I.T. Strategies - 3/13/2008
Direct-To-Garment Ink Jet Printers: Expanding the Decorated Garments
Hanover, MA…March 2008… Over the last few years, a new class of ink jet printers has been introduced to the
garment decoration market: Ink jet printers that have a platen/bed for printing directly onto finished garments such
as T-shirts. The majority of these ink jet printers use aqueous-based pigmented ink that allows direct printing onto
cotton garments. Inks are heat set to fix the image. I.T. Strategies estimates that the retail value (what customers
pay for the final product) of the garments printed by direct-to-garment ink jet printers will increase from an
estimated $3 billion in 2007 to more than $12 billion by 2010. These water-based ink jet printers will open up the
market to new types of print shops as well as support an Internet-based retailer model – the real market driver
because of the access to the consumer market.
The worldwide installed base of direct-to-garment ink jet printers is forecast to grow from more than 12,000 in 2007
to almost 51,000 by 2010. More than 90% of the installed base will be low-end (<$50,000 sale price) printers,
which are expected to grow from just under 12,000 units in 2007 to more than 48,000 by 2010. The installed base of
high-end direct-to-garment printers is expected to reach almost 2,500 by 2010.
Print Providers Fall into Three Categories
The types of companies that will purchase these direct-to-garment ink jet printers fall into three categories:
1. Those companies such as screen printers and embroiderers that are already in the direct-to-garment decorating
business using screen printing or embroidery
2. Those companies/individuals that are printing T-shirt transfers today with thermal transfer or color
electrophotographic (laser) printers and copiers
3. New companies/individuals, such as internet retailers and photographers, that have never participated in the
garment decoration market before
New Type of Establishments
Direct-to-garment ink jet printers have opened up the decorated products market to new types of establishments that
in the past would not have considered embroidery, screen or digital transfer printing. These establishments include:
• Internet-based retailers, such as CafePress and Zazzle. These companies are redefining the way that
decorated products, especially T-shirts get to the market by bringing together buyers, sellers and designers
in virtual communities. Over time this business model will have more of an impact on the market as buyers
will expect to be able to purchase small runs of custom designs and get them almost immediately – in some
cases shipped within 24 hours of receiving the order any time of the day and any day of the week. They are
open 24/7. Online photo companies such as Shutterfly do not appear to have direct-to-garment ink jet
printers yet, but it would appear to be a natural extension of their current business.
• Photographers and artists who today are not doing this type of work at all or if they are, are using screen
printers or Internet-based companies to produce their work. An I.T. Strategies 2007 survey of more than
1,500 photographers with ink jet printers used for photo printing revealed that 50% of them are in some way
interested in an ink jet printer that can print directly onto finished garments.
• School photographers/portrait studios, many of whom are already involved with digital printing, especially
with ink jet.
• One-hour photo shops.
• Quick printers who are already serving the public with documents and signage.
• Copy shops in stores such as Staples and Office Max.
• Retailers such as Wal-Mart or Kmart that could use a template-based or kiosk system to offer short runs of
customized/personalized products to their customers. These retailers would more than likely not consider a
screen printing operation and may currently be customers of screen printers or embroiderers.
• Event printers, a new group of digitally-based companies that travel with their printers to events such as
state fairs, pet shows, horse shows, air shows, car shows, weddings, family reunions, corporate
events/outings, sporting events and more. These printing companies are using laser imagers, wide format
ink jet printers and direct-to-garment printers to produce product at the point of purchase.
• Entrepreneurs/home-based businesses looking for new opportunities. These would comprise work-at-home
parents, retirees looking to make extra money, and others starting small businesses such as a current screen
print shop employee looking to get out on his/her own.
According to Patti Williams, consulting partner at I.T. Strategies, "The growth of the flatbed ink jet segment is based
on the fact that there is an existing market for printing on T-shirts. Flatbed ink jet printers for printing directly onto
finished garments will be bought by current garment printers/decorators such as screen printers and embroiderers.
Ink jet printers are already and will continue to be purchased by companies new to garment decoration such as
Internet retailers CafePress and Zazzle, event printers who will take an ink jet printer to events such as state fairs,
sporting events or pet shows and print garments on site, and photographers that see an additional income stream by
offering their images on garments and bags."
I.T. Strategies, Inc. is an established research and consultancy firm dedicated to serving companies in emerging
digital printing markets. The company delivers intelligent data, analysis, strategy, and implementation practices to
vendors in the digital printing industry around the world. From offices in Boston and Tokyo, I.T. Strategies conducts
research and surveys, delivers data and analysis, offers interpretation and advice, identifies specific opportunities,
and helps organizations implement these strategies to achieve effective solutions.