Business Advice

No minimum order: the growth of DTF decoration

by FESPA Staff | 13/03/2024
No minimum order: the growth of DTF decoration

Andy Rogers at Stahls’ UK and Europe, garment decoration firm based in Braintree, UK and Dillingen, Germany, on the cost and speed benefits of direct to film (DTF) printing.

What are the benefits of DTF printing? Where does it fit in the production mix?

DTF transfers are great for short runs of transfers. Whereas before the minimum order was 10, now there is no minimum. This means that you can say yes to a job no matter the size. 

What is the minimum of run lengths that make DTF printing cost-effective?

The best thing about DTF prints is that the minimum order is just 1. To achieve the most profit with transfers, we recommend using DTF transfers for jobs between 1 and 20. After this, to achieve maximum profits we would recommend using a plastisol transfer for 1 to 3 colour jobs or UltraColour transfers for full colour solutions. DTF minimum run length is one, for screen/plastisol it is 10.

How many pieces of print do you need to do before the new machine pays for itself?

If you are going to start using heat transfers in your business, and you have selected a partner to provide the transfers, it is important to get a high-quality heat press machine.

These machines pay for themselves very quickly. The cost to own a top of the range machine is from less than £1 a day. This calculation is based on the machine warranty. In this instance, the heating element has a 30-year warranty and the framework is five years. To be more conservative, we used the framework. In this case, the cost of the press (£1,720) is divided between those five years: around 94p a day. But in reality it would last longer. Paying off is possible with between 110 and 600 shirts for the most expensive heat press.

What do you need to think about when ordering a good-quality heat press?

Time and temperature are the control variables. Cheaper heat presses do not have these control points. For a press at the top of the range you can expect lasers or projection mapping of your transfers.


What will a transfer stick to – is there a limit to its breadth of applications now or in the future?

As a result of the investment that Stahls’ has put into new transfer technology[GR7] [AR8] , there are now no limits when it comes to application. So long as the textile you are fusing onto can take heat, then there is a transfer that can be applied. For a transfer made at home, you could expect the transfer to last 20-25 washes. A premium transfer would last the lifetime of the garment: more than 80 washes and it would still look as vibrant and colourful as the day it was created.

How can DTF help sustainability/reduce waste?

By adopting Heat Print On-Demand as a production method, there are no more wasted garments. You only print what you need and order what you need, reducing unnecessary inventory overhead. With premium-made custom heat transfers you also get long-wash [GR9] [AR10] guarantees (more than 80 washes at 30°C). At Stahls’ we are proud to produce heat transfers that last the lifetime of the garment. All UltraColour transfers are also printed with water-based inks[GR11] [AR12] . UltraColour Max in the US has just been OEKO-TEX approved, and the same is expected to happen in Europe in the near future.

What are the cost efficiencies?

DTF allows you to not only reduce material cost but bring down production and turnaround time significantly. If you have a trusted transfer partner, and you start to order hundreds or thousands of transfers, you should be able to expect prices to come down even further. For a customer that orders 5,000 left chest prints for fanwear or fashion brands the transfer cost will come down to 7p. Price breaks are normally 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 1,000 and 5,000. This is why the fastest growing decoration method is heat printing.

How is DTF printing technology progressing in comparison with DTG and conventional screen printing?

DTF technology is progressing very well. Because of our bespoke DTF machinery, we can now offer same-day shipping on DTF transfers when ordered by 8am. We have also noticed due that many printers are turning to our UltraColour technology because of the flexibility it offers for fabric types.

With some print technology, there will always be restrictions on colours and fabric, but due to the low fuse temperature of UltraColour transfers its allows greater flexibility in the products that can be offered to customers. Polyester, and especially recycled polyester, can often mark or get a ‘press box’ when fused above 130°C/140°C, but by using a low temperature transfer (120°C) you can avoid marking or getting a shine on the garment.

What is the most important thing to remember when ordering heat transfers?

The most important thing when ordering heat transfers is being able to choose the right product for the right job. DTF transfers are great for orders of 20 or less. But most of our customers find that after 20 units they prefer to switch to UltraColour technology to get better price points.

Is it possible to address the question of breathability to avoid the ‘sweat patch’ effect?

Most of the problems with sweat patches occur from big or thick (higher micron) transfers – sometimes because they will need a blocker. With a premium transfer, using a screen or digital screen technology, you can expect a lighter, thinner transfer that minimises this effect.

by FESPA Staff Back to News

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