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DTF vs DTG: Which Yields Higher Profits for Printing Business?

DTF VS DTG

In the printing industry, the debate rages on: DTF vs. DTG, which is better? For printing businesses seeking to broaden their product range with DTF printing or entrepreneurs considering their options, it’s essential to grasp the variances, benefits, and drawbacks of each technique. To equip business owners and entrepreneurs with the insights needed to make informed decisions, this post would explore factors like cost, production efficiency, return on investment, market demand, and future trends. With this knowledge at hand, you can determine which printing method holds the potential for higher profits in your business.

Reture On Investment

Before delving into the specific costs associated with each printing technique, it’s important to consider the return on investment (ROI) when selecting different solutions. When choosing the right printing solution for your business, you’re essentially setting expectations for print quality, productivity, durability, and other factors. Therefore, rather than focusing solely on monetary returns, we aim to highlight the expected benefits your business can gain from your investment.

Fabric Types

When it comes to fabric compatibility, Direct-To-Film (DTF) printing is versatile and suitable for almost all fabric types available in the market that can withstand heat pressing. In contrast, Direct-To-Garment (DTG) printing is limited to cotton and a few select blends. If your business involves handling various fabric types regularly, DTG may not meet all your business demands.

Color Vibrance

Both DTF and DTG printing provides bright and vibrant colors. The problem is that as DTG print directly on garment, the color would start fade over time. DTF, on the other hand, use film as design carrier thus are popular for vibrant color and intricate details for longer lifespan.

Durability

DTF printing is renowned for its exceptional durability and flexibility. When cared for and washed properly, prints created through DTF can endure for the entire lifespan of your T-shirts. In contrast, DTG prints may start to deteriorate after undergoing harsh washing treatments.

Hand Feel

Since DTG prints directly on the garment, they offer a soft and natural hand feel, along with great breathability, making them ideal for sports team apparel. On the other hand, while DTF prints have become softer and more comfortable in recent years, they can still impart a slight plastic feel. Therefore, for designs with large print sizes, DTF printing might not be the preferred choice.

Productivity

The pre-treating and curing process involved in DTG printing makes it less ideal for bulk production, especially when compared to the typically faster process of DTF printing. While this may not pose a significant issue for printing-on-demand orders, it can noticeably slow down overall production for small to medium-sized orders.

Ease to Use

Compared to DTG, DTF typically has a shorter learning curve for business owners who already have experience with other printing techniques. Additionally, DTF setups are generally simpler. Furthermore, with the proper setup, DTF enables business owners to automate the printing process, producing ready-to-press transfers with minimal human intervention.

Versatility

One of the biggest advantage of DTF over DTG is the fabric versatility. While DTG works best for pure cutton fabric, DTF works on most fabric types you could find in the market. And how does DTF work enables DTF to be used for printing on locations that are considered impossible for DTG, fox example, uneven surfaces like hats, shoes, bags,etc.

Affordability

When considering affordability, it’s essential to factor in not just the initial setup costs, but also ongoing expenses such as supplies and maintenance. These collectively impact the daily operational costs for businesses, making it crucial for owners to assess them over the long term. In terms of cost-effectiveness, DTF emerges as a favorable solution in various aspects. Typically, DTG printers entail significantly higher upfront costs compared to DTF printers. Additionally, the expenses associated with DTG ink can be nearly double that of DTF ink for the same capacity. Moreover, the pre-treatment solution required for DTG printing is also costly. Furthermore, when comparing maintenance expenses, DTF proves to be more economical. DTF printers have fewer components to maintain, and the ability to replace printheads and parts extends the printer’s lifespan. Additionally, DTF generally involves lower labor costs compared to DTG, further contributing to its affordability.

Cost Analysis

We have just explored the benefits and returns on investment for both DTF and DTG printing methods. Now, let’s delve into the precise costs involved in starting a printing business with both of these techniques.

