ISS 2019 Event Ushers in New DTG Printing Solutions

Ron Gilboa
Jan 28, 2019

With over 400 exhibitors, a range of educational sessions, and many hands-on demonstrations, this year’s Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS) was held at the Long Beach Convention Center from January 18 – 20, 2019. As always, the event’s attendees came eager to learn about the latest innovations in technologies, materials, and processes. Navigating the show floor during the exhibition, visitors were exposed to new direct-to-garment (DTG) printing solutions, a range of shop management solutions, and continued innovations that improved the material handling process.

On the technology side, we’ve seen a wide variety of new and revamped products that support the continued demand for mass customization. With great fanfare and champagne in hand, vendors in the Kornit booth unveiled the new Atlas device. Featuring 70% improved productivity, Kornit’s latest high-speed solution includes a full range of Industry 4.0-ready process controls that are designed to improve uptime, reduce user errors, and maximize productivity. The Atlas device incorporates Kornit’s latest Eco inks, which offer lower odors and better binding capabilities on a range of substrates.

During the event, there were a few other suppliers in attendance that are likely to challenge Kornit’s dominance. Some examples include OmniPrint, which was showcasing its newly released Cheetah Industrial D2 device. This double-tray CMYKOG +W machine uses 8 Ricoh heads and is capable of printing a typical dark shirt in about 35 seconds.

Another brand-new solution highlighted at ISS 2019 was the Smart-450 by PhotoUSA. This dual-tray system sports a shirt hearer (iron) inline, ensuring that this CMYK and 4x White device can produce 54 – 120 shirts per hour.

The DTG printing market is quite competitive, so new players and veterans alike are working to make an impact. These solutions are designed to enable producers at all levels to reduce costs, increase uptime, and expand the range of materials they offer to their clients. For example, Epson demonstrated polyester printing, Ricoh recently introduced its Ri1000 that prints a full A4 in a mere 28 seconds, and Brother announced the addition of new features to is flagship GTX system. Roland was a new entrant to the category this year with its VersaSTUDIO BT-12, a sub-$5,000 all-inclusive DTG printer for retail and small production facilities. Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends has also been made aware of the quality and flexibility of the next-generation products by Polyprint, including the TexJet echo3. This device features revamped electronics, improved usability, and range of inks and pretreatments to accommodate most users’ needs.

Another group of products that captured our attention were the new hybrid, or carousel, integrated solutions that were on display during the show. These devices represent different approaches to hybrid printing. For example:

  • ROQ showcased its hybrid system configured with two synchronized units—one for printing a white base and the second for printing CMYK and 2 extra spot colors. These units were tied in with a web interface that can drive a different image for each shirt. Once loaded onto the carousel, shirts are pretreated, dried, ironed, and made ready for inkjet printing.

  • The DailyJet 4060 by Bihong (Taiwan) was an example of another approach on display at the event. This device is also integrated with a carousel, but it offers CMYK-only printing.

It was also very interesting to see OKI Data’s offerings at the show. These included the Pro9541, a new specially tuned printer for direct transfer applications; New Silkscreen transfer EXOSTENCIL media by Neenah Paper for creating transfer to screen in high resolution mesh; and an upgrade that brought its Pro8432 series printer from CMYK to CMYK+W for décor applications.

Joining OKI Data in this space, UniNet Imaging demonstrated its toner transfer application. In addition, the company also unveiled a unique solution based on sublimation transfer via electrophotographic process with its iColor 350. The unique output of this device creates new opportunities for sublimation print jobs that are not inkjet-based.

It is also important to touch on a trend that we first observed a few years back and is now in full swing—DTG printing on synthetics. Synthetic fabrics represent a challenge for inkjet and electrophotographic technologies alike. On the inkjet side, we are happy to report that most equipment and materials suppliers are developing solutions for polyester printing, as evidenced by the brilliant samples from Aeoon during the event. With good washing to remove dyes and full immersion in pretreatment, we saw a range of sample polyester prints from Epson, Ricoh, Brother, and many others at the show.

These developments are made possible suppliers like DuPont, who have introduced new pretreatment options that enable the adhesion of pigment ink to polyester garments. Additionally, companies like OKI Data have released technology that reduces the fusing temperature of toner, enabling adhesion to polyester without damage from overheating. Meanwhile, Direct Color Systems incorporates UV technology to accommodate fabrics commonly used for DTG without the need for pretreatment on light or dark shirts.

Although the technology snapshot from ISS 2019 was certainly impressive, we also saw evidence from the show that shop management, creative design, and web enablement are now becoming available to providers of all sizes. For example, Dream Junction developed the Application Program Interface (API) to enable shop management with design, job tracking, and fulfillment capabilities. The company offers API to its partners for use on its web-based storefront. Many others have taken the cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) route. This is the case with Ricoh, which has partnered with Inklocker. Through this partnership, Inklocker integrates all the elements in the supply chain (including ordering, design, and fulfillment tracking) and also provides access to a network of members who support each other with capacity or extra resources.

With a similar intent, SAGE enables shops to source supplies across a range of raw material suppliers with its total access solution. SAGE also provides clients with easy web designs and order tracking. The company serves as a broker between producers and their supplies for as low as $49 per month.

For $199 per month with unlimited seats, InkSoft provides a new generation of cloud-based solutions for sales and shop management. With rapid prototyping, visual design, and product catalogs, this solution features easy template-based designs, an integrated shopping cart, and a full e-mail-based notification system to provide updates on process stages. The InkSoft system provides full tracking capabilities and invoicing for shop managers. It is complemented by 1:1 training and onboarding, as well as video tutorials and free ongoing technical support.

Printavo was also at the show demonstrating its stoical shop management solutions. These include all the elements that a shop manager needs to establish and track interactions with clients and manage the supply chain as well as back-end operations. Printavo is a cost-effective cloud-based platform that can provide different levels of support for as low as $99 per month (Starter program). The Standard package is priced at $149 and includes many of the back-end tools required for order fulfillment. For those seeking a custom solution, the company also offers a Premium program that is priced based on individual specifications.

We also saw the Würk solution the OmniPrint solutions area. This is another example of an all-inclusive shop management tool that offers a range of features such as shop management, promotion, design, and product catalogs just to name a few. The company’s cloud-based plans include a range of features starting at $79 for a basic plan with up to 500 orders, a $299 pro plan with up to 1,000 orders, and an Enterprise plan for $399 for unlimited orders. In addition to order limits, the plans have some variations on features. More information is available on the company’s website.

ISS 2019 provided a great opportunity to experience some of the technologies that have cropped up over the past several years. Producers large and small are now able to compete in this rapidly evolving market, enabling creative solutions and timely production on an ever-expanding range of substrates. Keypoint Intelligence believes that the 12% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) predicted in our most recent Direct-to-Garment forecast will be fueled by many of the technologies discussed here.

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