By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Direct to garment (DTG) printing is an ideal alternative to screenprinting because of high-quality prints and cost-effective ink sets. Not only does DTG printing serve personal branding needs but it also caters to event coordinators, staff apparel, and sports teams.
Apparel Printers Plus
Founded in 2004 in Victor, NY, Apparel Printers Plus started in a 10×10-foot room with one employee. The shop offered wrapping and finishing work in upstate NY and PA with a major focus in apparel printing for high schools and colleges.
Today, Apparel Printers Plus has a work area of 2,200 square feet with four employees. The shop offers DTG printing on accessories, bags, caps, infant and toddler clothing, outerwear, sweatshirts, and woven shirts. It also produces promotional products like awards, corporate gifts, glassware, magnets, pens, and technology accessories.
Tim Maher, owner, Apparel Printers Plus, says the shop is a company that was never supposed to be. Maher originally worked for corporate America as an operations consultant until the economy dropped. At the time, he was a founder of Victor Varsity Hockey. “We positioned the school to have a hockey team and we had to buy uniforms—that’s how I started printing,” he says.
Maher quickly found printing enjoyable and found work at a local print shop—later using his accounts to begin Apparel Printers Plus. The shop’s primary clients were high schools and colleges as well as corporate apparel and products until Maher changed the company’s focus after reviewing the economy.
According to Maher, the sports uniform business is a difficult market for long-term work due to layoffs and high competition.
After reviewing market shares and determining which print industry the shop wanted to enter, Apparel Printers Plus purchased a Brother International GT-541 DTG machine in 2007. The GT-541 uses four colors to print directly from a computer or flash card. It has a maximum printing area of 14×16 inches and uses water-based pigment inks.
In 2012, the shop added a Brother GT-361 printer with CMYK and two white printheads for printing on light and dark garments. The GT-361 allows for both the white under base and CMYK inks to be printed in one pass. Its industrial printheads print up to 1,200 dpi or 600 dpi in fast print mode. The printer features a 16×18-inch print area and uses GT-3 water-based inks.
Maher says the shop exclusively uses Brother ink after trying a different brand, which clogged the printheads. “We have a great relationship with Brother and our sales representative—just from purely working together and figuring things out. They have been responsive to us when it comes to inks and products,” he offers.
For apparel, the shop uses alphabroder and SanMar as suppliers. In the DTG space, Maher notices that technical clothes like Under Armour and Nike sports apparel are trending. “People want this product now. We’ve had some real luck running the Sportek fabrics,” he explains. Sportek International distributes activewear, elastic, fleece, functional, and stretch fabrics.
To ensure clients receive the best quality printed apparel, Apparel Printers Plus performs wear and wash tests. According to Maher, when the shop bought its first DTG printer, he was told it was impossible to print on nylon. After experimenting with inks and pretreatments, he found a solution that worked. “If you play with it long enough, you’ll figure it out,” he offers.
In 2017 Apparel Printers Plus completed a job for a mid-sized tree removal company that requested 36 staff shirts. “Their expectations were low because they were trying so hard to keep their head above water,” explains Maher.
The client provided the logo and requested matching colors with the provided graphics. The shop used Corel Corporation software for the design file, which Maher says easily picked up the art.
Apparel Printers Plus printed on the Brother GT printers with Sportek fabric. Maher says the GT-361 was ideal for this job because the shirts had a fading gradient into a dark color and required white ink. “I looked at a lot of equipment and they do the best with this type of job,” he adds.
The job took two weeks to complete despite the printer’s average DTG turnaround times ranging between seven and ten business days.
“As a whole, between Brother’s equipment and ink and good staff and software, our people take a lot of pride and like to tinker. We always pull new things together and make new designs,” he says.
The client was pleased with the completed 36 shirts and even wrote an online review for Apparel Printers Plus that stated the shop delivers in customer service and the product was beyond expectations.
Print shops like Apparel Printers Plus invest in the latest digital print technology to keep a variety of clients satisfied with DTG printing. In this space, print providers can take advantage of unlimited design potential like dark colors and fading gradients.
Oct2017, Digital Output