Equipment Costs

For DTF Printing, the general steps include printing the transfer with a DTF printer, manually applying powder, curing the film and powder with a swing-away heat press, and transferring the design with a heat press machine. Therefore, the essential equipment would include a DTF printer and a swing-away heat press machine. The cost for a decent starter DTF printer could be around $1800, and a heat press at $800, so the total cost for essential DTF equipment could be around $2600. As $2600 could be the minimum cost, you might also choose to pay extra to get a powder shaking machine with curing function to automate the whole process and boost productivity.

For DTG printing, the process includes pre-treating, drying, printing, and curing. Business runners could choose to manually pre-treat, then use heat press machines for drying and curing, with a DTG printer and heat press machine being the minimum equipment required. A standard DTG printer can cost anywhere from $13,000 to $25,000, making the least cost for starting a DTG printing business around $13,000 plus the cost of a heat press machine, totaling $13,800. It’s five times the cost of DTF printing.

Material Costs

If you are already in the textile printing business, you might be aware that consumables represent a significant portion of your daily operational costs. If you are contemplating expanding your business and transitioning to DTG or DTF printing, this becomes the second crucial factor to consider. The main consumables for DTG and DTF are ink, and the general cost of DTG ink is considerably higher than that of DTF ink. For example, you may find a 1L bottle of Brother DTG printer ink priced at $89, while the same quantity of DTF ink could be $50 or more, depending on the quality standards.

In DTF printing, a thin layer of white ink is applied as the base color for the design on the garment, whereas DTG requires the white ink to saturate the garment. As a result, DTF requires less white ink—about 40% compared to 200% for DTG printing. Since white ink is typically the most expensive, reducing its usage can result in significant cost savings.

Labor Costs

Another crucial aspect to consider in cost analysis is the labor requirements for DTF and DTG printing. In terms of DTF, utilizing a smart powder shaking machine with integrated curing function allows business runners to benefit from automation and obtain ready-to-press DTF transfers. The only labor required may involve the initial setup and the heat press process. For small-to-medium batch orders, business owners can tend to other tasks while printing, significantly boosting efficiency.

On the other hand, DTG printing can be more complex. For instance, it may involve three rounds of heat pressing: the first after pre-treating for drying, the second before printing to eliminate any wrinkles and moisture, and the third after printing for ink curing. All these steps necessitate human intervention. Additionally, manual pre-treating may be necessary if a machine is not used. In DTG printing, users must be present throughout the entire process, leading to lower productivity compared to DTF printing.

Production Efficiency

Having examined the intricate costs, let’s now turn our attention to the production efficiency of these two printing methods, as the overall profitability hinges on both the expenses incurred and the output achieved.

As DTF eliminates the need for pre-treatment and drying, it significantly reduces production time. This is particularly advantageous for one-off or small-volume orders that would traditionally not be profitable.

In DTG printing, the hourly output typically ranges from 10 to 20 shirts, whereas with DTF printing, it can be between 20 to 50 shirts. Based on an 8-hour workday, this translates to 160 shirts for DTG and 400 shirts for DTF printing. In practical terms, DTF enables business runners to produce an additional 240 shirts per day.

Considering the costs, a customized shirt printed with DTF printing amounts to approximately $8, which, if sold at $12, yields an additional profit of $4 per shirt. Multiply this by the extra 240 shirts produced daily, and you get a whopping $960 more in profits generated with DTF printing compared to DTG printing. It’s important to note that this is a rough calculation, but it illustrates the significant difference.

Conclusion

In the battle of DTF vs DTG, it’s clear that DTF emerges as the winner, offering superior return on investment, cost-effectiveness, and production efficiency. The benefits of DTF printing outweigh those of DTG in every aspect, from initial setup costs to daily output and overall profitability. For print entrepreneurs looking to maximize their profits and streamline their operations, DTF is undoubtedly the way to go. So, if you’re tired of being held back by the limitations of DTG printing, it’s time to make the switch to DTF and unlock your business’s full potential.

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