Thinking Of Buying A DTG Printer? Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Get One

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You may have heard how easy Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing is, how DTG is the future and how to earn $1,000,000 a year in doing DTG business. Before you jump onto the DTG bandwagon, here are 5 reasons why you should not get a DTG.

1. High Upfront Cost

Let’s talk about the setup.

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A DTG printer can cost about $20,000 and can go up to $250,000 depending on the scale of your business. 

DTG requires pre-treatment; therefore you need a pre-treatment machine ($3,000-$4,000) and pre-treat solution ($50 – $100 a gallon). 

You would also need to buy a heat press ($1,000-$2,000), a computer and the RIP software for your DTG print to work (about $1,000). 

Then you have the ink. 20 oz of DTG ink costs around $220 per cartridge, while you can get 5 gallons of plastisol ink for the same price. This will significantly affect your pricing as DTG printing is much more expensive than screen printing.

Altogether, you need an initial investment of at least $26,520 in equipment for DTG. And that is before your business even started! When you finally get your printing business up and running, you have another set of problems to consider.

2. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance

What your DTG salesman may not tell you is that your DTG machine needs to run cleaning cycles daily even when your machine is not running. No exceptions.

There are daily maintenance tasks you have to do if you don’t want your DTG machine to cause any problems.

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For example, if you don’t clean your print head daily, the ink will clog it up, and you will have to spend hundreds of dollars on replacing them altogether. 

Another thing to note is that the white ink bottles need to be shaken before usage. This is because white ink contains titanium dioxide that doesn’t stay emulsified for long, and the solids will sink to the bottom of the bottle. If you don’t shake them well, the solids will be pulled through the print heads, and it will cost you a lot more than just ruined print heads. We’re talking about wasted shirts with streaky or muddy prints, which costs you time and money.

The Waste Tank is where all the ink goes from head cleaning. The tank fills up pretty quickly throughout the day, and given that ink is expensive, you can spend up to $1,000 of wasted ink per month.

3. Slow Production Speed

While DTG’s “no setup required” perk is great for small orders, it has diminishing returns when you use DTG for larger orders. DTG printing is actually much slower than traditional screen printing. It is just that DTG doesn’t require setup, unlike screen printing, where the process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. This makes DTG printing very expensive for an order of a few dozen compared to screen printing.

Combined with the high ink costs, this strongly limits DTG to print-on-demand, retail, and for low-volume customers. Which leads us to our next point.

4. Different Customer Needs

DTG and screen printing customers are fundamentally different. Screen printing customers generally have high-volume orders, simpler designs with a few colors. DTG customers lean towards orders that are print-on-demand, retail, and low-volume. 

If you own a DTG and have more high-volume customers looking for screen printing prices, you will end up losing more money than earning due to the slow production speed and high operations cost. You have to consider the type of customers you have and decide which printing is more suitable.

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If you own a DTG and have more high-volume customers looking for screen printing prices, you will end up losing more money than earning due to the slow production speed and high operations cost. You have to consider the type of customers you have and decide which printing is more suitable.

5. Hard To Scale Business

With the high cost of equipment, ink, labor, and customer acquisition makes it hard to scale and it is a huge risk for a fledgling business to take on. 

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Slow production time means that labor will be a significant factor in determining how much business you can generate on your first DTG machine. To increase production speed, you may consider buying another DTG machine or hiring more employees to help you work around the clock to keep up. 

Customer acquisition will also be difficult. Unless you already have your own brand and have a customer base that can cover your costs on the go, you are going to find yourself split between generating sales outside and running your DTG business while also staying competitive. 

Plus, your production distribution will be uneven throughout the year. There are weeks where you will not have any orders coming in, and then suddenly you have eight high-volume jobs that need to be done by the end of the week. It is just how business works in this industry.

Conclusion

If you are just starting and you look at DTG as a way to earn money without knowing about the printing process, then DTG is not for you.

But if you already have an established print-on-demand, low-volume customers that can cover your high costs, or you are looking for a DTG machine to supplement your printing/design business, you can reap the benefits of owning a DTG machine.

COO & Principal Engineer at

Jason founded YoPrint to build the best-in-class print shop management software. Having previously owned and operated a large scale print shop, Jason utilizes his vast industry expertise to create the perfect software for all print shops.