The major benefits of DTG is being able to print full color prints with short runs. For example a photograph will print exactly like the photo assuming we are printing from a high quality, high resolution jpg or png file.
DTG has been around for over 15 years but has yet to be perfected.
Why not? For starters printing on black or dark colored shirts require the shirts to be pretreated with chemicals which will allow the ink to bond with the garment. This part of the process is called pre-treating. Pre-treating alone is a science, if shirts have too much or too little pre-treatment the print will not hold up and possibly wash out.
DTG however does work well with white or light colored garments, and most times do not require pre-treatment.
DTG prints best on 100% cotton t-shirts. Blends and other fabrics could be used, but the inks in these print systems are water based inks, which are designed and work best with cotton.
Not all 100% cotton t-shirts are created equally.
Different manufacturers dyes and cotton process can determine the overall print quality. For example, Alstyle brand shirts are NOT recommended with DTG. During a recent print test, we tested printing the same design on a Black Gildan 6.1 oz 100% Cotton Tshirt, with the same type of shirt made by Alstyle. The print was night and day. The Gildan turned around vibrant, while the Alstyle turned out dull and washed out. Only explanation, cotton mill and coloring process of the t-shirts are not compatible with the pre-treatment and inks of the DTG printer.
Also difficult or unusual print locations may not be possible with DTG because we would need to pre- treat those specific areas. For example below the back of the neck on tank tops or t-shirts, versus the center of the back of the shirt is a much easier location. Once we've pre-treated the small unusual or non-traditional print area in one machine, we would need to make sure that we hit the same exact unusual/non-traditional print area on the 2nd machine/printer. Very difficult process.
One last thing to notice is the size of the printer and the pre-treatment machines. As you can see in the picture they aren't that big. In the DTG picture you see a t-shirt being loaded into the printer, and in the Pre-Treatment machine you slide a box open and tuck the shirt into the tray. Imagine trying to get a hooded sweatshirt, a jacket, or anything other than t-shirt into these machines, you can, but you sacrifice print quality and potential print errors. You know what happens when you have print errors? The garment is wasted, money is wasted, profits lost.
DTG is an awesome print process but has a lot of limitations. Other issues like ink heads clogging, ink lines clogging, humidity factor, ink pricing, etc, etc, etc, with that and everything mentioned above this industry is light years away from being as simple as insert t-shirt into machine, press button, and wear.