What is Hybrid Printing and the Digital Squeegee:
An Introduction to & Why You Should Add
Digital Hybrid Printing to Your Shop
The screen printing industry is undergoing a transition for how to print t-shirts, hoodies and other garments. The rise of customer preferences for customization and personalization created demand and market for smaller printing runs. Direct to Garment (DTG) successfully fills this lucrative market for one off-prints and limited production. While some of these DTG printers are stand alone shops, screen printers have successfully integrated digital printing into their operations. However, there is still a gap in the need for multi-color jobs in the 50 to 300 piece run. This run size is starting to be filled by hybrid printing. Inkjet printers like the Lawson Zeus V Digital Hybrid Squeegee-Jet bridges the gap between direct-to-garment printing and traditional screen printing.
What is Hybrid Printing?
Hybrid printing combines a screen printed white underbase, and then the machine digitally prints the colors on top. After screen printing the white ink, the pallet rotates under the hybrid digital squeegee print head and CMYK is printed, often times wet-on-wet over the white ink. By screening the white underbase and digitally printing CMYK, hybrid printing is up to four times faster than DTG. Furthermore, the screen printed white underbase reduces digital ink costs because the screen print underbase is pennies compared to digital white ink.
By using a digital print head to decorate your garment, printers can get screen print photorealistic images and complicated high color t-shirt jobs from only making one screen. Hybrid printing can also print “variable data.” This means that a hybrid screen printing set up can change wording and even the final design image from t-shirt to t-shirt without stopping or slowing down production. The digital ink is printed wet-on-wet so there is no need for flashing in between. Compact digital hybrid printing systems do not require any “post printing” afterwards. Just run it through your screen printing conveyor heat tunnel dryer.
Hybrid screen printing is not limited to just cotton. It versatility allows screen printers to digitally print on most any fabric your customer wants. You no longer had to steer customers to 100% cotton as previously for DTG printing. Digitally print any fabric you can screen print - this includes popular polyester and other synthetic materials.
Hybrid Digital Printing is Perfect for Screen Printers
Hybrid printing is perfect for screen printers doing runs of 50 to 300. By printing these runs digitally, you can harness the low costs of screen printing with the ease and convenience of digital printing. A 14 color automatic is just not reasonable for everyone. With a hybrid digital squeegee inkjet printer, you can produce high color jobs with only 1 manual screen or a small footprint automatic.
Additionally, many people do not want to deal with the hassle of printing high color jobs, nor do customers want to pay all those screen and set-up fees. By using hybrid printing, there is no need to have a sophisticated technical understanding of screen printing or worry about screen tension, multiple flashing, and halftone dot angles. Simply print your white underbase just like you do right now and let the digital squeegee hybrid printer print all the colors.
With just having to screen print the white underbase and digitally print CMYK right on top, shop owners and production managers do not have to worry about finding and retaining employees with sophisticated screen printing understanding. This helps keep labor costs down and reduces the time investment of training new employees. Employees only need a basic understanding of screen printing to start producing garments.
Finally, screen print shops will see a cost savings throughout all of their different departments through reducing:
- film positives to print.
- the number of screens that need to be prepared and stored.
- set-up and registration time on press.
- on-press issues with screen tension, pinholes and other screen printing production issues.
- break down and clean up times with fewer screens to reclaim later.
- downtime between printing jobs because of faster set-ups.
Hybrid Digital Printing is Perfect for Direct to Garment (DTG) Printers
Hybrid printing is also a perfect addition for those who only do DTG printing. Adding hybrid printing allows you to continue with the benefits of DTG printing while reducing ink costs. Screen printed white ink is infinitely cheaper than DTG cartridges or even DTG bulk ink systems.
By only producing 1 screen for the white underbase, DTG printers do not need to “learn” screen printing or invest in expensive capital equipment. By screen printing the white underbase, DTG printers will see a dramatic increase in production times. Compared to DTG, hybrid printing is at least 4 times faster.
Finally, DTG printers will become cost competitive with screen printers for longer runs. Right now, DTG is great for limited runs but it is hard for digital shops to compete on price for larger jobs. With hybrid printing, your costs come down and runs in the 50 - 300 become exceptionally cheaper.
Hybrid Printing is the Future of Screen Printing
With the advancements in digital printing and the falling investment cost to add hybrid printing, more and more companies are turning towards it as the future of screen printing. Reducing costs and easily producing high color work allows you to sell into the customization market and offer variable data printing to all customers across all garments, including cotton, tri-blends, polys and other synthetic t-shirts.