Episode 53 – Is UV Printing Right for Your Custom Apparel Business?

May 24, 2017

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • Is UV printing right for your custom apparel business.
  • Where does it fit with your custom apparel shop.

Resources & Links

Episode 53 – Is UV Printing Right for Your Custom Apparel Business?

Show Notes

UV Printing is one of the hottest new technologies in the promotional products and sign industries – but where does it fit with your custom apparel shop?

Listen to this podcast to explore the  BIG Opportunities in UV!


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 53 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, with Colman and Company. Today, we’re here to talk about, is UV printing right for your business, with my good friend and associate, Don Copeland.

Mark S: Wow! Good friend and associate.

Marc V: Well, neither of those things, actually.

Mark S: Welcome back to the podcast, Don.

Marc V: He’s sitting next to me!

Mark S: No problem. Hey, if you are a podcast listener, you will probably remember that Don was previously the direct-to-garment printer products manager here at ColDesi. Since then, he has gone on to help launch a new product, new to the U.S., called the Compress UV Printer line.

Today, we’re going to kind of talk about what UV is, and is it right for your business?

Marc V: Yeah. It’s a new technology that’s out there. We didn’t really know much about it, until Don educated us more and more. At least, I knew much less than even Mark did, and we thought that it was a great topic to explore and share with our listeners.

Mark S: So Don, let’s start from the really basics. What is UV printing? What are we talking about here?

Don C: Well, UV printing, oftentimes what we’ll be talking about, you’ll hear it referred to as UV LED flatbed printing, mainly focusing on small to mid-format. Anywhere from, say 12 by 11, up to as large as 48 by 30, type of printers.

There are huge UV printers that people, I think a lot of people associate UV printing with the really large printers we’ve seen at the big shows, SGIA and whatnot, that are four foot by eight foot, and take up your whole building.

Mark S: So, break it down for us. Physically, what does it mean to UV print something?

Don C: When you UV print something, you’re using inks that are reactive, so to speak, to a UV light. When they’re printed, when they hit the substrate, there are UV lights that traverse with the head. Those UV lights actually cure the inks, set the inks on the substrate.

Literally, when the print comes out of the machine, and you’ve seen that – I know Mark has – you just don’t want to touch it, because we’re so used to everything, the direct-to-garment printing or large format printing, when it comes out of the machine, you’re like “Eh, it’s wet.” It’s dry. It’s set onto a substrate.

Secondarily, it’s generally going onto items that we wouldn’t historically do; water-based types printing on, textile-like and whatnot. It’s generally done on rigid goods; plastics, metals, woods, items like that. Items that a lot of times you associate with ad specialties or trophies and awards, or even in manufacturing components, as well.

Mark S: So, UV printing is kind of like the combination of UV light and an inkset that reacts to it, so it dries immediately.

Don C: Exactly. Not just dries, it actually sets. There is an actual reaction, as well. There are monomers in the ink that set, similar to when we direct-to-print. We take and we heat press the shirt. That’s not just drying the ink. It’s actually making some chemical reactions occur, that set the inks, as well.

Mark S: Right. So, if you’re already an apparel decorator out there, if you’re doing any kind of printing, if you’re doing sublimation or screen printing, or you’re doing DTG, you have to do something after it comes out of the machine, in order to set the ink. You’ve got to throw it onto a dryer or heat press it, or whatever it is.

Don C: I’m not sure what the whatever it is, is.

Mark S: Hit it with a hair dryer, I don’t know.

Don C: Smoke signals, something like that! That’s that big thing. For us, even when we first started delving into this, you didn’t want to touch it, because we were so used to there having to be another step. With UV printing, it’s done when it comes out of the machine.

That doesn’t mean that sometimes, there aren’t things you need to do ahead of time. There are certain substrates that are not receptive to the inks, that you do need to treat. There are primers you can use. There are treatments you can use; [inaudible 04:49] treatments, Corona treatments and whatnot, that will make the surfaces more receptive to the inks.

Mark S: So, like a pretreat for DTG.

Don C: Kind of.

Mark S: Except a lot less involved.

Don C: Yes, a lot less involved. It’s more it’s to wipe on and you’re done, and it air dries.

Mark S: What do people do with UV printers? How do they make money?

Don C: Wow! Really, really a broad question, especially in today’s marketplace. In terms of the customer base we’d be talking to here, the logical thing would be ad specialties. When I say ad specialties, if you look around your desk right now, while you’re listening to this podcast, anything that has somebody’s company name on it that was given to you, whether it’s a pen, a calculator, items like that. Letter openers, all of those type of things, those are all going to be one category of ad specialties.

