The Future Development Trend of Direct to Film DTF Printing Technology
May 25,2024

Although the rapid expansion of DTF printing market is good news for the industry on one hand, this growth has also made the industry quite commoditized, and competition in this field is very fierce. This article explores how companies in this market can stand out.

White ink direct to film (DTF) printing is still a new technology to a large extent. DTF printing has only been around for about twenty years, but it has already had a major impact on the entire industry, with companies around the world using DTF machines, DTF inks and methods to produce a variety of printing applications.

The popularity of DTF and the availability of DTF technology have caused the market to grow at an astonishing rate. However, at the same time, the number of companies offering DTF printing is also increasing, which in turn has led to the commoditization of the market, making those in the industry facing significant competition as they compete for the most valuable work.

Let's start with some statistics. According to the latest report from Keypoint Intelligence, DTF printing volume was about 190 million square meters in 2022; by 2027, this number may reach approximately 1 billion square meters.

In terms of value, the same report puts the retail value of the DTF market at $2.78 billion in 2022, while by 2027 this figure is expected to reach around $14 billion. If that’s not enough to attract the interest of fringe companies looking to enter this space, or market players looking for new growth opportunities, what else will?


"DTF using is at a rate the decorative apparel industry has never seen before," the report showed. In 2022, DTF machine accounted for approximately 44.5% of all garment printing machine. By 2027, DTF machine is expected to account for 64.4% of all garment printing machine.”

The report also pointed out that in 2022, there was approximately 9,082 DTF hardware devices worldwide. By 2027, that number could be as high as nearly 15,000 sets as more companies seek a piece of the pie. Most of these machines are likely to be double-head models, with four-head equipment accounting for about a quarter of the market.

Can DTF Printing Still Be A Profitable Business?

In view of this, people will ask: Can DTF still be a profitable business? The short but definite answer is: yes. However, Printing Service Providers (PSPs) need to skillfully utilize DTF technology to provide such services in order to be profitable and achieve high profits in the long term.

Easy availability of DTF machines has fueled the market growth in recent years. Cheap DTF printers from China mean that almost anyone has the ability to provide DTF service to their customers; while this is a good thing for businesses looking to diversify, it creates a glut in the market.

Interestingly, Keypoint Intelligence addressed this issue directly in its report. It noted that “the DTF market is still in its infancy, and there is a lot of turmoil among DTF equipment vendors. The path to DTF is significantly compressed, with milestones and obstacles mirroring the early days of direct-to-garment printing (DTG printing).”

Therefore, how can you stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of your most valuable customers? The answer is simple, that is to provide better service than others.

For customers who are pursuing fast, cheap and low-quality requirements, they have a wide range of choices. However, those customers who are quality conscious want to work with a PSP that can provide quality services. Therefore, you need to work with the trusted highest quality machines brands.

Keypoint Intelligence once again points the right direction for companies, pointing out that among the many vendors (more than 50) offering DTF solutions, there is a clear trend among well-known brands such as Brother, Epson, Mimaki and Roland, which are now launching their own printer.

"Continuously monitor market conditions and revisit your strategy based on real-time data and changing trends," the report advised.

Roland DG recently launched its entry-level desktop DTF printer, the VersaSTUDIO BY-20, with sheet-fed and contour cutting capabilities.

Why Is DTF Printing So Popular?

Before we get into what features a good DTF machine should have, let's take a look at the actual DTF technology and why it's become a popular choice not only for PSPs, but also for customers.

Firstly, DTF is easy to learn and master. Printing with water-based DTF pigment inks on PET film is very similar to printing on paper, which is something that all printing service providers know or certainly should know how to do. It is a simple and straightforward process that does not contain many elements and can be completed in a small space and can be applied to almost all types of printing companies.

Secondly, DTF printing is fast, which means PSP can turn around quickly. Once the film is printed, it can be stored until needed. This not only allows PSP to prepare printed film in advance during busy periods, but also eliminates the need for double white or CMYK printing when using other printing methods.

Thirdly, the cost is not high, which is attractive to many businesses looking to maximize profits on all their efforts. Despite the additional cost of films and powders, DTF printing tends to be the most cost-effective printing method, delivering financial benefits to PSPs of all sizes.

Finally, the wide applications range of DTF printing opens up a variety of markets for printing companies. From general clothing such as T-shirts, hoodies and tracksuits to promotional items and even interior decoration, DTF can be used in a wide range of applications.

The Dilemma of DTG Printing

When discussing DTF, DTG technology should also be mentioned. After all, both DTF printing and DTG printing technology use a "direct" printing method, and some believe that DTG prints directly on the garment, providing a more direct method.

Of course, this eliminates the need for a transfer process and the use of films and powders. However, the argument for DTF relative to DTG remains compelling. In fact, even with the purchase of additional films and powders, the final cost of producing a T-shirt using DTF is slightly cheaper than using a DTG machine and DTG inks.

Secondly, no form of pre-treatment is required when using DTF, which is suitable for a variety of fiber types such as polyester, cotton, nylon and even hybrid fibers.

DTF manufacturers and suppliers also say that DTF printing allows users to achieve a wider color range, thus providing customers with more choices. DTF and its transfer process are much more precise when handling finer details such as lines and small fonts, and the printing effect is much clearer than DTG.

In addition, DTF-printed garments perform better in terms of elasticity and stretch, and the advantages are obvious.

