New innovations in Dye Sublimation technology and printing techniques have made it an increasingly viable replacement for other forms of printing processes.
Though in general, developments in digital printing have led to great strides in increased accessibility to the field of printing, dye sublimation occupies the unique position of offering an extremely wide range of medium options at a reasonable price. Additionally, the ability for the end used to graphically customize the printed output is heightened by the impressive print quality, which is significantly better than comparable processes in the same class.
That being said, the drawbacks of dye loss in the printing process, and the vulnerability of the sublimation film to exterior pollutants (such as dust) is something to consider. But, the overall output of this process yields a more photo-realistic product, which ultimately is more resilient to handling and decay that other alternatives.
What is Dye Sublimation?
Generally speaking, the process of dye sublimation utilizes heat and pressure to apply solid ink to a surface. This essentially involves a film or intermediary substrate which holds the dye, that is then applied to the desired medium using the sublimation process.
The efficacy of this process is in part due to the sublimation dyes used, which is typically applied with a piezoelectric print head as can be found on our own in-house Mimaki JV5-320S.
The most common application process relies on laying one, individual colour at a time, where in large-format printers the dye is stored in large ribbons. These ribbons typically must be sized specifically to the output medium, which is the highest contributor to print cost. Once the ribbons have been laid, heating elements on the print head vary in temperature and duration depending on the colour intensity and saturation.
Finally, a lamination layer is added to the finished printed image, helping to protect against moisture and UV exposure. Once completed the print will exit the printer ready to be handled, without requiring a set dry time.
One of the biggest advantages of dye sublimation are the opportunities allotted based on materials and printed graphic endurance. This is, in part, due to the fact that the printed process actually embeds the image in the substrate or fabric. Additionally, the colour fastness and overall quality of the print on a variety of surfaces make it a competitive alternative to more expensive options. This is especially the case for small-run prints which would be too costly to utilize screen printing or other options. Some examples printed substrates for dye sublimation are:
- Fabrics: Either a woven or knitted texture, 100% polyester textiles will easily accept the sublimation process and produce high-quality results.
- Metals: Vibrant colour can be achieved using direct to surface printing, undergoing the same basic sublimation process as with other materials.
- Rigid Products: Aside from flat rigid structures, dye sublimation can also be used on other more dynamic surfaces, making it a viable solution for product customization.
With all of the available material options, and the overall quality of the printed results, dye sublimation is a dynamic option for nearly any printed project. Furthermore, recent advances in this field have increasingly made it an ideal solution for a sturdy, economical printed product.