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Applications, Inkjet PrintingSeptember 14, 2021

Direct-to-Object Printing Methods

Applications, Inkjet Printing
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printing on promotional items

A recent study showed the 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalization. Direct-to-object printing hype began a few years back and has continued to gain momentum. In fact, Inkcups’ CEO Ben Adner spoke about direct-to-object printing back in 2017, but the concept is just as hot today. Watch the video here, Direct-to-Object Printing: How Will it Impact Label Printing.

What is Direct-to-Object Printing?

Direct-to-object is the process of taking a 2D image and printing it onto a 3D item. Some applications include printing on promotional products, drinkware and more. Machines such as UV printers and cylindrical inkjet printers digitally print graphics, images and logos directly onto these items. Bypass the need for any type of label and print directly to the substrate of choice with direct-to-object (DTO) printing methods. This in turn saves money, time, and cuts down on consumables. By digitally printing directly on the product numerous doors are opened for personalization.

UV LED inkjet printing technology is the key component to direct-to-object printing. The printing machine hosts a print head which propels tiny droplets of UV ink directly onto a 3D product. The 3D product is held in place by specially designed tooling.

As DTO appeals to the promotional and industrial industries, the products often require the assistance of a custom fixturing, otherwise known as tooling, to hold the product in place during printing. Inkcups offers the service of creating custom tooling to our customers for a wide variety of products. We can create a tooling to hold your product in place whether it be hand sanitizer bottles to golf balls and everything in between.

The most common applications for DTO printing include drinkware, favors, promotional items, and industrial products. UV inkjet printing machines come in a wide variety of sizes and types to accommodate any product to personalize.

Direct-to-Object Printing Machine Options

Small Format Flatbed Printers

Don’t let the word ‘small’ fool you, small format UV inkjet flatbed printing machines are capable of industrial high-speed printing. They offer the same high-resolution print quality as machines of bigger scale. Small format flatbed printers are ideal for smaller, shorter objects such as coasters, USB drives, fishing lures, and mint tins.

Inkcups also offers the XJET with a print area of 19.6 x 24.4”. This small format UV flatbed printer really stands out with its ability to print highly opaque white on dark substrates in a single pass. The XJET can print highly detailed personalized phone cases, coasters, napkins, and a variety of toys all of which are ideal candidates to handle the conveyor unload system into a bin. Whether you are printing one off or multiples the XJET can handle your printing needs.

flatbed uv printer

Large Format Flatbed Printers

The next category of flatbed printers is that of the large variety, accommodating larger print areas as well as bulkier items that stand tall. Large format UV flatbed printing machines are perfect for printing on coolers, basketballs, footballs, or boxes.

For these applications and more Inkcups offers the X5-T flatbed UV digital printer that can print 43.4 x 24” and up to 20” tall in under two minutes. The X5-T is a powerhouse printing machine that is specially designed for near-constant use for heavy-duty industrial printing and promotional products printing.

Industrial Digital UV Cylindrical Printers

UV cylinder inkjet printers appeal to the drinkware industry, especially businesses that want to streamline production and skip the step of adhering a label to their bottle. Industrial UV cylindrical printers will decorate directly on any glass, sports bottle, stainless steel tumbler, shot glass, growler, crowler, beer bottle, or wine bottle.

The Helix® is favored in the drinkware industry as it offers full-coverage seamless graphics, as well as innovative print features such as mirror print, tone-on-tone, and contour print.

The Double Helix® offers all the fun its predecessor holds, with double the output. Dependent of the artwork size, the Double Helix® can print 6 to 8 parts per minute, making it an ideal option for businesses with medium to higher demand production runs.

If the Helix® and Double Helix® cannot keep up with volume demand, then the Revolution® with a whopping 12 stations and integrated pre-treatment systems will be a better fit for your operation. The Revolution® can pre-treat and print up to 600 parts per hour.

