I’ve had the worst luck with printers. I’ve owned a million of them it seems, and usually something jams up here or there, causing me some kind of expensive problem. Half the time it’s cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to buy the cartridges. But in recent years, printer technology seems to have improved, because the days of wanting to chuck my printer over a bridge embankment have gone to the wayside. Now I actually want to print things and see what kind of cool stuff I can create.
As it turns out, you can do a lot of cool things with printers nowadays, including making some extra cash. I’ve done some digging and found a few of my favorite new (and newly affordable) printable techniques for 2017, and let me tell you, some of these are nuts. Don’t believe me? I guess we’ll find out at the end.
I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: DTG — or direct-to-garment printing — is coming on strong. It gives users the ability to print directly onto T-shirts, leggings, shorts, hats, or whatever else you want, at a relatively affordable price. It means that if you wanted to start a T-shirt business, you could produce them for around $12 per shirt (including the shirt itself), and have someone else ship it for you. That’s pretty amazing. The only downside is that buying your own DTG printer ain’t cheap, so don’t expect to have one next to your HP inkjet anytime soon.
That said, as the popularity of this medium grows, the costs will come down. Eventually, DTG printing will become relatively affordable, and I say that with confidence because it’s the type of thing that hobbyists would love to run. Even if it’s only in a smaller form, DTG printers will get out there on the civilian market, and the future of the medium is very exciting.
Water Transfer Printing
Every heard of it? Maybe you know it by its other name, Hydro Dipping. If not, here’s a quick primer:
While that shows the process, let’s get a bit more technical. You start with printing a pattern onto a special film. Then you spray a special activator on the film, allow it to set, then place the film into a bed of water. Now spray a second activator onto the film and place your primed substrate into the film carefully, making sure to roll the piece into the image. Shake off the excess film under the water, pull it out, clear coat it, and you’re good to go.
So where does the printing come into play? Step 1. You’re printing a pattern of your own design onto the film that will eventually go onto a part. And even though today there are some pedestrian applications in place, imagine what you could do with the process. And, as it turns out, you can print your own hydro-dipping film at home, too:
Pretty neat, right? Now yes, it’s been around for a bit, so it’s not exactly on the bleeding edge. But it is now more attainable for the average designer, and I can’t wait to see what some of you do with it.
Also, I recently discovered that the Hydro Dip Store is in my hometown, and they’ve got a ton of information on how the process works, plus parts for sale, should you be interested.
So I run a sticker company, and right now we don’t have a printer. It’s something that’s the bane of my existence, because I have all of these amazing plans for the company once we get one, but they’re not cheap so I just have to wait. What kind of ideas? Well …
What’s great about printing today is that you can do so on multiple mediums. Yes, I could print on vinyl, but you can also print on cardboard for packaging. Or banner material for banners. Or fiberboard for displays. The amount of things that you can print on are staggering, and all I want to do is join the fun.
Cotton Business Cards
I got my last set of business cards from Moo, so when they come out with new products, I get an email. So when I found out that they came out with cotton business cards, I knew that it was something I needed to know more about.
Recycled products are always cool, and in this case, they’re not even technically that. The cards are made from the castoffs created during the production of clothing, and that also means that no trees are used at all. The fact that they can print on the cotton is no less astounding, but when you discover that all they’re really doing is making the cotton into paper, it seems even cooler.
Is it traditional printing? Nope. But who cares — 3D printing is taking off like a storm. Just check out some of the cool things you can do with them. Truly amazing stuff. And now it’s also in the mainstream. How do I know? Because I’ve been to Staples.
Seriously, they sell 3D printers at Staples now, which means that anyone with a few hundred dollars can get started, and if they have $2,500, they can get their own Makerbot. That’s a huge leap forward in my book, and if I had the cash, I’d own one today.
Oh, and did you know that you can 3D print clothing now, too?
T-shirts are one thing, but when it comes to textiles, it’s a whole other ball of wax. We can start with canvas, because printing images onto canvas has been done for a while, but that’s usually easy to do since it’s one large sheet. But now there are lots of other applications.
Like what? Towels, aprons, cushions, pillows — all sorts of good stuff, and the options just keep on coming. They can print flags now, for crying out loud.
When doing my research for the business ideas post, one thing I forgot about was sublimation printing. The process may sound complex at first, but as it turns out, you can purchase some very inexpensive equipment and get going on your own.
The concept here is to apply an image to materials (such as metals, polyester cloth and some ceramics) that have a special coating on them by using a special ink, heat, and pressure. You print out your design using special sublimation ink, then apply it to the substrate. Then, using the aforementioned heat and pressure, the ink turns from a solid to a gas, dying the substrate in the process. It’s crazy sounding stuff, but knowing that you can do it with just a few different tools, it sounds pretty cool.
Welcome to the future
Crazy, right? Sure, we had some ideas about the things we could print on before, but now it seems like it’s an open world. I don’t know about you, but this gave me a half-dozen new ideas of things I could do with a printer, and it makes me want to buy more. How about you? Share with us below!