Other applications would be trophies and awards, any recognition. Acrylic is huge nowadays. Acrylic has historically been done with either rotary engraving or laser etching. Right? Now, we can bring the aspect of color to that, because we can print full color on acrylic, back-print it with the white, so you have a beautiful award, that you’re looking through the acrylic.

Things like that would be an application that you can’t get with something like sublimation, or just traditional engraving and lasering, which are one color. With sublimation, you don’t get a white, so you don’t have the true colors you get when you back-print with a white. That’s another application.

Applications would be for doing signage. If you’ve got a business that you’re doing t-shirts for or maybe caps for, anything like that with your apparel business, that guy who does the lawn service, that you do the shirts and hats for, how cool would it be if he had yard signs that he could stick in the yard, while they’re there working?

It could have the name of his company, his phone number, website, everything on it right there. We call them bandit signs, 18 by 24 Coroplast signs. Great for that. Great for Realtors, people who sponsor events. A lot of our customers will get jobs like DTG’ing golf towels for a golf tournament.

Well, I guarantee you there’s at least 18 companies that have sponsored holes, that they need signs for. Or perhaps, printing on golf balls. A sponsor may want golf balls with their logo on it, or the event on it, for that type of thing.

All of these are kind of complimentary items that your customers are probably going to somebody else to have it done, since they could use their apparel guy. In reality, you should just be their graphics department.

Mark S: Right. I like that a lot. Marc, we were just working on a webinar with [inaudible 07:28] idea.

Marc V: Actually, you read my mind. What we were saying is that if you get an embroidery machine, you have an embroidery machine. And if you’re listening, and you only have an embroidery machine, you know you get asked about getting t-shirts made. That’s immediately right next to that.

Well, another growth point is if you do t-shirts and embroidery, then the next thing you get asked about is promotional products. People will typical join the various organizations that are out there, so they can buy promotional products. From my experience and the experience of our customers, doing those on small to medium runs is not always easy.

Finding a product that’s good quality, and then getting the image that you want on it, the graphics gets complex. They might be screen printing it, and you’re limited to colors. It’s a mess. A lot of customers will just not do that, and they run the risk of, for one, they don’t make the money that they could have made. And two, they run the risk of their customer going to another place that says “Well, I can do hats and t-shirts for you, too.”

Mark S: I like this. I want to preface this by saying that the UV printer, the Compress brand, any of them actually are not inexpensive pieces of equipment. They are a commercial piece of equipment. They are an investment.

But just in that scenario that we were talking about in our webinar the other day, where we were talking about the 2X Business Bundle, the embroidery machine and the vinyl cutter. Somebody comes in and they want to get an embroidered polo and hat set for a school event. Maybe it’s for team support.

They also want to get the t-shirts done for the kids on the field. They also want to get t-shirts done for the family, as fan shirts. That’s a great bundle, and you’re talking about turning a $15 cap sale into a $100 family support bundle.

Think about adding. Every one of those family members would probably want to put a little sign in their front yard on game day, saying “Shout for number 11 out on the field!” or “Wildcats softball tonight at 10:00!”

The school might want to advertise and put signs out there. They might want to give away tchotchkes for homecoming games, things like that. You have the opportunity to corner that business, to take that one initial contact, and make the most possible.

Marc V: Could you print on something like a baseball bat?

Don C: You could print on a bat. You could print on baseballs, themselves. We’ve printed on golf balls, baseballs. We’ve printed on basketballs. So, it opens up a lot of categories. If you’re doing the shirts for the state championship team at your local high school, why not offer to do a basketball for them to put in the gymnasium, that’s printed with the year, the school logo, maybe the final score of that game, the team record for the year, that kind of stuff?

It just opens up categories that haven’t been – think about it.

Mark S: Or all of the balls, all of the basketballs at a school, or all the baseballs. You bring them in, and I’ve seen the Compress – and by the way, we’re talking about the Compress UV printer. It’s CompressUVPrinter.com. I’ve seen this thing work a bunch, and it’s amazingly fast.

So, it’s not like it’s going to take you two weeks to do a set of 36 baseballs.

Don C: One of the things that I think, where we’re kind of positioning with that printer nicer than most players in the marketplace is we are able to print bi-directionally, and get really good quality. In fact, most of what we print would be what we consider a production mode. You know, historically, when people requested samples on anything, you generally go into art mode, and you try to print the highest quality. Forget about how long it takes.

Mark S: We do that with DTG t-shirts.

Don C: We’ve found in the DTG marketplace, that this is what we show off. But everybody, two months in, is printing production mode, anyway. So, the beautiful thing with the Compress, with the UV printing, is it’s very, very hard to discern between the production mode printing and the fine art printing mode.

Mark S: Yeah. It’s all beautiful.

Don C: It is. Until you get into really tiny, like when you start putting one to two-millimeter lettering on a golf ball, yeah, you need to go to the finer. But when you’re printing on 95% of the items you print on, you can go into production mode. 720 by 720 bi-directional printing allows you to fly through the bed, get a lot done.

