By Steve Urmano
Purchasing equipment for your shop can be a complex routine, but it can be broken down into specific tasks. An equipment budget should consider the wide-format equipment and be based on the print size desired and the number of printers required. Wide-format printer widths, like 60-inch, 74-inch and 98-inch to 128-inch, are available and can cost from $20,000 to $120,000.
Switching out ink sets can be difficult and expensive, so you may have to settle on one ink set, disperse direct-print sublimation, for example, to begin working. In the future, you may want to print on cotton or canvas with a pigmented ink, and you may want to add a wide-format printer specifically for printing this media type.
A calendar heat press is a required component in dye sublimation and is used to permanently fix pigmented textile inks. The machines can be as or more costly than a digital printer, depending on the width. They usually start at $25,000 and can go to $80,000.
A long and wide work table is required, along with a rotary cutter, like the Foster Keencut Evolution series, to make cutting fabric easy.
When setting up your digital fabric print shop, it’s important to consider your power source and power requirements. Many of the hardware items required, especially the calendar heat press, take 220-volt service of 30 amps or more. Most wide-format printers over 60 inches work using 220 volts and 20 to 30 amps. You’ll need to improve your electrical service to drive the equipment in most instances.
To get the equipment in the door (or through a window, in some cases), riggers are often required when a shop is on the second floor and when equipment won’t fit through doorways. Be prepared to pay for riggers to move in the equipment and for factory technicians to install the equipment. Many printers, especially those over 60 inches, need to be leveled and can’t be installed over existing carpeting.
Have qualified technicians install and calibrate the equipment. Ensuring ultimate satisfaction and eliminating downtime can be directly attributed to the installation.
Preparing ICC profiles for your media types, and learning your RIP and how to select the right profile for your media type is a must. Learning how to routinely and efficiently do this will reduce makeover and get you high-paying jobs.
It will also let you keep your customers in a highly competitive environment.