The Madison County Sheltered Workshop, MCSW has recently acquired some new equipment and has assembled a team of specially trained workers who use the Direct to Garment or DTG printer.
The DTG printer is a Brother GT-3 series that prints a computer designed image directly onto a T-shirt or other garment.
The DTG Team members can conceive a design together, map it out on the computer, and save it onto a USB or flash drive. The group can also load a design onto the DTG machine from a customer’s flash drive.
The machine contains larger ink cartridges than a regular printer because fabrics are more absorbent than paper. DTG workers are trained for removing the garments from the printer, since they are wet. A heat press is used for curing and is equipped with a sliding mechanism.
“It is safer because it helps to prevent the possibility of burns, 360 degrees around it,” program director Frankie Hahn said. “It takes less than a minute to print each design and about 36 seconds to cure.”
The DTG workers demonstrated the process by making a shirt.
Hahn said, "They came up with the design themselves."
Since they had their design saved on a flash drive, they plugged it into the DTG printer. Second, they placed a shirt onto the machine’s plate for printing.
After the printing stage, it was carefully removed and placed onto the heat press and the sliding mechanism pushed into place for about one-half minute. Once the slide came out, the shirt was carefully lifted off by their instructor and held up for approval.
“Only the group’s directors use the heat press,” he explained.
Recently the DTG team has been printing various designs on wooden squares and has had some success selling them as plaques. Their Mother’s Day plaques contained a family tree image bearing family names and were purchased as a popular gift, this year.
The original idea was conceived with the Relay for Life event in mind. The members printed one of the RFL Ribbons onto a wood cut-out for the cause. The cut-outs are formed on-site and hand sanded by workers.
The employees have also printed can insulators. They hope to refine their process enough to produce award plaques for retail to local organizations.
There is another DTG machine for dark-colored shirts. Dark fabrics require a pre-treat process prior to printing.
The organization offers its services to businesses in the region and provides tape rolling and key holder assembly, in addition to DTG service. They have some flexibility and attempt to accommodate a business owner’s requirements, with regard to special requests.
Employee Lisa Hill says, “I saved money for a new knee brace and for going on my field trip.”
The facility leadership likes to set aside Friday afternoons as a “fun day." The workers assist in the planning of barbeques and games.
“One of their favorite games is corn hole, which is like bean bag toss,” Hahn says. “They can win prizes such as gift baskets and occasionally even a tablet. However, we try to make sure everyone gets a prize.”
According to a 2011 report from the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disability Services, funding for MCSW ventures comes to the county as a result of the passage of Missouri SB 40. The workshop employs persons with disabilities from age sixteen and up. They can be enrolled in school and still be eligible to work after school. The service region includes Madison and Iron Counties and more information is available by contacting the Madison County Sheltered Workshop at 573-783-4037.