When you’re doing one-offs, like things like a basketball or something, something with a lot of curvature, you’re going to slow it down. But when you’re doing your traditional, like Mark was talking about the ad specialties type of stuff, flat stock items with moderate size to them, you’re going to fly through those in production mode, which is nice.

And because of the size of the bed on the machines, it’s going to allow you to load up a lot more. And very similar to the DTG brand printers, it’s about interface time. You’re spending less time involved with the machine, while it’s producing.

The cool thing with UV, especially on a machine like the Compress, that has a fairly large bed, it’s a heavier machine. I actually have customers who can unload – we have a customer in Michigan who is actually doing, one of their first jobs on the 1200, which is our larger printer – it’s a 45.3 by 29.5 bed – they’re doing 60 four-inch by four-inch tiles at a time, for art for a company that does these. They had a 3,500 piece order.

They were able to, there’s six rows of ten. They were able on that machine, to have four of those rows unloaded and reloaded, while the printer was still printing. And they were coming out in the front. They were plucking off.

Mark S: That’s great production.

Don C: Yeah, so they were able to do that. Then, when the machine would rewind, they only had to pull out the fifth row. They would hit Load, and then they’d go to the back of the machine, and take the back row off, and have those loaded on.

So literally, they turned over a whole machine of 60 tiles, with only a gap of one ten-tile row that was not in the motion of printing, which is huge.

Mark S: It’s a big deal.

Don C: It’s a big deal. It’s about production, and people are starting to see that in UV now. Kind of the novelty of it’s worn off, of it’s cool. Now, it’s cool, and I can make good money on the stuff I do. But now, how do I do good money at high quantities? It’s very productive with high quality prints. I think that’s what we bring to the table, that nobody else is doing.

Mark S: Yeah. We can talk about the UV market and the options out there. I can’t help but my mind is wandering, with the opportunities for people in the business. Just having seen the photographic quality, it’s very similar to DTG, if not better.

Don C: Probably better, because you have no dot gain, because the ink is instantly set, upon contact. So, you don’t have any, no spread of the dot. When you print onto a textile, even onto a polyester, you’re going to have some level of dot gain, which is going to mean you’re going to lose some detail.

On the UV, boom! It’s there and it’s stuck.

Mark S: So, back to that bundling opportunity, the head shots of all of the baseball kids, you can print those onto the backs of plexy, and put that in the hallway outside the gym. You can make those individually part of a trophy.

Marc V: I was just thinking about all of the things that you could do with that machine, and how valuable of a product it would be, how profitable they would be, because nobody else even has the ability to offer that. Like if you were able to take every student’s – like just going with the baseball reference – if every student was able to get a custom bat with like a little color head shot on the end of it, the year, some stats.

Idon’t know how many bats you can print at a time – six or ten?

Don C: What you could do is you could do the mini size bats.

Mark S: The commemorative.

Don C: UV printing is about being smarter than the item you print on, radically smarter. More so than any other thing, because you’re dealing with dimensional items. Right? It’s not like trying to get around the collar or a pocket, on a t-shirt. So, it’s about being creative.

We keep Play Dough and Legos sitting around in our workshop, because we get items that we need to hold up. So, you build a frame out of Legos, and then you use some Play Dough to kind of really firm up exact positioning, so we can nail the spot.

Mark S: Because when you print with UV, you have to hold things still, and they have to stay in place.

Marc V: It’s so cool! I just imagine what that stuff would be worth. Like when you mentioned the basketball that they would put in the acrylic case, how much would that basketball cost to buy, if I wanted one in the world today? If I was just like, I want a custom basketball with the year, the name, all the students’ names on it, whatever it might be, how much would it cost to get that produced, compared to what a blank basketball actually costs? And how much ink? How much would it cost to put the ink on that?

Don C: For the most part, when you’re talking about UV printing, ink doesn’t even come into the conversation. It’s so little. Actually, we did a demo yesterday morning for a company that does a lot of Christmas ornaments. They had a Christmas ornament that is like a Scout uniform, like a Boy Scout uniform.

They customized them with a name across it. They were actually doing that by hand. They outsourced this to local cottage industry. They were paying $1.25 to $1.50 apiece, to have names put on, and people gave them a 48-hour turnaround, and they’ll get a bunch of them. And they were actually using paint pens to write these on.

$1.25 to $1.50 apiece. We actually literally set it up, targeted it, printed a name onto the shirt. Time was negligible. .8 cents’ worth of ink on it. They were spending $1.25 to $1.50 apiece.

Mark S: And they got down to .8 cents.

