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UV Printer vs UV DTF Printer – What’s the Difference? [2024]

UV Printing is a digital printing process that uses ultraviolet light to dry the ink. Traditionally, UV Printers have been Direct to Object Printers, meaning the design is printed right on the object. But with the recent popularity of Direct to Film (DTF) Printing for fabrics, UV DTF Printing for hard surfaces has also emerged.
In this post, we’re going to unpack these technologies, comparing UV and UV DTF Printers side-by-side. So, let’s explore what makes these machines unique, helping you figure out which one might be the best fit for your business.

Understanding UV Printing

UV Printing is ideal for hard surfaces like wood, plastics, metals, glass and more. UV Printing is extremely efficient. There is no dry time, usually no pre-treatments necessary and minimal job set up.

Here is what the workflow looks like with a Compress iUV Printer:

Place objects on the bed of the UV Printer
The Compress LED iUV1200 Printer has a print area of 1150mm x 750 mm and the print bed depth is 300mm. You can print on virtually anything with this printer as long as it fits in the machine. With this impressive bed size, you can fit at least two corrugated signs, tons of cell phone cases or hundreds of pens. Plus, there are even custom jigs that can be purchased for popular print items.

Set up your design with the printing software
The Compress iUV Printers come with a special RIP Software that features variable data. This means you can set up multiple different designs to print in one pass. So, if you have a bunch of mobile phone cases on your printer, you can put a different design on each one of them. Think monograms, photos, mascots…

Printing your design
The Compress UV printers set the bed height automatically based on the object you are printing on. This ensures that the print head is at the perfect distance for crisp application and highly clear print quality.

First, a layer of white ink will be laid down, then the colour ink printed on top. This will give your designs a huge pop factor. Since the UV ink cures instantly with the light, this printer is capable of layered and textured prints.

Just imagine printing wood, that has a grainy feel or snakeskin that feels like scales! This is a big wow factor that can really set you apart from competition.

Once the machine is done printing, your work is done! The objects are dry and ready to be sold or packaged.

Advantages and limitations of traditional UV printing technology

By printing directly on your desired item, you are cutting out tons of time during production. But what if you want to customize a product that does fit in the printer or has an uneven surface.
Traditional UV Printing is ideal for flat surfaces so bevelled glass, helmets or anything with an odd shape can be really hard to decorate. This is where UV DTF Printing comes in.

Exploring UV DTF Printing

UV DTF Printing works almost just like regular UV Printing except designs are printed on a film and then transferred onto the desired object later.
When using a traditional UV printer to create UV DTF transfers, you will need a laminator machine and a semi-flexible ink.

How the workflow differs with UV DTF Printing?

Long story short, UV DTF Printing creates additional steps in production. After printing your design on the film, you will combine the film with a special carrier sheet using the laminator. The ink must be semi-flexible so that it doesn’t crack during application.

After adding the carrier sheet, the film on the back of your print can be removed. Then you will place the design in the desired location and use pressure to adhere it to the object and slowly peel back the carrier sheet.

This process can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. However, it allows business owners to say yes to more jobs. And these jobs could be big money-making opportunities.

While some UV Printers have UV DTF Printing capabilities, there are also printers on the market that are just for UV DTF Printing. They have built in laminators and cannot print directly on objects. This is a good option for business owners who are looking to just make decals or sell the designs as is for their customers to apply themselves.

Choosing Between UV and UV DTF Printing: Finding the Right Fit

Both UV Printing and UV DTF Printing have a unique set of strengths and limitations.

UV printing, with its direct-to-object approach, stands tall when it comes to efficiency and seamless printing on various hard surfaces. The Compress iUV Printer features a simple operation and incredible potential for diverse applications.

However, traditional UV printing might hit roadblocks when dealing with irregular shapes or items that can’t fit into the printer bed. This is where UV DTF printing enters the scene, offering a workaround by transferring designs from film onto these challenging surfaces. Though it introduces additional steps and requires a laminator, UV DTF printing opens doors to customization on objects that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible with direct UV printing methods.

Choosing between UV printing and UV DTF printing boils down to the specific needs of your business. If you prioritize efficiency, speed, and direct printing on a diverse range of surfaces, UV printing might be your go-to. On the other hand, if you seek flexibility to tackle irregular shapes and surfaces UV DTF printing could be the ideal solution.

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Talk to an industry professional

Before making your decision, you should see a UV Printer in action. A printing expert at the YES Group can walk you through the whole process with a live or line online demo. Plus, with years of experience in the customization industry they can help you explore the best products and technology for your business needs.

Find Out More / Request a demo today.

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