How to print a t-shirt in 30 minutes

Is it possible to print a T-shirt in less than 30 minutes from start to finish? To find the answer, I visited Singapore-based Custom Top Pte Ltd to catch a demonstration from the young, but up-and-coming printing company located at the North Spring BizHub in Yishun to find out.

To be clear, 30 minutes was an arbitrary time frame that I cooked up prior to heading over for the demonstration. Indeed, the actual T-shirt printing as done by Koh Jie Meng, the sales director of Custom Top probably took all of two minutes to complete.

Koh printed the T-shirt from his Epson SureColor SC-F2000 garment printer that is capable of printing color images directly from a standard JPEG file onto a piece of fabric. Having worked for half a decade as a middle-man servicing orders for custom-printed T-shirts, Koh said he decided to get into the game himself after seeing the strides made by new generations of digital garment printers.

Koh standing beside his company’s Epson SureColor printer
Koh standing beside his company’s Epson SureColor printer

The business owner came across as someone who is highly enthusiastic about all things technological, and Koh told me that he was the first to get the SureColor SC-F2000 in the Asia Pacific region when it was acquired about a year ago.

All set up and ready to begin
All set up and ready to begin

Below is a bullet point list of what Koh did as he simultaneously fielded a barrage of questions from me.

  • Switch on the Epson printer, which initiated its warm-up procedure.
  • Switch on the heating machine.
  • Browsed through Google Images and downloaded a promising image.
  • Loaded the image into the PC-based Epson software.
  • Place a (recycled) T-shirt into the SureColor SC-F2000.
  • Press the “Start” button on the machine.
  • Dried the printed T-shirt in a heat press.

According to Koh, garment printing is traditionally a labor-intensive industry, which translates into high overheads in Singapore. The SureColor SC-F2000 digital printer however, makes it possible for him to sidestep this issue by eliminating most of the manpower intensive processes, and deliver the printed T-shirts with a minimum turnaround time as short as one business day.

All printed--just don’t touch until it is properly dried
All printed–just don’t touch until it is properly dried

So does digital printing offer any competitive advantage other than the possibility of overnight delivery? Koh says he has no minimum order quantity, and will gladly print a single T-Shirt as long as he has the requisite item in stock.

He argues that this allows for a different experience for his customers, allowing them the leeway to experiment and possibly request for customized designs. Koh called the entire process “like printing paper” more than once.

Finally, Koh also expressed confidence in the printers from Epson, which he says is based on in-house technology. He has clearly done his research when he rattled off some brands that he says uses technologies that were developed by other companies, including Epson.

“Support is there,” he said of Epson, “They won’t run away.”

Drying the printed T-Shirt
Drying the printed T-Shirt