Don C: Literally just that one item alone, during their Christmas season, that six weeks of craziness, they do 1,500 to 2,000 of them. They’re going to pay for in the area of 8% to 10% of their machine, just in savings.

Mark S: From that one application.

Don C: One application.

Marc V: Besides all the other stuff that they could even imagine that they could do yet.

Mark S: That’s a great idea for promotional products, is Christmas ornaments. Don’t think about it just as something externally that you can sell, but you can also use it internally. Maybe you want to print your own boxes, that you send products out with.

Don C: We did that with – we had a customer who they have a product I won’t describe, because I promised them I wouldn’t get carried away with telling what it is, but they do a product made out of wood, and it goes into a box. We were able to reproduce their design on the product, and then exactly print the exact same design on their box.

And literally because of the depth of the machine, the machine will print up to 11.8-inch tall items. We were able to turn the boxes on its side, and print their information down the side; their website, anything that they wanted, on it. Huge!

You don’t have to worry about having a huge inventory of preprinted boxes. Anything you wanted to do custom, let’s say somebody wanted to buy 24 of these items, and give them to their employees. You could go down to the box having the name of the manufacturer and their website and all that stuff, and say, you know “For recognition of a great 2017.” Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or whatever, from ColDesi.

Just taking that whole customization thing to a whole new level. Like I said, boxes. Just joking around, you can create prototype things for people, that you wouldn’t otherwise imagine you were going to do, like a mockup of an inkjet print and a glue stick. It’s huge.

Like you said, even hang tags. You could do hang tags. Get a plastic hang tag. Put it on a hang tag, if you wanted to put them on products that you were exhibiting at an event. You could do custom hang tags for it.

Mark S: I think just in the spirit of the CAS podcast, we try to bring everybody good business advice, good marketing advice. And these opportunities, it’s one of those things like the embroidery machine and the vinyl cutter together makes sense, because you’re addressing the customer coming in, and you’re selling them more.

Because normally, the most expensive part of the process is getting that customer in the door, and making that first contact. Now, you’re not only doing more with that one individual customer, but you’re backing into the sign business, as well, and the promotional products business.

Don C: And awards and engraving.

Mark S: Because now, let’s say you’ve got real estate agents that want embroidered polos. You can offer signs with their pictures on it.

Don C: And Realtors like their picture on everything.

Marc V: On everything. They have to have it.

Mark S: You could do special gifts for the people that buy from the Realtors. You could do whatever promotional items they want, to go as part of their business.

Marc V: The more I sit here and think about this machine and how cool it is, I imagine you could print custom wine bottles for a local winery. When I think about this type of business in conjunction with what we do, because the customization business is something that just continually seems to be growing, the past years.

People want to be able to customize everything, which is why our small shop embroiderers and small shop t-shirt companies and such like that, doing small and medium production runs, are doing so well. It’s because they’ve got direct-to-garment printers and single-head embroidery machines and cutting machines.

They have these things where they can do 24, 36, 100 of something very specific; individual names and numbers, and all types of information like that. And this UV printer, to me, takes it where you can take that small customization business and really think huge with it.

Because you just need that idea and that niche, and you may be one of the few people in the country, or in your [inaudible 22:29], to offer this new niche. So, that was one where I thought of like the wine bottles. What if you were offering, like there’s a local winery kind of place I think about, and you can go in there, and you can do like a barrel of wine. It’s like a couple hundred dollars, or something like that.

I’m thinking if this company had a printer like this, or the sign shop, that’s like four blocks away. If they had this printer, they could come over there and literally somebody could take a picture, while they’re making the wine, email it to there, and then deliver the bottles that they’re going to bottle with, when the wine is ready in a couple of weeks.

Mark S: That is so funny, because I was just thinking -.

Marc V: About wine?

Mark S: Yeah, no. My wife and I went out to Keel and Curley, which is a winery here in Plant City, Florida. They have kind of an experience. You go in and you do the wine tasting. They have craft beers, and they do their own wines. They have a restaurant.

And they do a great job of merchandising their stuff. So, you have the opportunity to buy labelled wine bottles, beer bottles. You have the opportunity to get t-shirts printed. They have printed t-shirts. They have embroidered caps. They’ve got gifts.

So, that’s one business in a very small town, that uses everything that we’re talking about here.

Marc V: Yeah. When I got married, we did a wine thing for the wedding, as a wedding favor. And it had a printed picture of us on the wine bottles, and it said the year and all that stuff. It was printed on a sticker, and put on there.

So, two things about that. One, I have to imagine how expensive that was to produce each individual sticker, customized. It was probably a lot. Between the paper and sticker material. That was a lot. And two, none of them look good now. You know? None of them look good now.

They’re all torn up, because they’re inkjet and they’re on paper, and they’ve bled, and humidity over the years. And I gather that if they were done on something like this, not only would they have looked and felt amazing, because they would have been printed on the bottle. They probably would still be perfect.

