New Direct-to-Film Entrants Is a Strong Signal That the Technology Is Here to Stay
A quick look at fresh devices from Mimaki and Roland
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It’s been about three years since direct-to-film (DTF) inkjet transfer first came to the decorated apparel market, and the technology has certainly exploded. However, the market (to this point) has been dominated by systems originating from China that use Epson printheads as well as Chinese-made textile pigment inks and hot-melt powders.
In the early days of direct-to-garment (DTG), desktop Epson print engines were modified into printers that could print onto a garment. But the technology did not take off until Brother, Epson, and Kornit developed purpose-built DTG printing systems. Of course, STS Inks has been partnering with Mutoh for some time on the DTF front with their 24" XPD-724 and the newer 64" XPJ-1682D.
Now, two new DTF entrants have emerged. As both Mimaki and Roland announced new DTF printers aimed to capture a portion of this growing market, it begs the question: “Will more brands dive into the DTF realm and bring further validity to the technology, and strengthen its presence?”
Mimaki announced its new TxF150-75 DTF printer during its Mimaki Innovation Days virtual event earlier this month. The chassis is from the popular CV100-150 printer; however, the device will not come with the option of a fully integrated powder shaker/curing system and (according to Mimaki) it has no plans to introduce these components in the short term. Several core Mimaki technologies are included on the TxF150-75, such as white ink circulation, automatic nozzle checks for clogged nozzles, and nozzle recovery that compensates for clogged nozzles. The product is scheduled to launch in April 2023, with commercial availability in May.
|Overview of the TxF150-75 from Mimaki|
Roland DGA Corporation showed its new VersaSTUDIO BN-20D Direct-to-Film System at the Impressions Expo in Long Beach, CA (Jan. 20-22) that provides a solution for small businesses and Etsy type marketplaces. The system consists of specially formulated S-PG inks in CMYK and white, S-F164 direct transfer film, and S-POWDER direct transfer powder. The BN-20D has a maximum print width of 18.9" and can also be used as a standalone vinyl cutter, allowing users to expand their application offerings. The BN-20D will sell for $6,495 USD.
|Roland DGA Corporation’s new BN-20D DTF printer|
DTG Vendors Promoting DTF
We’ve also seen DTG vendors promote the ability of their devices to print DTF transfers, mostly in sheet form. But a prototype DTF roll-to-roll device from Brother was being shown in the MHM booth at the recent Printwear and Promotion show in the UK. The device uses the well-established GTX Pro print engine modified to feed film via a roll-to-roll media system. There is no inline powder shaker/curing station being offered by Brother at this time and the device is due for launch later this year.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
Without question, the adoption rate of DTF is unlike anything the decorated apparel industry has seen in quite some time. While many Chinese DTF vendors originated three years ago, we are finally starting to see notable movement from well-known brands like Mimaki, Roland, and others who are introducing their own DTF printers.
It is our opinion that others are also in the process of developing their own solutions to bring to market with unknown timelines which makes this area exciting, and one to watch. Could movements like these from big vendor names into developing a DTF solution signal a shift in their strategy? The rationale driving this could be as simple as DTF is an attractive market and rapidly growing. With COVID further behind us, perhaps it’s time to break the Chinese hold over the DTF market—and these developments from Mimaki and Roland send a strong signal.
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