Dirk Henrich Consulting
A profile picture of Dirk Henrich, Founder of Dirk Henrich Consulting
Dirk Henrich
Further Information
14th May 2024
Dirk Henrich, freelance management consultant, outlines the current enthusiasm for DTF printing and its potential relevance for the industry

The basic principal of DTF is that a motif is printed onto a transfer medium, including a fine-grained hot-melt adhesive. This is then transferred to the end product by applying heat and pressure in a separate process. Typical applications can be found in the textile, industrial, automotive, home design, furniture and packaging industries.

However, the name ‘DTF’ is somewhat misleading. Why is a process that is indirect in every respect called ‘direct’? The reason is that the already established term ‘direct-to-garment (DTG)’ paired well with the name DTF.


The desire for individualisation is ongoing. DTF provides examples of exciting and wide-ranging possibilities. With DTF, digital diversity can now be easily transferred to three-dimensional objects with the highest print quality and durability. An example of this was demonstrated at the Formula 1 event recently held in Nevada, USA. The Red Bull drivers’ racing overalls were clearly inspired by Elvis Presley. For such innovatively designed individual pieces in a 
small quantity, DTF printing enabled significantly simplified and cost-effective production. 
From a creative point of view, this may not be particularly groundbreaking. However, from a cost and production perspective, it is a real revolution. This is because production is very simple with transfer printing and a heat-press ironing device. It can be achieved at a fraction of the cost, reduced time and increased complexity.


The multi-stage nature of DTF – specifically the separation of ‘print to medium’ and ‘transfer to end’ product – creates decentralised business models. These correspond well with the current global business climate. The pandemic and ongoing political crises will continue to drive companies to bring goods’ production closer to the point of sale. This will mean that production will be less susceptible to external disruptions in the supply chain. 

Finished and decorated products used to come from Asia. In future, those products will be made in the Balkans, on the Bosphorus, or in North Africa, to be decorated on demand in the country of use. Advantages of more localised production will significantly simplify warehousing, short and safe delivery routes, as well as creating less waste. Above all, considerably greater flexibility to adapt any design at short notice and with flexibility are welcome benefits.


The diverse DTF range of transfer sheets that can be configured online, printed and sent by courier shows one thing clearly. Quite simply, anyone who can operate a heat or ironing press can be a potentially successful supplier in the market for decorated textiles. To enter this market, it is no longer necessary to have complex pre-treatment, printing machines and maintenance know-how or a complete machine park onsite. Online portals offer many possibilities.


All components required in DTF printing – hardware and consumables used – are in urgent demand from established suppliers. These companies can also help to answer questions regarding the latest EU supply chain regulations. Components coming exclusively from China and the familiar hardware problems with a lack of CE approval, can become issues of the past. Building on this, a further and more controversial topic comes into focus – statements on environmental compatibility. It is becoming clear that printed decoration is a component of the end product and must therefore fulfill additional criteria. 

“DTF printing enabled significantly simplified and cost-effective production”

Two racing drivers wearing Red Bull branded clothing
At the F1 premiere in Las Vegas, racing teams attracted attention with theme-based designs (Copyright Red Bull Racing Ltd)

Around 10% of the global CO₂ footprint and around 20% of global waste water is attributed to the textile sector. The term CO₂ has established itself as a weight indicator and universal measure of environmental impact and relief. As a result, it will be the focus of future attention on everything in the textile industry. Going forward, it will be important to get used to the idea of expressing all aspects in CO₂. These include purchases, production and sales. This term can be extremely helpful in convincing customers not to choose the cheaper alternative from the other side of the world. With a holistic and environmentally friendly view – including material waste – and quantifying transportation distances, the low-wage advantage in Asia is quickly put into perspective.

“All components required in DTF printing are in urgent demand from established suppliers”


Fruit of the Loom has become the first of the major textile manufacturers to operate a state-of-the-art, transparent textile factory on Europe’s doorstep. The significantly shorter transportation routes are reflected in the CO₂ reduction. Near-shoring also provides important independence from external risks in the supply chain. Henrich’s personal recommendation for this year’s FESPA is the German speciality paper manufacturer Felix Schoeller. The company is a fifth-generation family business that is highly aware of its own responsibility. Felix Schoeller will be presenting new transfer media for both DTF and analogue textile production in Amsterdam.