for testing by clicking here. Log in to the InfoCenter to view research on DTG, DTF, and digital textiles in addition to market forecasts, show recaps, and market updates from our Textile & Apparel Printing Advisory Service.

This press release was originally published via Keypoint Intelligence.

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