What Shall We Do?

The above points are based on current market conditions and the PSP machines currently available. What about the future? At the recent FESPA Global Print Expo 2024, we saw some of the latest innovations in the DTF printing solutions. Manufacturers and suppliers in attendance promised that many exciting developments will come as the market continues to evolve.

From what we saw at FESPA 2024, and what we may see at Drupa 2024 in a week later, one of the top factors affecting the DTF market, and indeed all printing industry, is sustainability. As customers increasingly demand environmentally friendly printing, manufacturers must respond, and nowhere is this more evident than in the DTF sector.

Take Mimaki for example. Mimaki recently launched the new Mimaki TxF300-75, a machine that offers the best of both worlds when it comes to DTF and DTG printing. The machine can print on cotton, polyester and polyester blend materials as well as light and dark fabrics.

The new printers come with a standard two-year warranty. Hybrid Services, the exclusive distributor of Mimaki in the UK and Ireland, first showcased the machine at the UK Sign & Digital EXPO in February this year.

The new Mimaki TxF300-75 aims to strengthen the early success of the Mimaki DTF machine launched last year. More than 300 TxF150-75 models have been sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Mimaki said the latest model is three times faster than previous models and is designed to meet the needs of the professional bulk garment decoration market.

"The TxF300-75 recognizes that the popularity and satisfaction of the direct-to-film process is rapidly increasing, and it is now available alongside its highly successful counterpart, the TxF150-75, providing more choices for those entering or expanding the clothing decoration market. We are pleased to offer an unprecedented two-year warranty on the new TxF300-75." said Andrew Gregory, Hybrid Sales Director.

What Do the Experts Say?

Of course, Mimaki will be singing the praises of its latest DTF printer, and rightfully so, as visitors at the FESPA show just over a month ago could see its massive increase in speed and high-quality printouts. But what about the overall market? Where do we go from here, and what can printing service providers do to ensure they capture the most profitable jobs?

Incidentally, Marc Verbeem, director of product management at Mimaki, was one of the many professionals on hand at the FESPA show to oversee demonstrations of the new printers. In an interview with LFR, he said the high demand for DTF solutions will continue in the coming years, customization and personalization will be the main driving force behind this demand and growth.

He also cited other important developments, such as the introduction of artificial intelligence software, streamlining design creation and opening the market to more people, including those who don’t necessarily have the highest level of printing skills.

"Even if you're an amateur, you can now create unique, personalized designs without spending too much effort," he said. New DTF films including gold, silver, glitter and reflective will drive a wider range of DTF products.

“There are more upcoming trends such as paper-based DTF media and no powder DTF solution, but these will need to prove themselves over the next few years.”

Marc admits that Mimaki is still new to the DTF market, having launched its first DTF printer just over a year ago. However, as development work proceeds at a rapid pace, Mimaki is learning more about customer needs for DTF machines and continues to monitor developments in the industry.

“Demand for reliable, stable DTF solutions is high.” says Marc, “Customers are looking for systems that can provide unattended printing, thereby increasing productivity. As the demand for personalized products increases further, they require higher productivity.”

“Sustainability is also very important to us, so we are closely following the development of paper-based DTF media and no powder DTF printing solution.”

RA Smart also supports DTF printing, which has partnered with Polytech to distribute its DTF solution since 2021. Incidentally, Polytech is one of the pioneers of DTF technology, having developed this process using its patented powder coating system.

Alex Mighall, product marketing manager of RA Smart, has witnessed the expansion of this market first-hand. He said that the "spectacular" growth of DTF printing has been driven by its technical advantages over other forms of clothing decoration, highlighting the emerging of large number of different DTF brands in the market over the past few years. He added that the influx of big brands will only support further growth of DTF printing.

“Until recently, most of these systems came from Chinese suppliers who saw the potential in the DTF market.” Alex said, “As such, any potential customer wishing to invest in a DTF system must do their due diligence, be satisfied with the capabilities and reliability of any solution, and ensure that the support structure is in place.”

“There is no doubt that DTF technology offers an excellent solution for garment decoration, but it is crucial to work with a reputable dealer to ensure that the inevitable learning curve associated with this relatively new technology is minimized.”

As for where the market is headed, RA Smart sees a general trend in DTF machines: providing faster turnaround times for users, as well as increasing the diversity of the range of products a machine can produce.

“The cost per print is also very attractive compared to alternative technologies such as DTG presses, especially when printing on dark garments, DTG requires pre-processing, and printing costs are typically higher than DTF.” he said.

He said: "We can see that large printing suppliers are investing in multiple machines and more productive machines, and we think the demand for more productive systems will continue to grow. As the speed of printing systems increases, dedicated DTF cutting bed is required.

To this end, Alex explains how RA Smart worked with Seco to develop the new MultiCut Pro DTF cutter. The second-generation cutting machine, which was presented for the first time at the FESPA 2024 exhibition, is mainly aimed at small businesses and will offer online or offline solutions.


At the recent FESPA exhibition, a large number of DTF products were unveiled, and some well-known brands also exhibited larger batch DTF solutions.

All in all, there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to DTF. DTF technology not only allows users to produce a wide range of prints, but has a rapid development. Many huge printer companies are getting involved by launching their own DTF machines, which suggests that we can expect more growth in this already very dynamic market.

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