Direct-to-Garment Print Makes a Great Impression

A brief recap of the Impressions Expo - Long Beach show



Johnny Shell


Didn’t get to attend Impressions Expo - Long Beach? Here is a quick recap of major highlights from the show floor.


The show took place at the Long Beach Convention Center (Long Beach, CA) from Jan. 21-23, 2022. As one of the largest gatherings of apparel decorators across the globe, it provided a way for attendees to connect face-to-face with exhibitors and gain insights on technology developments and applications, visit with blank goods manufacturers to see and touch new styles of blanks, as well as learn tricks of the trade to improve operational efficiency in their business. The show covered a full-range of embellishment platforms (screen printing, DTG, embroidery, direct-to-film (DTF), dye-sublimation…) as well as the full range of consumables that go with them.


Attendance and Onsite Events Were Better Than Expected

Overall, the attendance and vibes were well above my expectations. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect given this was the first time the show had been held since before the pandemic started. I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of traffic on the show floor, not to mention the energy level of the attendees. After 2-years without a major show, the exhibitors I spoke with were very pleased with the turnout, in-booth traffic, and quality of potential leads they met. While the number of exhibitors was less than the previous year’s, there was still plenty to see and experience.


The Onsite Learning theater offered free, 45-minute sessions on a full range of topics—from marketing success to understanding new and innovative technology. The Shop Talk theater (another free opportunity) offered 20-minute sessions with authorities in the industry that shared their expertise. In the Innovation Zone, attendees could see the entire manufacturing life cycle of a printed garment. Regular demos showcased a range of DTF printers and other digital technologies such as dye-sublimation and DTG printing. Paid seminar and workshop sessions appeared to have good attendance for the wide range of topics offered.


Photo courtesy of Emerald Expositions

Varied Technology at Impressions Expo Shows Great Interest

DTF printing is the new buzz in the decorated-apparel industry, and it was very clear that several manufacturers are moving to this technology. Numerous exhibitors showcased DTF equipment packages that included a printer, film, software, adhesive powder applicator/shaker, and a dryer. Companies such as All American Print Supply Co.,, Graphics One, McLaud Technology, and Printomize America all showcased DTF technology.


I was particularly interested to see, who showed the CobraFlex line of DTF printers that require no powder adhesive—a new solution for PET transfer film. With this system, the transfer adhesive prints at the same time as the white ink pass, eliminating the powdered adhesive process and the dust it can generate.


NuSign Supply showcased what they called a film-to-garment (FTG) printing solution that featured fluorescent ink that glows under blacklight conditions. The process incorporates specialized film and an FTG fixation-fuser unit that applies hot-melt powder adhesive evenly onto the printed film. The adhesive is then cured and the finished transfer is applied using a heat press.


Coveme highlighted its Kemafoil KTR heat-transfer release films, which are polyester-based and specifically designed for screen printing, digital printing, DTF printing, and casting systems. Kemafoil features special surface receptivity, transparency, humidity resistance, as well as antistatic and anti-blocking properties. The company also showcased “green” solutions, including KTR films made from recycled PET as well as its closed-loop recycling project.


DTG and dye-sublimation printers were also widespread across the show floor. Epson showed their F2100 and F3070 DTG devices, as well as a wide range of their dye-sublimation printers: SureColor F170 (8.5”), SureColor F570 (24”), and the SureColor F6370 (44”). Roland showed their XT-640 DTG printer that can print 12 shirts at a time and Mimaki showed their TS100-1600 (64 in. wide) dye-sublimation printer. OmniPrint International showed their dual platen, industrial grade Cheetah DTG printer; their new i2 DTG printer; and the Freejet DTG. ROQ showcased the ROQ Now oval machine with onboard pretreat that combines a “Part A” spray application at one station and a “Part B” solution that is jetted with the white ink pass.


Many DTG exhibitors were also showing the ability to print DTF transfers using their DTG printers. This extends the capability of a regular DTG printer by allowing embellishment to be done on a wider range of fabric materials (polyester, nylon, blends) using the same printer.


FIREBIRD Digital Inks showcased the FIREBIRD Industrial Processing system, an automatic pretreatment solution that features a washer-extractor and two dryers to pretreat up to 288 shirts in one hour—including 100% cotton, 50/50 blends, tri-blends, and polyester. Compatible brands include Gildan, Next Level Apparel, BELLA + CANVAS, and A4. The machines feature customized programs that are optimized for direct-to-garment printing, variable extraction speeds, and pretreatment recycling to ensure minimal waste. The system contains one pretreat machine and two dryers, all manufactured by Miele and modified for the FIREBIRD Industrial Processing system. debuted its 100% pretreated blanks for DTG printing. The blanks include basic cotton and premium ring-spun styles as well as tri-blends, polyesters, hoodies, and long-sleeve t-shirts. Available brands include Independent Trading Co., Gildan, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Next Level Apparel, Cotton Heritage, and BELLA + CANVAS.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

It was obvious that strict health and safety measures were in place for everyone in attendance. Emerald Expositions, the organizer of the Impressions Expo, did a superb job ensuring everyone’s safety by having all registered attendees and exhibitors show proof of full vaccination (or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result) before entering the convention center. All attendees and exhibitors were required to wear a face mask, and most everyone was compliant.


I give kudos to the entire Impressions Expo team for not only going forward with the Long Beach show, but also for their remarkable execution of the event during a difficult time. After such a long hiatus, it was great to see the industry come together. Next up is Impressions Expo-Atlantic City (March 24-26, 2022), and I’m sure there will be great energy and buzz like the Long Beach show.


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