As our technology advances and grows more diverse throughout the years, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the best available tech. In the digital printing world, technology has richly advanced to become new and improved. Now, it is possible to create screen printers to accommodate to digital printing. What does that mean for you? Digital printing offers multiple positives and help diversify companies. For example, take your regular sign shop and through digital printing and technology, the sign shop can now offer apparel with printers’ abilities to create images on the clothing quickly and perfectly. As the printer evolves, there are similarities between the advancements among printers. Take a look into dye-sublimation printing and how these printers specifically are changing the way companies can operate. Here are the top three things dye-sublimation printing has to offer.
Dye-Sublimation Printing Can Enhance Multiple Products and Lines
It’s not something you use in your every day vocabulary. Dye-sublimation printing is a specific yet refined way for people and companies across the board to print using heat mechanisms during the transition of matter stages as the image develops through the solid and gas states without turning into a liquid stage. In an elevator pitch, “dye-sublimation printing allows printers to use heat to easily transfer images on to anything you want.” Easy enough?
So with this transitions, dye-sublimation printing can transform any product with any image you want. Not only can you change your every day items like coffee mugs and t-shirts, you can change the look of snowboards, banners, tiles, ceramics, metal, anything you want. With each item, you can be assured the printing will not be temporary. The printing allows for very permanent affects because the dye penetrates deeply into the material versus setting in top of the material like most printing. With the sublimation printing capabilities, the image or coloring is molded into the material causing the new design to sink permanently. No matter the item you choose to customize, dye-sublimation printing is guaranteed to stay on without fail. Sublimate a granite coffee table? Toss your feet up, spill your drink and throw your book down. The colors will not fade, crack, scratch or come off.
Pictures of this photo panel do not even come close to displaying the HD quality and depth of this images. You need to see it for yourself. We have several Ditchwitch HD photo panels on display in our show room in Wichita, Kansas.
Dye-Sublimation Printing Material Capabilities
Rigid Substrates – No longer limited to just fabric substrates, there is a wealth of variety in product and promotional possibilities available. New polymer treated materials have been developed specifically for dye-sublimation applications that include aluminum, brass, glass, fiberglass, acrylic, plastic and hardboard sheet materials.
Rigid Products – The rigid “blank” products that are widely available include, mouse pads, key chains, smartphone cases, pet bowls, light switch plates and more. These are easily sublimated and represent fantastic additions to the range of custom branding items your business can offer.
Soft-Signage – Create on-demand, high-impact POP, tradeshow and interior signage. The sublimation process is fast and ideal for time-sensitive promotions.
Fabrics – Choose from a range of 100% polyester fabrics. The choices of fabrics come in two distinct types:
- • Woven texture for sturdy and hard-wearing banner stands, exterior banners, exterior signage and upholstery
- • Knit material that drapes and flows more naturally, for custom apparel, indoor flags and banners, photographic backdrops and table covers.
Sports and Fashion Apparel – Everything from t-shirts and cycling jerseys to handbags and baseball caps is a possibility. The ever-growing popularity of sports and fashion apparel opens up new sublimation opportunities everyday.
Photo Printing – From personalized gift items such as magnets, wall mounts and photo-apparel to photo backdrops, sublimation is perfect for delivering high quality photographic images to a wide range of markets.
Ceramic Tiles – Interior designers and decorators can create customized ceramic tiles for kitchens, bathrooms, foyers, museums, restaurants, and offices.
All the materials listed above are polymer suitable for heat transfer or available as product “blanks” for immediate heat transfer. In addition, there are also pre-treatment options available to the user that enables printing on an even broader spectrum of items.
Dye-Sublimation Printing Machine Capabilities and Processing
One of the perks of sublimation printing is the capability to have your own machinery and processing in order to make it happen. This is awesome for those of you looking to move into this process because it gives you the freedom to design as you like. Sometimes, outsourcing or trying to do things manually takes money, time and effort that may not be feasible for your company. If you want fast, cost effective and easy equipment, using the sublimation printing in-house is much more efficient.
