So lets start with the obvious. Dye Sublimation is the only printing process that is capable of producing the highest quality and most durable print, with relative ease and in far less time. This fact means that Sublimation can find its place in all markets with all products, where all other options are far so time consuming, and can only be achieved by printing on inferior surfaces / materials such as transfer sheets or by layering inks on the surface of the substrate.
You probably already know that sublimation is the process that requires very high temperatures to convert the inks (dyes) to a gas that is then able to penetrate the substrate, meaning that the dyes are introduced INTO the item and not simply just layered on the surface. Because we can make the dyes transform directly to a gaseous form, means we can also get the detail of fine printing. Now that our print is not on the surface, means that it is the most durable because the print cannot be ‘touched’, damaged.
Now of course, even sublimation just like any other process has its limitations but that is only that sublimation is not cost effective in producing any higher quantities of a particular item of the same design/print.
What’s actually involved in this fantastic process?
Using absolutely any graphics software we can produce a design to print, but we can’t use the ‘same’ process since we already know that they can’t produce the results we want with sublimation. So using a Swing heat press and pre-coated paper, holding in place against the substrate with kapton high temperature heat tape we can transfer our design from the paper to any item. Because our dyes are a gas we need an effective amount of pressure (and the required amount of heat to activate the dyes) from the heat press, so that the gasses/dyes can only go in one direction – the substrate.
Don’t be mis-lead by ‘Polyester’.
Polyester is indeed important to our process, BUT only because it contains polymers which are also found in many other materials. A good example is Nylon, this also contains polymers yet very quickly dismissed due to the fact that nylon cannot accept a temperature of 400oF. This is true, however the Sublimation dyes are activated at only 350oF (400oF is preferred to achieve the higher quality and durable print) which nylon can accept with also lowering the dwell time to 30 seconds.
Even for those materials that do not contain a sufficient amount of polymer, we still have substrates that can be applied to these. Such as adhesive vinyls (subli decal vinyl) or heat seal fabrics (subli-flock) for cotton and/or darker colours. So going back to my first statement, Sublimation is King.
This article has been intentional written in a seemingly biased way, by outlining the facts and advantages of sublimation! Know your product and the confidence of the process to be effective at selling outstanding photo dye printed gifts.
Paul Griffiths 12th Jan 2020
The Laughing Professor