For apparel decorators in the early stages of launching a business – or promotional products distributors looking to in-source their decorating needs – equipment is a necessary capital investment. Whether you’re in the market for an embroidery machine, screen-printing press, direct-to-garment (DTG) printer or are interested in creating your own direct-to-film transfers, it’s imperative to ask the right questions to be sure you purchase a machine that will meet your needs for years to come.
What kind of production output do you need?
You need to think about the amount of work that your business will handle. Do you want to purchase decorating equipment that can handle a few print-on demand jobs, or are you looking to produce all of your apparel orders? A single-head embroidery machine could be just the thing to allow you to personalize small orders, but if you’re looking to add logos to hundreds of polos per campaign, a multi-head machine may be your best bet.
What is my space limit?
Certain decoration techniques require significant square footage, while others are more compact – there are desktop DTG printers designed for homepreneurs, for instance. But if you’re launching a screen-printing business, you’ll need a darkroom with an exposure unit to burn screens, a conveyor dryer or other method to cure inks once they’re on a garment, and a washout booth to clean screens – in addition to a manual or automatic screen-printing press. To ensure that everything fits, measure the space you have available before purchasing equipment. Don’t forget about doorways; you’ll be in trouble if your shiny new machine gets stuck on the way in.
What features do I need?
For the most up-to-date information about decorating equipment companies, it is a good idea to reach out to vendors. You need to decide which tools are essential for your business, which are useful, and which ones are just nice. Don’t forget about computer equipment to load decorating and graphics artwork software onto. These programs are often included in startup packages.
How can I afford this?
Are you able to afford the equipment or can you finance it? Calculating your return on investment will help you decide if an equipment purchase is right for you. First look at the total cost of ownership – including the cost of maintenance, repairs and replacing parts – and compare that to your expected output. How many shirts can you print per month? What is the time it will take to return your initial investment at that rate?
What type of support and training does the vendor provide?
When you’re looking to buy decorating equipment, make sure you ask about training and support plans. They will help you install the equipment and get you up to speed about how it works. What happens if something goes wrong? Is there a strong technical support team? Do they offer classes, webinars and other online resources that will help you to improve your skills? They can connect you to reputable equipment-repair professionals in your area.