Approximately 420,000 Reasons to Consider Direct-to-Film Today

Approximately 420,000 Reasons to Consider Direct-to-Film Today

Did you know that 62% of printing businesses have already or plan to adopt DTF within the next three years? Discover why.

Meet Jimmy Smith, #15, who plays shortstop in a community baseball league that includes five divisions, 50 teams, approximately 600 players (and innumerable parents, siblings, and fans). Every player in this community baseball league receives the following each season: Two jerseys and two baseball caps in home and away colors, one canvas sports bag, one neoprene water bottle carrier, and one nylon cinch backpack for a total of seven items, each customized with player last name and team number.

The seven items each player receives become 4,200 custom printed items that this one community baseball league needs – not to mention the additional “Smith #15” swag that Jimmy’s parents, grandparents, and siblings want –  and that’s just one baseball league. There are 10 baseball leagues in the town that Jimmy Smith lives in and roughly 60,000 baseball players who will need approximately 420,000 custom items printed by Opening Day each April, and football season is even more popular (closely rivaled by basketball)!

And while Jimmy Smith #15 may be a fictional character, the events described above are absolutely taking place throughout the United States and across the globe – and are precisely what printers are missing out on without direct-to-film, or DTF, printing capabilities.

As Millcraft Garment and Textile Print Sales Manager Eric Deem says, “Many printers associate DTF with cotton shirts, but it allows printers to create so much more than just t-shirts and hoodies. The materials possible with DTF, and the gamut of the types of products that can be made, are nearly limitless.”

Deem, who brings 20 years of experience in digital printing and apparel solutions to Millcraft, says he opens the greater conversation around DTF by asking printers, “How would you like to add another $100,000 GP to your bottom line this year, working about four hours a day?”

With 62% of printing businesses stating they have either already implemented or plan to adopt direct-to-film printing technology within the next three years, according to a survey conducted by Smithers market research firm, and the global direct-to-film printing projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.8% from 2021 to 2026 – perhaps there are even more than 420,000 reasons to consider DTF today?

What is Direct-to-Film

Direct-to-film, DTF, is a process in which a graphic printed onto a piece of film with various colored inks is applied to an apparel item. This pre-printed film is binded to the garment through heat and pressure. DTF involves low-temperature transferring, and thereby the process allows printers to work on more sensitive materials including:

  • Spandex
  • Lycra
  • Silk
  • Jersey material
  • Neoprene
  • Fleece
  • Polyester
  • Cotton
  • Nearly any untreated substrate under the sun
If customers want to put designs on silk shirts and have matching neoprene laptop cases, or athletic jerseys and custom koozies, or essentially any combo and every bundle imaginable, DTF printing makes this easily possible. Deem describes the needs of a local bakery as an example of both the types of products available with DTF – and of the massive opportunity for print shops with DTF equipment.

“A local bakery, for example, may need signage, menus, and flyers,” Deem says, “and also branded chef shirts, business aprons, koozies or even wine totes for staff and customers, nylon cinch backpacks filled with custom baked goods, canvas bags with bakery logo … the possibilities are nearly limitless.”

Deem adds, “And this doesn’t even include re-labeling, which is a huge opportunity with DTF. Now, each of the above items no longer have a “Hanes” tag but instead are printed by your business.” Re-lableing gives your customer a more professional, branded experience and gives your business wearable billboards, or marketing with each tag.

If you’re a commercial shop who prints flyers, business cards, and banners, and you’re looking to get into apparel, or you’re a print shop looking to expand your product offerings (and your profits) and create a larger catalog for your customers to buy from, DTF printing is one of the most versatile techniques available in the print industry today — and it’s best for specific print jobs. Read on.

DTF: Ideal Print Jobs

“DTF is sought after because of its ability to print on nearly any substrate,” Deems says. “It’s most ideal for gang runs, 50- and 100-piece orders at a time,” Deem says” 

The process behind DTF and the materials necessary make gang runs, where multiple designs are combined into a single film sheet, the way for printers to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This method allows printers to optimize the use of resources by grouping multiple projects together, reducing setup time and material waste. By running different designs simultaneously, printers can achieve economies of scale and deliver high-quality prints at a lower cost per unit.

Ideal for larger orders, like athletic teams with custom printing needs per item and orders of 50- to 100 or more — where is DTF not ideal? DTF is not the printing equipment needed when the print jobs are better suited for Direct-to-garment, or DTG, technology: Retail on-demand, instant turnaround, and one-off print fulfillment orders, for example. 

DTF or DTG: Just Ask

Deem acknowledges that many customers want to grow another vertical, and may even be interested in adding apparel and bulking their product catalog, but they aren’t sure which is right for their business: DTF or DTG?

“The answer is that it really depends on your specific business and goals,” Deem says. “Contact a Millcraft specialist in your area to figure out your best solutions.”

Deem says the Millcraft team has an unprecedented level of experience and expertise to help businesses grow apparel solutions with both DTF and DTG. “We’re able to not only introduce you to new technology, but we’ll walk you through your best buying decisions based on what you need, and show you how to operate your business with this new technology.” 

Deem continues, “We develop relationships with our customers, we’re here to assist with installation, training, and support. From providing customers with an optimal workflow to expertly calculated ROI, Millcraft has the capacity and experience to help you create and operate your business more successfully with this new technology.”

Knowing now that 62% of printers have already or plan to adopt DTF within the next three years, if approximately 420,000 reasons has you considering DTF printing, including adding $100,000 to your bottom line, reach out to Millcraft today, Just ask. 

By: Jen W. O’Deay

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