How STS Inks Found Itself in the Exploding DTF Market
USA-based ink developer and manufacturer STS Inks made a significant foray into DTF at this year’s Expo, showcasing its 64″ XPJ-1628D direct-to-film printer, 24″ XPD-724 DTF printer, and TPU powder shakers.
Chris Crear, senior business development manager, explained, “STS is a pioneer in this space and played a major role in qualifying the DTF process for the world market. The DTF process was aggressively pursued by STS’s owners, who believed in its potential early on.” As an ink maker, the company creates compatible ink solutions for major equipment manufacturers, from eco-solvent, aqueous, and latex to UV, DTG, and dye-sublimation. While a large chunk of its ink is sold aftermarket, 40% of the ink the company produces is for OEMs.
“Pretty much, if it’s digital ink, we make it,” Crear continued. So, how did it find itself in DTF? The journey began in 2019 when STS initiated research and development in the DTF market by manufacturing DTF inks and collaborating with Mutoh Japan to create an entry-level printer. This partnership paved the way for a viable and disruptive market presence, according to the company.
Today, STS offers a line-up of three DTF printers, along with a full range of supplies. Making its debut at the show was the STS D5160 roll-to-roll DTF 64″ printer, exclusively produced by Ricoh Japan for STS. This printer features three industrial-grade stainless steel Ricoh print heads.
Crear explained, “It literally exploded, an overnight success. Everybody and anybody in the space was importing from China, and it wasn’t coming from anywhere else. Most of the companies selling were never in business before, so they didn’t have the experience to service the products they were selling. Quality and service were non-existent, but STS Inks, with 25 years of experience, understood the importance of providing quality service.”
All that to say, he doesn’t see DTF’s allure fading anytime soon. He sees it as a big opportunity for printers not already in garment decoration to diversify, and for screen printers who would otherwise turn down smaller, one-off jobs to consider it.