Direct To Film Printing (DTF)

The ultimate guide to the direct to-film (DTF) printing process.

Direct To Film Printing: An Overview

The digital textile printing industry has seen rapid growth in the last decade as more & more producers shift towards the digitalisation of textile printing. The use of digital printers allows simplification without the need to film or screens, the benefits are better fabric performance, consistency, and most importantly a larger colour gamut can be printed to textiles thus making the whole process reliable & cost-effective overall. There are several processes that come under the umbrella of printing on textiles digitally. In this article, we will be mainly discussing the DTF transfer printing process (Direct to Film transfer).

What is DTF Printing?

The DTF process is as simple in its working as its name suggests – Print on a film and directly transfer onto fabric through the use of a simple heat press. The most prominent factor that makes this process worthy of use across a larger number of people is the freedom to choose almost any fabric. Be it polyester, cotton, silk or synthetic fibres like rayon or terry cotton, the DTF printing process will definitely work its magic on them.

The requirements for DTF printing do not demand a heavy investment from the user. Be it someone who is currently engaged in one of the digital textile printing processes, DTG for example (direct to garment) and wants to shift to DTF printing as an extension of the business, or someone wanting to venture into digital textile printing starting with DTF, one has to invest in the following;

direct to film printing

Direct to Film Printer

The AXZYRA DTF systems use a high-quality water-based ink to digitally print the graphics and then automatically apply a powdered adhesive and cure all in one compact operation. The heat transfers are immediately ready for instant use or storage.
The complete operation is achieved in one simple automated process.

One of the benefits to DTF Printers is there is no need to use pre-treatment. The soft feel, hot peel transfers are easy to apply with a suitable heat press..

PET films are used in DTF printing process. These films are different than those used in screen printing. These have a thickness of around 0.75mm and better transfer characteristics. DTF films are available in the form of either 300 or 600mm width on 100m rolls (used with a Axzyra setup). Another classification of the PET films is based on the type of peeling that is done after the transfer. Based on the temperature, the films are either hot peel type films or cold peel type films. The Axzyra systems are all Hot peel.

The software is an important part of the process. The print characteristics, colour performance of the inks and the final print performance on the fabric after transfer are greatly influenced by the Software. For DTF, Axzyra use a specialised RIP software that can handle CMYK and White Colours. The colour profiling, ink levels, drop sizes and other factors contributing to an optimised print result are all governed by the DTF Printing software.

Hot-melt adhesive Powder
The DTF printing powder is white in colour and acts as an adhesive material that binds the coloured pigments in the print to the fibres in the fabric. There are different grades of the DTF hot melt powder that are specified in microns. Axzyra has selected the best performing powder for fast hot peel transfer.

DTF Printing Inks
These are specially designed pigment inks available in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and White colours. The White Ink is a special component lays out the white foundation of the print on the film and onto which the coloured design is printed.

Automatic Powder Shaker
The Automatic Powder Shaker is used in commercial DTF setups to apply the powder evenly and also to remove the excess powder.The Automatic Powder Shaker is used in commercial DTF setups to apply the powder evenly and to remove the & recycle the excess powder.

Curing Oven

The curing oven is basically a small industrial oven that is used to melt the hot melt powder that is applied over the transfer film. This is fully automated during the printing cycle. Alternatively, a heat press machine can also be used to carry this out but it should be used in no contact mode.

Heat Press Machine
The heat press machine is used mainly for transferring the image printed on the film on to the fabric.

Direct To Film Printing The Process

DTF transfer machines in your printing business does not require a heavy investment. Whether you are new to the printing business or wish to adopt digital printing to expand your business.

The Axzyra DTF Transfer printers come with multiple coloured ink tanks. These tanks allow the printers the convenience to operate using CMYK settings. The DTF printer ink is specifically designed for use with this process of printing to the coated PET film.

Step 1 – Print on Film
The roll of PET film is loaded onto the input spool. This is fed through the correct path on the printer. After this, using the appropriate pre-set colour profile settings, print the required image on the white image layer. The important point to remember is that the print on the film must be a Reverse image of the actual image that needs to appear on the fabric. So colour then white on the top.

Step 2 – Powdering
This step is the application of hot-melt powder on the film that has the printed image on it. The powder is applied uniformly when the print is wet and the excess powder needs to be removed carefully. The Axzyra DTF range carries out this process automatically, the important thing is to ensure that the powder is evenly spread all over the printed surface on the film, this gives an even melt.

Step 3 – Melting the powder
As in the name, the powder is melted in this step. This can be done in various ways. The most common way is to put the film with the printed image and the applied powder in the Curing Oven and heat.

Step 4 – Transfer
This is the heart of the DTF printing process. The PET film with the image and the melted powder is placed on the pre-pressed fabric in the heat press for a strong adhesion between the film and the fabric. This process is also called ‘curing’. The curing is done at a temperature range of 160 to 170 degree Celsius for approximately 15 to 20secomds. The film is now firmly attached to the fabric.

Step 5 – Hot Peel
There is no need for the PET film to cool down before the operator pulls the film off. Since the hot-melt acts as a binder that holds the coloured pigment in the inks in firm to adhere onto the fibres of the fabric. Instantly the film can be peeled off the fabric, leaving the required design printed in ink over the fabric.

Overall, one could say that the DTF transfer process practically lifts all restrictions that are commonly encountered in other textile printing processes especially when it comes to choosing the fabric to print on. Since pre-treatment is not essential, in many cases, the overall cost of printing is brought down offering a higher profit margin.

The ability to broaden the scope of items to print to is enhanced, full colour printing to caps, shoes, bags & the inside of garments all possible with DTF transfer over DTG which is limited by the secure mounting of the item under the print heads.
The textile printing industry is predicted to see a massive growth as more and more fabrics manufactured by DTF will come into picture. In conclusion, the DTF printing process can be thought of an effective way to produce fabrics economically. Interested in our product? Get in touch with us at Axzyra today!