A Little Maintenance Goes A Long Way With DTG Printing
Direct to Garment (DTG) printers use inkjet printheads to “print” onto the garment. The ink itself is made up of water, pigment and other proprietary materials. The printheads force little chunks of pigment out of a tiny nozzle and can cause some issues that we need to be prepared for.
White ink is the biggest culprit. Because Titanium DiOxide is pretty chunky and can build up in the nozzles, printhead, and lines. Being cognizant of the issues that could arise will help you in crafting a maintenance schedule.
Step 1. Location
The first step is to consider where the printer is going to live in your shop. Really think about the environment, heat and humidity. It is ideal to have it in a controlled “office” environment. Positioning it next to the heater, fan, or AC could make the printhead dry out.
Step 2. Routine
Once you’ve identified the best spot for your DTG printer to live, you’ll want to start a routine for maintenance, so you are ready for any job that comes through your door. At the start of each day, before you turn on the printer, you’ll want to gently shake the white cartridges for about 15-20 seconds. This keeps the larger particles in the white ink properly suspended in the liquid. This helps to make clog less likely down the road.
Step 3. Caffination
When you do turn on the printer, the F2000 circulation process will kick on. This is an automated process and takes about 10 minutes to run. Which is the perfect amount of time to start the much-needed pot of coffee. Coffee is arguably, one of the most important liquids in a shop…second to ink. The circulation process is similar to how our body circulates blood, and it is beneficial to keeping the lines of the printer clog free.
Step 4. Manual Printhead Check
I would advise against having the “Automatic white ink channel cleaning on power-on” TURNED OFF. Doing a manual nozzle check gives a printer more control and uses less ink. A manual “Printhead Check” can be done directly onto the platen, then check your nozzle pattern. The ink wipes up cleanly with a damp paper towel, cloth, or wipes. In the Printhead Check, you’ll be looking for any inconsistency in the small printed array of lines, and then choose the cleaning cycle for the heads that actually need it. No need to clean for the colors that are firing correctly. I recommend only using the Light cleaning cycle, even if you use it a couple of times, it uses a lot less ink. I want my ink on my garments, right?!
Every DTG printer has its pros and cons. The Epson F2000 has a couple of unique features that set it apart from the rest. The printhead itself is coated with Teflon to minimize clogs. Epson has also developed a fabric wiper system that gently wipes the printhead before it docks, which is a very effective way to keep the printhead clog free.
Establishing a routine with your Epson F2000 first thing in the morning to circulate the ink, run a nozzle check, and head cleaning if needed. To recap, here are my recommendations again for a quick, 20-minute or less daily routine:
1. Choose a good spot for the printer to live, think of your environment.
2. First thing in the morning, gently shake the two white ink cartridges for 15-20 seconds.
3. Turn on the printer & the circulation process will begin (Go get your caffeinated beverage of choice).
4. Printhead “Nozzle Check”, then run a “Light-Cleaning” for just the colors that need it & repeat if necessary (most likely just the white).
5. Print your garment!
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