Dye sublimation is a digital printing technology that enables the reproduction of distinctive images on common everyday items, including clothing and novelties. Prior to digital printing, reproducing images on these items (T-shirts being a typical example) required labour-intensive analogue processes, such as screen-printing.
The modern dye sublimation process is quite simple in comparison to conventional methods. You create an image on your computer, print it onto some special transfer paper using sublimation inks, and then apply the image to the paper to create a design which is then implemented to the clothing of choice
Using a heat press, the transfer paper is pressed onto the surface at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees celcius), which then causes the sublimation inks to “transfer” from the paper to any polymer fibres within the substrate. After less than a minute, the heat is removed and the transfer paper is peeled off, leaving behind a permanent, full colour image on the substrate. The whole process can take less than 20 minutes from design through to production.
Suitable printer types for dye sublimation work can range from a small desktop toner- or inkjet-based printers to medium-format inkjet printers. Large printers are no longer required for printing on various materials.
Whilst digital dye sublimation printing does often involve the waste of the transfer paper (as the paper offers limited opportunities for re-use), reduced wastage occurs in the ability to produce both short and long runs of a required print.
Designs can effectively be “made to order” or samples can be produced conveniently and efficiently without having to waste extra materials or substrates.
Digital dye sublimation technology is constantly evolving and with this evolution comes even more efficient ways to sublimate. Earlier models required the user to physically change the inks to keep the print run going, but recent models allow for unattended ink switching –The machine doesn’t run idle until the ink has been switched but instead it can continuously run for hours of uninterrupted printing.
Furthermore, digital inkjet sublimation printing, in comparison with screen-based processes, require minimal post-print washing. Printing with sublimation inks brings the advantages of easy wash, quick dry, and reduced creasing properties to significantly reduce the impact on the environment.
FLEXIBILITY OF PRODUCTION
Digital printing, especially dye sublimation printing, is quick and inexpensive in both the setup and production, making it an ideal choice for creating personalised, one-of-a-kind items or for mass producing a variety of custom products. Moreover, dye sublimation printing yields beautiful and permanent colours that are embedded in the substrate or fabric, rather than printed on the surface. Images on fabric won’t fade or crack even after multiple washings. Images on hard substrates will not chip, peel, or scratch.