Cylindrical inkjet printer print stations Double Helix

UV Ink

DTO printers can often accommodate numerous types of UV inks. The traditional four colors offered are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK). Inkcups offers six different types of UV inkjet ink lines. There are many different types of inks available because there is no such thing as a universal ink. UV inkjet inks are specially formulated for the intended substrate. Inks are often paired with a specialty primer for optimal adhesion.

Direct-to-object printers typically print with CMYK, white and varnish. In the case of the Helix® Hi-Fi, the four traditional colors plus light cyan and light magenta are used to render photorealistic images. The Helix® Hi-Fi is one of a kind, the only photorealistic rotary printer on the market. The ink line that the Helix® Hi-Fi uses is the DL UV LED ink series, perfect for glass and plastic drinkware. *As of 2022, the Helix® Hi-Fi is no longer a standalone machine, but rather its capabilities are an add-on to Helix® machines. 

View all the UV inkjet inks that Inkcups offers here. As always, even if you can identify your substrate material, we encourage sending in your product for our professionals to extensively test your product with numerous different inks to guarantee long lasting results.

Direct-to-Object Tangents


DTO can be utilized in many different markets. One noteworthy tangent is direct-to-can printing, appealing to the craft brewer’s industry.  Brewers looking to print stunning graphics directly on their aluminum cans should explore the Helix®, Double Helix®, and Revolution®.

In a recent copy of the New Brewer magazine, Inkcups was highlighted for direct-to-can printing methods when it comes to full-color, high-quality, seamless graphics. The craft brewer’s scene is an equal combination of both tasty hoppy beer paired with creative can graphics.  Read that article from our blog article, The Benefits of Direct-to-Can Printing.

Double Helix for Printing on Cans


The Helix® and Double Helix® offers not only cylindrical DTO printing but knocks it up another level by offering print-on-demand capabilities. The advanced workflow system that is included in each Helix® allows for an operator to receive an order, pick the product, place corresponding barcodes on the correct type of product, scan the barcode, and sit back and print the graphics.

Print-on-demand is commonly utilized in the drinkware industry. It allows businesses the flexibility to differentiate their product line while staying up on market trends.

Print-on-demand can even refer to the ability to snap a picture of a person or thing, and instantly print it on a substrate in a matter of 30 seconds.

Next time you are at a trade show hand customers a promotional item they will keep for years to come; one that includes both a picture of themselves and your logo. The ultimate display of print-on-demand is the ability to snap a photo and instantly print it on a stainless-steel tumbler, or any product of your choosing.

Sleek Design

Utilize the fact that DTO printed items are perceived as more expensive as they simply do not have a paper label adhered to a product. The ability to print directly on higher end items such as growlers, coolers, or any item for that matter elevates the perceived value of the item due to the high-quality print of the graphics and the feel of the graphics.

Untapped Customers

One industry that is often overlooked but has remained fruitful for ages is the wedding industry. Appeal to a wider variety of customers. Consider how many weddings you have attended that have a personalized wedding favor awaiting each guest… probably every single one. Brides agonize over which favor to best thank guests for being part of their special day with. Direct-to-object wedding favors will go from cheap and cheesy to elegant when eliminating the label and printing directly onto the gift.

At the collegiate level, imagine being able to offer homecoming tailgaters double wall plastic tumblers printed instantly with a photo of their friend group, the name of the college, and even the mascot photoshopped in. This would be a great time to print with the previously mentioned Helix® Hi-Fi.

There are so many situations that businesses large and small could benefit from with direct-to-object printing. Grow your business today by shedding the extra baggage of labels and explore the wonders of digitally printing directly on your substrate.

Get Started Today with Inkcups

Inkcups offers a full line of digital UV inkjet printers to accommodate any product you see fit to direct-to-object print on. Whether you’re looking for cylindrical to flatbed, short or long run, we have you covered. Explore all of the options of Inkcups UV printers and get in contact with your local sales representative for more information today.

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