The Process of Sublimation Printing
- 1. Using transfer paper, unique to the printers, print the graphics, designs, colors etc. you wish to replicate on your product.
- 2. Using a heat press, this allows for the image to transfer onto your desired product. The heat press diffuses the ink from the transfer paper onto your product with a seamless transaction.
Note: to ensure correct ink transfer, smooth saturation, and fine image quality, don’t cut corners on your paper and use a coated sublimation transfer paper with excellent ink-absorption and high-ink release.
The Other Essentials to the Process
Along with the basics of the printing process, there are other machinery items you will want to look into for your dye-sublimation printing.
1. Computer and RIP Software
First and foremost, you’ll need a computer and software to design and process your digital graphics for printing and to manage your overall print production. Not all sublimation printer manufacturers supply software with their machine which means you’ll have to research different RIP software and ensure that it’s compatible with your printer. Fortunately, the Roland Texart RT-640 is bundled with ErgoSoft Roland Edition RIP that was created especially to support both 4-color and 8-color sublimation printing.
2. Cutting Device
Initially, you’ll need a rotary blade and hot knife for simple cutting of knit materials and for the cutting and sealing of woven fabric but you’ll ultimately need an X/Y table cutter or digital flatbed cutter/plotter with registration capabilities for accurate knit and woven cutting and for effective pattern cutting if you plan to print and sew your own apparel.
3. Sewing Device
Apparel and soft signage production requires some manner of sewing and hemming for custom apparel, custom upholstery, banner pole pockets, and silicone edge sewing for SEG graphic applications (a special tension frame system that’s used for creating easy-to-install soft signage.) This requires a manual sewing machine for apparel and small signage solutions and computerized automatic sewing machine with auto-command and auto-feed features for large format joint and hemming.
Your Design Outcome Will Be Exactly How You Want It
As you begin the processing and printing, you are the creator. This third capability of the printer allows the creator to make his or her products exactly how he or she imagined. Using a heat press for your printing processes is essential. Although there is a variety of heat presses, this step in the process ensures that you will create exactly what it is that you want. At a steamy 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the press heats the ink while also heating the polymer fibers within the material or substrate of the product. This process completely transfers the ink from the paper to the item in a perfect and efficient way. Using sublimation printing creates the permanent image transfer while allowing for the creator to be the sole designer.
With this processing and transferring, you, as the creator, enhance your daily schedule. You will have more time (as saved by the quick transfer of ink from substrate to material), money (as saved by the use of in-house equipment) and give your customers and company the look you want. If you compare sublimation printing to screen-printing in a side-by-side competition, you won’t find the slightest difference, except that you saved more time and money with your own dye-sublimation printing.
The Types of Heat Presses Available
1. Small Format Heat Press
If you’re planning to sublimate on t-shirts and small items such as caps, mugs, plates, and shoes, then you might not need to spend a great deal on a heat press. Expect to pay around $1,500 and upwards for a decent 16”x20” full-size shirt press from brands such as Geo Knight and Hotronix that have heat and pressure controls.
2. Calender Heat Press
Heat presses such as the Klieverik GTC Series are large format presses that are built for flags, large exterior banners, and other large soft-signage applications, as well as day-to-day soft signage and fabric sublimation. With the addition of table attachment to your calender unit, users can cut and sew apparel pieces.
3. Flatbed Heat Press
Although they can’t effectively manage the kind of rolls and fabric sizes that a Calendar heat press can, flatbed style heat presses such as the Geo Knight Max Press are versatile presses that can heat transfer onto fabric as well as aluminum, hardboard, floor mats and other unique media.
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4. 3D Vacuum Heat Press
A 3D vacuum heat press is a compact desktop machine that allows heat transfer onto materials with a curved edge or shape. Sublimation blanks and pre-treated objects, such as smart phone covers, mugs, ceramic plates, picture frames, sporting goods, buttons and others are available for sublimation by this handy device.