Mark S: Yeah. And I want to say one more thing about – we talked about, before the podcast started, Don was talking about the fact that people are now in the graphics business, not just in the t-shirt business or the custom apparel business. When you add a UV printer to your repertoire, you really are now in the graphics business.

Whether or not you want to take that image and put it onto a t-shirt or onto a hat, or as a sign, or onto an award, it’s almost like “Bring us your images, and watch us go to work.”

Don C: You know, I’ve used this analogy before. We’re a Walmart society. What I mean by that, you go to Walmart to pick up some toilet paper, and some chicken for dinner. You’re also getting your cell phone recharged. You can grab lunch at McDonald’s, while your wife gets her nails done.

Marc V: I got my contact lenses.

Don C: You may even get your contact lenses or your eyeglasses. Right? It’s all there. Now, did I really want to eat at McDonald’s? But no, I was at Walmart.

Mark S: You were already there.

Don C: I was picking up the toilet paper my wife told me to get, and the chicken, and she was wanting to get her nails done. So, you’re there. Why leave? Why go someplace else? Make it as easy as possible for your customers to give you as much of their business as possible.

Like Marc had indicated, you have your traditional entry now, in whatever you’re doing. Now, as you grow into other areas, let’s say you add a UV printer, and you start doing yard signs, 18 by 24 Coros, in full color. All of a sudden, you’re going to start to get known for doing full color 18 by 24 Coros, and people are going to come to you for that product, who oh, by the way, need whatever else you’re doing, whether it’s bling t-shirts for their kid’s cheerleading team, or embroidery.

It’s all about creating new entryways, as well. Not only ways to get your customers to spend more money with you, but it’s also a way to bring new customers in, to then offer them the other products you already offer.

Mark S: And by the way, if you don’t know, Coro is like a light poster board, that’s very -.

Don C: Corrugated plastic. Thus the Coroplast. Basically, it looks like cardboard, except it’s a white plastic. It’s what every sign that you see, the “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days,” the yard signs that you see stuck up with the stakes. That is a hugely popular advertising medium that’s used in just about every format.

Like I said, Realtors use them a lot. My church has signs. You see here in the south, a lot of churches now are going to yard signs, as ways to get peoples’ attention. People who do estate sales and things like that, organizations that hold events, fundraiser events.

Mark S: Carnivals.

Don C: Exactly. Step-in signs.

Mark S: That’s cool. Let’s talk a little bit about the two questions that everyone is going to have. The first one is, can I use it to print t-shirts?

Don C: Can you? Maybe. Would I suggest it? No. There are some folks who – there’s some noise in this industry now, about doing t-shirts with UV. The big sell is that quote/unquote, you don’t need a pretreatment. While that may be true, it opens up a whole can of worms.

Understand that the inks that are used in UV printing, and all UV printing inks are fairly similar – they’re not exactly the same. Sort of like DTG, they’re all in the same category. They’re not exactly the same, but they have the same characteristics.

The concern with UV inks is that they have monomers in them. The monomers are used to – are what actually make it set up. If those monomers are not fully set, you run the risk of people having skin irritation. Certainly, something that would be of a concern with youth and children’s shirts.

You need a flexible UV ink. Generally, flexible UV inks do work well on items that flex. However, they don’t perform that well on items that don’t flex. They tend not to have the same adhesive qualities on non-flexing items.

So, if you buy a printer based on doing t-shirts, you’ve got to choose. Do you want to do flexible or do you want to do rigid? It’s not something you’re going to switch back and forth.

Mark S: You can’t switch back and forth between printing signs one minute, and then t-shirts.

Don C: Right. I mean, if you’re going to do it, you’re swapping out inks, and that’s a major expense and major time waste. And literally, to do it right, you need a printer that’s got a print area that’s indicative of t-shirts. Most companies that are doing this are smaller format, 10 by 12, 10 by 24 type images, which don’t lend themselves to t-shirt size graphics.

So, you have to then look at a larger format machine, to be able to do it. You’re spending $80,000 to $85,000 on a printer that’s really meant to do rigid goods, and you’re spending that money on a t-shirt printer.

If somebody is seriously looking at “I need to do t-shirts and I want to do ad specialties,” generally, I find that we can sell them a Compress 600, which is a 24-inch wide machine, and a DTG M2, the 24-inch wide format, for less than a quote/unquote “universal” type printer with UV, printing on t-shirts, as well. I mean, radically less.

Mark S: So, the short answer is yes, you can. But the question of whether or not you should or whether or not it’s going to be the right move for your business, is separate.

