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Roland BT-12 Direct to Garment (DTG) Printer vs Sublimation Printing

Sublimation has become very popular with Silhouette crafters for the ease of use, ability to use the same designs as Silhouette Studio, and stunning vibrant colors. 

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The biggest drawback to sublimation is you can only sublimate onto blanks with a poly coating, and in the case of apparel, polyester.  For some small t-shirt businesses that leaves a pretty big void without being able to apply to cotton shirts. Sublimation's cousin, Direct to Garment or DTG, fills that gap with the ability to print directly onto cotton or textile products with at least 50% cotton.

The Roland BT-12 printer is a great beginner level Direct to Garment printer because of its relatively low price point for DTG, it's compact size (just 15 x 22"), and it's very simple and straight forward software.

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Silhouette users who've found themselves running a small business, will LOVE that you can use JPEG and PNG versions of the designs you already have in your Silhouette library or of those you've purchased from places like So Fontsy. Or take your cut files, fill them with color in Silhouette Studio, export as a JPG or PNG and open in the Roland print software. The required software is free and compatible with both Macs and PC computers. 

So how does the BT-12 DTG printer work? 
  • The design, image, or artwork to be printed is opened in the very simple software. It's sized and positioned.
  • There are two main parts: the printer and the finishing oven both of which are needed for the quick 7-8 minute process. 
  • Any number of cotton blanks (shirt, tote bag, bib, wine bags, pillow covers, etc) are placed on the included cassette tray. 
  • The tray is placed in the oven first for 30 seconds to remove any wrinkles and moisture. 
  • The tray is then placed in the printer where the image in the software is printed directly onto the cotton fabric. This takes about 1-2 minutes depending on the size of the design being printed. 
  • The tray is then placed back into the over for another 3:30 minutes to cure the ink and make it permanent.
That's it. 

Advantage of Roland BT-12 DTG Over Sublimation

When compared to sublimation, DTG printers take the paper and heat press out of the equation since the image is printed directly onto the fabric. This makes the process very quick and straight forward.  

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That, along with being an all-in-one-machine, and being able to print onto cotton - cotton shirts, bags, towels, pillow covers, socks - are it's biggest benefits!  Sublimation requires at least 65% polyester in textiles. 

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The inks for both the Roland BT-12 and Sawgrass Sublimation printers are around the same price, with the Roland inks just slightly less expensive - but not enough I'd say it should be a deciding factor. 

One of the ways the BT-12 stays at such a relatively affordable rate, compared to other DTG printers, is it can not print white ink - which is costly.

Advantages of Sublimation over Direct to Garment 

There are of course some down sides - some to DTG in general and others specifically to this Roland BT-12 printer. 

With Direct to Garment you are doing just that...printing onto a garment and it must be a flat garment. With sublimation you can use the same Sawgrass SG500 or SG1000 printer, inks, and paper to sublimate onto both soft (apparel, hats) and hard goods (mugs, coasters, bag tags) as long as they are white or light and have a poly coating/high polyester count. 

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Sublimation is also a less expensive start up with a Sawgrass SG500 printer, for example starting around $600.  A Sawgrass SG1000 sublimation printer plus the required heat press however will set you back about $1900 vs $3495 for the Roland BT-12 DTG printer.

Neither printer will do it all and at this price point none is going to do "it all". But if you have to pick one printer, this comparison chart should help you determine which is best for your small business. If you already have one of the printers, investing in your business by adding the other can really allow you to increase what you can offer in your shop all while using the exact same designs and fonts you already own! 

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