According to SAi, dye sublimation printing, traditionally the preserve of specialist printers producing textiles, T-shirts and novelty items, is a process that uses inks that are vapourised during transfer to the final substrate. The resultant images are colour-rich, vibrant and long-lasting. Dye sublimation printing can be done direct to the final polymer coated substrate, or more commonly via a transfer paper that is then applied to the substrate and transferred by heat using moderate pressure.

You’ve all heard that selling more to existing customers is more cost-effective than trying to find new ones. If you’re a large format print provider, this hopefully resonates with you. Dye sublimation is one way of adding a new range of products while using concepts, technologies and even software you are possibly already familiar with. Today, there is a convergence of factors that might make it worthwhile to consider dye sublimation printing as an additional revenue stream.

The first factor is the digital technology that simplifies dye sublimation printing, giving absolute control over the placement of ink either to transfer papers or direct to fabric substrate. Secondly, the proliferation of large format inkjet printing has created competitive conditions that require business owners to explore additional applications or services to help support profitable growth. Thirdly, the demand for photo and other image-based products is driving an expansion of Main Street and online printers offering dye sublimation printing. Finally, there are image creation and workflow management and RIP software packages (that you may already be using) that, with an additional optional module, can drive both conventional (solvent, water-based or HP Latex) printers and dye sublimation printers.

The easy availability of small (desktop) sublimation printers as well as those up to large format sizes, means that the process is more widely used in the consumer retail market. Dye sublimation printing may be used on textiles, ceramics, glass, aluminium, brass, stainless steel, plastics and hardboard, which has led to the availability of dozens of different products that can be printed as one-offs, and in small or large quantities. Images printed on suitable substrates can also be used outdoors.

However, it is the field of textile printing in which dye sublimation is possibly best known. When printing on polyester (and blends with a minimum of 60 percent polyester) the colours and details are bright, crisp and sharp. Woven or knit fabric, including twill, poplin, taffeta, chiffon and micro-stretch materials may be printed, and because dye sublimation inks bond with the fibres, they will not crack or wash out. They can be washed, rolled, folded and used outside, making them ideal for T-shirts, swimwear and sportswear, as well as banners and flags.

With dedicated, standalone software packages that handle the entire design-to-print dye sublimation workflow, large format printers have an easier route into this exciting and dynamic technology that can be tailored to meet your own skills and market. In other words, it’s do and dye.

GRAFICOMP (+27 11) 792 1348