Don C: I don’t know of any studies that have been done, to say that it’s safe. Actually, with the CPSIA, concerns about printing – even it was an issue a few years ago with direct-to-garment, which is meant for a textile. I don’t know that there’s any certifications right now, saying that it’s a good idea to do this, because it’s just not.

And let’s get real with it. Every print I’ve ever seen done with them, ain’t that good.

Mark S: Right. It doesn’t look great on t-shirts.

Don C: It does not look great on t-shirts, and it certainly doesn’t look good on cotton.

Mark S: The other question is how much is it. I’ll let you talk about that. But when I go over to – if you’re going to get a UV printer, it has to be kept in a ventilated area. This is not a back bedroom business. It’s a big machine. It’s a good sized machine, and the UV inks affect people. The smell affects people differently.

Don C: Only in one out of three people in this room.

Mark S: Right. So, if you’re going to be working around it all day, 99% of people are going to be fine. But if you are overly sensitive to smells or chemicals or anything like that, regardless, you need to make sure it’s ventilated.

Don C: At least having a filter type of – a filter around it. The inks that we use are relatively low VOC. I mean, not wanting to get completely away, but going back to the t-shirt printing, most flexible UV inks are very high VOC. So, they certainly need a specialized ventilation system for that, because they are radically more powerful.

Our initial inks we tested with our machines were high VOC. The person we’re talking about, who gets pale and has to leave the room would be Mark, and he was physically getting headaches, and couldn’t even be in the room with the printer, when we were trying to film stuff. Now, at least he -.

Mark S: Yeah, now I’m good for hours.

Don C: Hours. He still gets a little peaked on us, and I think he just used it as an excuse to get away from me, as well.

Mark S: That’s right. As a matter of fact, (cough, cough).

Don C: That’s the other thing to weigh in on. Now, you were asking about the machines and the costs. We offer two models. We have our 600 and our 1200. Basically, they correspond to a 24 by 17.7 print area on the 600, and to a 45.3 by 29.5 print area on the 1200.

Certainly, the 1200 is not something you would want to use in a home business. It’s a beast. They come fully assembled. They are floor based, unlike let’s say the M2. The 600 is a very similar format to the M2. However, it is floor based, because it has to be, because we have so much depth we have to attain. I have to be able to drop that bed 11.8 inches.

That machine, you’re looking at about $37,000. That includes five liters of ink, cleaning solution, we include a RIP software, as well as a design front end, because there are certain things you want to do in UV, which are kind of unique. We didn’t even talk about the 3D.

Mark S: Textures, yeah.

Don C: The textures, the ability to print levels. You can have brush strokes on a canvas you print, or you can do ADA signage, with raised lettering. Or you can do highlighting of a sign, you want to highlight a website or a phone number, or something like that, by giving it some depth. You can do all of that.

Mark S: Nice.

Don C: We also include, for the machine, a silicon pad that goes down on the bed, which allows you to print on it, to do targeting. And it also has a sticky factor to it, so your items will stay snug to it.

Mark S: And it comes with onsite training.

Don C: We do an onsite install and training. We come in and we teach you how to operate the machine, how to work with the software; both the design software and back end. Another factor of the design software, it allows you to do variable data, so you can import databases. It does sequencing. It does barcoding. It does sequence barcoding, with variable data, and whatnot.

So, there’s a lot to it. We come in, train you on the machine, the software, and how to deal with the items. That’s really the key. We try to bridge that gap a little bit, and narrow the gap of you not being smarter than the items you’re printing on. We kind of get your head wrapped around that, as well.

We also then have the 1200, which would be the larger machine. That machine is just under $53,000. Same things included with that.

Mark S: It’s big.

Don C: It’s a honker. It’s a big machine. But you know, it sounds crazy when you look at them for the price differential. In most cases, we have almost triple the amount of things we can output on the larger bed, even though it doesn’t seem that way. But because of the size a lot of items are – I was just doing some math on this, before I came over here.

If I were doing 8-1/2 by 11s, like plaques, I could get four of them on the 600. I get 13 of them on the 1200.

Mark S: So, it’s a math problem. If you have volume, then you make your decision based on that.

Don C: Exactly right.

Marc V: I think that this is, as I mentioned before, it’s really cool and it’s really interesting. But this is like one of those next level business investments.

Mark S: Yeah. If you just got your Avance 1501C, and you’re starting up your embroidery business, this should not be on the table for a little bit.

Don C: But you could put it on your dream list. That’s kind of the key. If you’ve got an existing business, and you’re already looking for ways to expand, you always have these angles. “Do I want to stay in apparel, and go to another type of apparel?” “I’m so busy with my single-head, that if I had a second single-head, -.”

You’ve got to weigh all of those things in. But if you’re starting to see a lot of demand from corporate customers, business to business type of stuff; schools, organizations like that, and they’re spending a lot of money on ad specialties or spending a lot of money on signage, then you start to look at this as an angle, a way to go.

