#5485
Hi,
I am trying to get some feedback about how "finished" the Open DTG pathway is. i.e. Is this just a matter of putting parts together, tuning settings, and printing shirts? Or is this a DTG RepRap?

My Background:
- Solid design/build experience in Arduino. I've launched a few small OpenHardware projects that sold a few to 50 units. I know how to program, fabricate, and manufacture.
- I have a Prusa i3 3D Printer that I built from a Prusa kit. That was mostly assembly with excellent instructions and tune the software. Overall 3D Printing is an interesting curiosity, but I was not super impressed with the output. I bought it primarily to fabricate things I didn't want to machine or couldn't buy. Several projects were a success, one important project was a failure because of difficulty in maintaining tolerances with Autocad's 3D designer.
- I have over 15 years of screenprinting experience with a good deal of "keep it running" experience with Vintage equipment. I really don't enjoy modifying my machines, but I will when I need to.
- I have owned several different Embroidery machines and have no issues doing maintenance on them, although I generally leave the heavy stuff to a specialist.
- I am extremely capable at computer programming/ hardware/networking and also design/build construction.

What I am missing to make a decision on Open DTG:
- I have not been able to find good photos of print-samples to see if the machines are capable of being used commercially... i.e. feed it ink and shirts and run shirt after shirt after shirt.
- I don't have a good feel for if this is a tinker tinker activity or if it's something I can build, tune, and put to work. I've seen people claim both in various forum posts. I don't mind building it myself, but I need it to "just work" when I'm done. I expect to do maintenance and that's part of "working."

What I like:
- It seems to be reasonably priced compared to the commercial units which are essentially the same, but with vastly inflated prices.
- The cost of "failure" is manageable. i.e. if I destroy a printhead/printer it's another $700 and I'm back in operation. Not $1000 a head times 8 heads.
- I like the ability to scale without committing stupid amounts of capital to it. If I can grow the business it's easy to add additional printers or have units that only do light shirts.

I have a good handle on where DTG fits in with my operation and I believe it would play an important role in handling small or complex jobs that are not a good fit for my 6/8 Auto.

I've identified four ways to add DTG:

1) Open DTG :) Build it and put it to work. The advantage is that it's cost efficient, the risk is it might eat a bunch of time trying to get it going and there is probably a steep learning curve on it. Seems like all the machines have a learning "cliff."

2) Buy an older Brother GT-541 for $2500-$3500 and test the waters. Brother supports their equipment. Ink is expensive, but it would be easy to resell. They are reputed to be low-maintenance workhorses. This is only lights which will cover some, but not all of the business. It isn't going to meet all of my needs, but I could probably make some money on it. The risk is that the heads are also $1K/pc.

3) Buy an older Brother GT-782 for $5000 to $6000. This would get me dark capability. Like the 541, it's older and the heads are expensive and the ink is expensive. Everyone seems to spend several thousand dollars on heads. It's possible to resell, but I don't think there is as much demand for them as the 541.

4) Buy a COTS unit like the OmniPrint FreeJet or Belquette Mod1. Both are solid, have reasonable head costs, good support, and reasonable ink costs. The Omni has a slight edge in operating expenses. Belquette is an American machine. Omni is a Korean machine. Omni hates their old equipment and was a bit sleazy when I touched base with them about buying a repo machine. That makes it hard to sell used equipment. Belquette on the other hand was open minded about their used equipment, but they seem like an exceedingly small company and a touch expensive. I worry about their ability to survive. I like Omni print's "wet capping" concept and there are lots of users who report leaving it alone for a week or two with no issues. However, like all of the commercial stuff everyone seems to lose printheads.... alot. It seems like white ink is just brutal on the print-heads no matter who or what you use.

I've pretty much ruled out number 4 for cost reasons and inability to scale.

What am I not thinking about?

How many folks have these in a small walk-in t-shirt shop and are using them to handle small or complex orders profitably? Does anyone have issues with not being able to match quality / color crispness from commercial units?

Thanks
-Brian
#5486
If I miss something let me know.

First off the OpenDTG kits can output the same quality prints and reliability of any of the Epson based units. Which is every unit under $15,000 on the market.

Going the DIY route can become a tinker situation to get up and running, there is a lot to learn and lot that can give you some headaches. Some people put our kits together in a day with little issues and others continue to struggle.

So with the DIY route you have to realize you'll have the building learning curve and then the learning to print learning curve after that.

As for not many pictures... I'm finding most people come and ask for help but very few put forth the effort to come back and share what they've learned or how it's going but there are quite a few people using these in small print operations.

We will have more print videos and pictures up this coming week as we publicly launch our complete assembled units. $2995 for a basic model and $3995 for the advanced.
#5487
I appreciate the response.... the important part there is the parity with the COTS units. I think all of the sub $16K units are doing essentially what Open DTG is doing except they have a little fancier base and have spent more time on the RIP tweaking.

