There is more than one way to print wide and grand format applications. Understanding the differences is the first step in a decision to “go grand.” Wide-format printer hardware may be classified by how the material is handled, especially how it is moved through the printer.
These printers are the most common, in part because they cost the least. These are the options:
Paper-backed textiles through regular non-textile printers. HP offers printers, such as the Designjet 5000 and 5500 that can accept paper-backed textiles. The material must have a paper backing to feed through the pinch roller and grit roller system. This kind of material is expensive and the operator is limited to the HP inks, rather than textile inks.
Most print shops that wish to seriously go into digital printing on fabrics may experiment with a printer they already have, but quickly realize its limitations and will begin looking at a more sophisticated solution that is made for textiles.
Modified roll-to-roll. Mutoh offers its various versions of the Viper, and Roland has offeredprinters labeled and advertised for textiles, but as long as they have the pinch rollers and grit roller system, they are meant for wallpaper and other paper-backed materials.
Sophisticated roll-to-roll with tension, rather than grit, rollers. These printers use tension to pull the fabric and spreader rollers to keep creasesfrom growing as the somewhat stretchable fabric feeds through the system. The MC3 from Yuhan-Kimberly (DTP Link) has a fabric transport system sufficiently innovative that aspects have been patented. More importantly, the company offers a bulk ink system that is a vast improvement. The real advantage is having a company to back you up with significant knowledge about how to handle inkjet-printed textiles from A to Z, from pre-coating topost-finishing.
Here in CA it is saturated.
My friend bought a simple screen printing machine some time ago and has not made back his investment.
The problem is, actual screen printing shops have the more sophisticated presses and can work in volume better than a little guy, so even if you get a few small sample orders once they go to full production they probably will not need your services.
Plus the most savvy shirt makers source their screen printers on the internet, and I'm not just talking about Cafe Press--when my bro needed cool promo t-shirts he found a printer that could do gold metallic and used American Apparel t's in really cool cuts that were super popular among his indie fans