You may already have a customer that you’re farming stuff out to, that you want to bring that inhouse. Sort of like the company who’s printing the little Christmas ornaments. They’re farming out the decoration of that. Just by bringing that inhouse, they’re paying, we figure it’s three to four months’ worth of lease payment each year, just on that one ornament design, for just that six week period of Christmas.

Mark S: That’s great.

Marc V: I think that if you do just have a single-head embroidery machine, and you realize, like you were mentioning, with outsourcing, or you mentioned the growth of your business and what you’re looking to do, it could be the right move for you. Maybe a four-head is, maybe a vinyl cutter is, maybe a DTG.

Mark S: Right. It’s the opportunity.

Marc V: Yeah. Everyone is different, in where they want to invest. All of this stuff, the cost of all of these various pieces of equipment, very much come with the potential for them, as well. So, a small vinyl cutter that you can get for $1,000 or so, has some awesome potential for that $1,000.

But a large UV printer comes with this whole new level. It’s a whole new level of investment, but it’s also a whole new level of potential.

Mark S: The returns, yeah.

Marc V: You’ve got to figure out for your small business, what is the direction you want to go? Where do you want to be? How much money do you want to make? What’s your potential business in the area? Maybe you have two single-heads, and you’re realizing that you’re doing well with embroidery, but it’s maybe highly competitive in your area.

So, maybe doing custom work, 20 pieces and less at a time, is a great business for you. But you realize if you want to get into the thousands, it’s going to be hard to get into that. Maybe you need to look into UV, for that large stuff. Or maybe you need to look into direct-to-garment printing, or whatever it would be.

You’ve got to look in your area, in your niche, versus your competition.

Mark S: If you’re a big shop, if you’re already like a big screen printer that listens to the podcast, if you’re a multiple DTG shop, just start asking your customers. Tell them that you’re thinking about adding this capability. Some of their eyes will light up, and they’ll be excited to do business with you on this stuff, just like they are on custom apparel.

Don C: With, it’s like 1,000 years’ experience I feel like I have in the industry now.

Mark S: You look it!

Don C: Thank you! It’s because I’ve been in the room with you, with the inks! No.

There’s a bell curve we go through on new technology, especially digital technologies. The bell curve starts out shallow, where you have the early adopters who generally are the pioneers. In a lot of cases, they’re the ones that end up face down, with the arrows in their back.

But the ones that excel at it really make good money on it, because there’s not a lot of competition in the marketplace. As you start up the curve, the technology grows, and it gets a little bit more friendly. It gets a little bit more affordable. But still, you’re in good margins, good margins, good margins.

Then, you kind of hit that peak, where it’s like, it has arrived, and it’s something that you’re making decent money on. But in the near future, it’s going to start back down that bell curve, where now it goes from “I want to have the good opportunity to grow,” to “I have to have it, to survive.” Until it gets down to the point we are in, in the sign industry right now, for instance. If you don’t have a large format eco solvent printer, you are not in the sign industry. That’s an absolutely have to have.

So now, it’s you make money with it, but it’s an absolutely necessity. We’re starting up that upward slope on the bell curve, where the machines are pretty affordable, the technology is solid, the inks are solid, and the costs, the values you get for the products you’re producing, are still pretty high.

Instead of jumping in when it’s up at that top peak, where now you start your learning curve, where people around you are already versed, you’re going to miss some of that potential as you drop off, as the cost of the output and stuff starts to come down.

Mark S: So basically, get in the market soon, for offering this kind of technology, and you’ll benefit in the long run.

Don C: Yeah. I think you’re going to see your ROIs are going to be shorter, and your competition will be less. And the guy who gets there first, in many cases, like we were talking about embroidery. Embroidery is a great apparel decoration, but it’s a mature marketplace.

As soon as you throw the word embroidery out there, they can go Bing and search, and find 20 people within a 25-mile radius, that you’re now competing against. Therefore, the cost of output is down.

With this, though, being able to offer people full color, and there are so, so many apps, we didn’t even scratch the surface.

Mark S: I know. And the combinations of things, too.

Marc V: What’s cool about our mission, what we do, is that folks that still, a little bit, getting into the direct-to-garment printing business, we’re still in a place where offering these really high quality prints, really customizable t-shirt prints, is still not crazy easy to find. If you want screen printed t-shirts, you want 500 screen printed white shirts, you can find them in any garage. Just go into a neighborhood, and you can probably find someone doing it.

But direct-to-garment printing is still -.

Mark S: Yeah. “I want a full color photo on three shirts.”

Marc V: “And I want it to be good quality and look good, and wash well, and all of these other things.” It still has this huge potential. But this UV industry is so fresh and new and interesting, that you could actually have an idea that’s a really good idea, and Google search that, and not find anybody who is doing it, at all.

