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DTG and Screen Printers – A Match Made in Heaven?

An analysis of screen printers who have decided for and against DTG integration.




THE FUTURE OF apparel embellishing is rapidly evolving before our very eyes. Coupled with an unprecedented ecommerce boom, digital direct-to-garment (DTG) technologies have enabled consumers to personalize apparel like never before. This revolution is causing many print service providers (PSPs) to reimagine how they will do business moving forward. While some DTG PSPs are solely digital printers servicing online consumers, others are traditional screen printers that are hoping to capitalize on the benefits of DTG, including short runs, no pre-press setups (film/screens), no ink mixing or press setup time, an unlimited number of colors, and high-resolution output.

This might cause some to wonder how many screen printers have actually purchased DTG equipment. Among those who did purchase, what were the top factors that contributed to that decision? Are they satisfied with the results? What are their future plans for DTG, and will they continue to expand their digital capabilities? For those screen printers who have not yet purchased DTG equipment, why haven’t they done so? Are they considering the purchase of these devices in the future? Keypoint Intelligence and Screen Printing magazine recently conducted a survey among screen printers to find out the answers to these questions and more.

Key Survey Findings

About a Third of Screen Printers Have Digital Printing Devices

According to our survey of 100 hundred respondents, the vast majority (94 percent) own screen printing press equipment. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of respondents own digital printing equipment only with no screen printing capabilities. Of those respondents who do own screen printing presses, 32 percent own DTG devices, toner transfer devices, or both.

Figure 1: Types of Devices Owned

pie and bar graph

For those respondents that only owned digital printing equipment, the types of devices included dye sublimation, toner transfer, and DTG.

Top Purchasing Factors: Print Quality, Ease-of-Use, Print Speed

Among owners of DTG printing devices (excluding toner-transfer), the top three factors determining which brand and model to purchase were: print quality, ease of use, and print speed. Next was purchase price, showing that this is not the top factor when choosing a printer – albeit still important, nonetheless.

Figure 2: Top DTG Purchasing Factors

DTG and Screen Printers – A Match Made in Heaven?

When these same respondents were asked about the print quality factors that were most important to their businesses, the top responses included washability/durability, vibrant colors, print resolution, and print hand feel.

Figure 3: Top DTG Print Quality Factors

DTG and Screen Printers – A Match Made in Heaven?

Most DTG Owners Are Satisfied with Their Devices

Roughly 60 percent of surveyed DTG device owners say their devices met or exceeded their expectations and rated them as excellent or good at the time of purchase. Among the remaining 40 percent of respondents that were not completely satisfied and gave fair or poor ratings, the top reasons included trouble-shooting printer errors and problems, overall reliability, and ease of maintenance/repair. Not far behind were training/tech support and printhead performance (e.g., streaking, banding, clogging).

Figure 4: Satisfaction with DTG Devices

DTG and Screen Printers – A Match Made in Heaven?

Near-Term Plans to Purchase Additional Equipment

Of those respondents that own DTG devices, half plan on purchasing additional DTG equipment in 2021. Roughly 70 percent of respondents that plan to make purchases expect to acquire commercial printers.


Meanwhile, respondents that do not own DTG devices and have no near-term purchasing plans were asked why this was the case. The most common reasons included lack of customer interest, quality concerns, and reliability/ maintenance/TCO expenses. Not far behind were cost per print and lack of interest in handling small runs.

Figure 5: Near-Term Purchasing Plans

DTG and Screen Printers – A Match Made in Heaven?

The Bottom Line

DTG printing technology has made modest inroads with traditional screen printers. At the same time, however, the majority of screen printers still don’t offer digital, and the transition continues to be a work in progress. DTG can be complex and difficult to integrate without the right business model, clientele, and an understanding of digital printing’s modern-day capabilities. Many screen printers have misconceptions about DTG from a quality and reliability standpoint based on past experience and word of mouth. It’s essential for PSPs as well as equipment OEMs to continue educating each other on the innovations required to grow their businesses together. Knowledge is power – and in this analyst’s opinion – knowledge of current DTG technologies should be at the top of everyone’s list.



Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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