I have a few follow on questions:
- Basic vs. Advanced: What do I need the advanced to do that I can't do with the basic? I will primarily print on t-shirts, but I'd like the ability to print sweatshirts, mouse pads, etc. I do not see printing on shoes. I can live without printing on hats. I think hats should be embroidered anyhow.

- Ink systems: Dupont Artistri vs Image Armor? Is there a clear advantage to one over the other?

- What is required to complete an Advanced unit? It looks like the basic is sold as a complete kit, but the Advanced doesn't specify what else is required. I think it's a Print Module Conversion Kit, AIO board, and Stepper motors (2). Are there a bunch of other bits that I am not seeing? I really wish that there was an Advanced Kit that included all the pieces.

- It seems like the P600 is the way to go. Am I missing something on printer selection?

- Pre-Treat. My thoughts are that you really need to do pre-treat to be successful. Treatbot at $700 looks like a great solution. I don't see anything like that in the OpenDTG store. I do see a $500 pump and valve but then it looks like you are on your own after that. Am I missing something? My guess is that it would be a base kit and hacking a way to move the base with steppers.

I will absolutely shoot videos if I go down the Open DTG road and post them to YouTube. I started doing that years ago with some of my other DIY projects (aquarium build, etc) and have several thousand subscribers. :)

The only gotcha for me is that I need to be able to be reasonably certain I can tinker my way through the build and print phase..... and get to where it's a machine that a reasonably intelligent employee can operate without constant intervention from me. For the record, a reasonably intelligent employee can run an Embroidery machine or a Printing Press. :)
#5488
The advanced kit has the motorized lift. If you're doing mostly shirts with a few hoodies the basic will be fine, it has a spacer system to quick lower the platen from shirts to hoodies. You are correct, hats are better done with other methods.

I haven't tested Image Armor inks, I default to Dupont because they have been on the market for over a decade with continued improvements.

I need to add a complete kit for the advanced. It would be $1750. At that point you just need the Epson printer to complete it. Then ink, rip, etc.

The p600 is the best way to go for DTG.

The treatbot would be a good idea if you're trying to keep things easy for employees. Our complete pretreater is done yet so we just offer the guts so someone can build their own.

Yes this can be built into a reliable unit that an employee can run.
#5489
Awesome. I really appreciate the responses.

As for the pretreat, I really think a machine is the only way to get consistent results. That seems to be the achilles heal of print quality for DTG.

I want to minimize headaches... is a bag ink system the way to go? It seems like Ink cartridges vs bag is not much of a difference. Are people hanging the bags above the printers like an IV? or do they just set them next to the printer?
#5491
Hotpuppy, given your background I don't see why you wouldn't go the DIY DTG route. I'm just a hobbyist who started out trying to build a DIY DTG printer using a P600. This was before Andy started OpenDTG and it was a complete waste of time and money.

With OpenDTG I was able to salvage what I had started and was able to print t-shirts buying the OpenDTG's AIO board.

What I would tell people starting out is you can get up an running in short order by spending $950 for the DIY DTG Conversion Kit. I spent $1147 on a T-Dozer (now no longer in business) "kit" and I had to build my own base out of wood using T-Dozer's plans. And that kit was far inferior to what OpenDTG offers in more ways than one: base unit, platen, opensource software using the arduino and most importantly OpenDTG support from both the community and Andy whose always on top of it!

Am not saying it's an easy DIY project, but most likely easier for you than it was for me given your background.

That's it!
Andy liked this
#5493
Hi there,
I'm particularly glad to hear from you and that you have succeeded. I read about your horrible experience with T-Dozer and it honestly worried me.

As someone who has designed and sold an open source hardware product, I feel like I see both sides of the situation. I think the commercial units are vastly over-priced. I told Scott Fresner when he first came out with his T-Jet that I didn't think that model was scalable because the profit-taking was too high.

In Screenprinting the press prices are based on a 30 to 50% margin from what I would guesstimate. That's reasonable. In DTG I suspect the commercial units are operating on a 300% to 500% margin. Some of this does cover the abnormally high consumables cost with printheads and ancillary dampers, lines, blah blah blah. Most of these consumables are because we piggy backed on pigment technology that had millions of development dollars aimed at paper. T-Shirts are not smooth like paper and have a thick film. We probably have more in common with the Latex printers. Latex is relatively coarse by printing standards. Any how I digress.

Plastisol Ink and Embroidery thread are so cheap that it's hard to estimate the cost per shirt for ink or thread. If you are doing thousands of shirts you will eventually get to a cost per shirt. Most of us are doing short runs (500 or less units). Here again profit taking is obscene. Dupont Artistri inks sell for $180/liter give or take. Brother Inks sell for $880/liter. Holy Highway Robbery Batman and Super Chihuahua!

These sorts of profits encourage innovation and competition such as OpenDTG.

If I do go down the Open DTG road (still thinking) I will document my build and shoot good videos that explain what is going on. I've always felt that we as an industry succeed together when we share common concepts of how to run a good shop. There is plenty of business for all of us and we all benefit from good shop practices. I've learned plenty from others and so I give back in the same way.

Cheers,
Brian