It still has potential for that.

Mark S: That’s true.

Don C: You would be amazed at the leads that I get. I talk to Mark about this quite frequently. They’re all different.

Mark S: Everybody has a different idea.

Don C: Manufacturers, people who make XYZ widget, they need something on that widget, whether the whole thing decorated, whether they want logo. They don’t want labels that can be peeled off, or stickers or whatnot, for safety reasons.

They come to you. They don’t search on “how do I print on an XYZ widget?” They say “My widget’s made out of polycarbonate. How do I print on polycarbonate?”

You have all kinds of opportunities with manufacturers, people who are entrepreneurs, leading edge type of stuff, to take and decorate their items, or put information on their items, that really makes them look custom. Or for safety purposes.

Hotels – do you have hotels in your area? Hello? There’s hotel signs that have the directions for fire escapes, and stuff like that. You want those as vandal-proof as possible. So, what do you do? You back-print it on a plex, and mount it against the wall, so it can’t be damaged.

Mark S: Bang on it all day, and nothing happens.

Don C: Exactly.

Mark S: I love all of this!

Marc V: Yeah. It’s really cool.

Mark S: I was excited about UV printing before, but I’m more, now. The Compress UV printer is kind of unique in the marketplace. I would encourage everybody to go to CompressUVPrinter.com, and check it out. Maybe give Don a call, and talk about what you want to accomplish.

One thing that you’ll get from any of us, I hope, in this whole ColDesi group of products and businesses, is you’ll get real answers to your questions, and real solutions to your problems. You won’t get somebody saying that a UV printer is the perfect solution for doing t-shirts.

Don C: And cookies.

Mark S: Right. You won’t get someone saying “Hey, you really need a multi-head embroidery machine,” because you have $35,000 to spend. No. It’s “What do you want to do with your business? How do you want to grow? What do you want to accomplish?” And then, we’ll help you figure it out.

Don C: A customer yesterday was a referral from a sales rep here at ColDesi, and they could very easily have directed them toward a direct-to-garment printer, and found ways to decorate on these items, with certain pretreatments, and a lot of work.

When I was running that division, I could print on almost anything. Could I make it profitable, and could I make it repeatable? Not so much. So, they directed them to the right product for their application.

That’s really what it’s about. It’s about having the right tools. If you’ve ever worked with somebody who has all the right tools to do something, a friend that’s a plumber. They come in and, “That’s how you cut that pipe? I’ve been hacksawing it for two and a half hours! You bring the little thing and zip! And it cuts.”

It’s about using the right tools.

Mark S: Alright. This has been another episode – I don’t know. Can we call it the Custom Apparel Startups podcast?

Marc V: Well, I just need to spin back around to that for a second. If you’re listening to this, and you think it’s as cool as I think it is, then you’re probably like “Oh, that would be an awesome addition to my business!” I’m sure there’s a group of people out there who at this point in time, they’re plugging into their computer, because they want to talk to Don about it.

There’s also folks who say “Oh, wow! $50,000 or $30,000 is not where I’m at right now, but it’s in the dream box.” However, hopefully you got some inspiration in this, to realize that if you’re just doing DTG or you’re just doing embroidery, or whatever you’re just doing now, that when you add that second product in, you can sell more things to your current customers.

As Don said, it opens up new windows. We have a customer who bought an embroidery machine, and came in for training. During the training, he looked at the vinyl t-shirt stuff, and just said “You know what? This is not that big of an investment to add to my business. I see how my customers are going to ask for this. I should just get it.”

It turns out, he’s like “I’ve barely even touched my embroidery machine!”

Mark S: He’s great! I know who you’re talking about. He’s a master with that vinyl.

Marc V: He got amazing with it really quick, and he’s like “I’m getting into the embroidery now. I’m doing some caps now. I’m doing some t-shirts,” which is kind of just like the -. I just find that it all ties together with this podcast.

It’s not just about talking about the UV, even though that’s what this episode is. But it’s also about the inspiration of saying “I offer one thing, but I’ve got to be like that Walmart style atmosphere, where my customer can come to me and I’ve got this option for him, and I’ve got this. And when they walk in for the cap, I have three other things I can upsell to him.”

Then, it turns out that you’re getting referral business from the stuff you upsold, rather than the initial embroidery business.

Mark S: I just want to start calling it maybe a Target business, as opposed to Walmart.

Marc V: I actually like that better, as well.

Mark S: Alright! This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company, and we’ve got Don!

Mark S: Yeah. Thanks to Don Copeland, for coming in for the podcast again.

Don C: Thanks for the opportunity!

Mark S: You guys out there have a good business! ‘Bye!

Pin It on Pinterest