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Commercial Applications of Digital Sublimation Printing
There are quite a number of applications for dye sub printing on
fabric/cloth, most of which are commercial at some level, although some
products like shirts end up on retail store display racks and shelves.
Commercially, though, where an end user is using the actual printed fabric, there are still a lot of applications we can talk about. However, for
those who are new to this discussion, let me first re-explain what dye
sublimation printing is and how it's done. I enjoy this topic, and for me it
keeps it fresh in my mind to go over it every month or two, and that way, you
don't have to go back in our blog to learn about how it's done and some of the
science behind it.First, let me say that someone or several people who
developed this type of printing were/are way smarter than I am. I mean, who
really sits around and thinks, "Gee, if I combine heat and pressure and
dye, I can make some seriously beautiful printing!"It's a bit like who
thought of making computers using silicone? And really, what is silicone, and
how could anyone even think about using it to create this laptop that I'm
typing this article on? Fortunately for you and I, though, we don't have to
invent or re-invent dye sub printing, or really even to improve on it (although
that is being done as well by more people who are way smarter than I am!).
However, I do understand the hows and whys of digital dye
sublimation fabric printing, and I am happy to share this information with
anyone who asks.
First, and while I don't know why
"dye" is different than "ink," and am personally suspicious
that the designation is simply to distinguish the difference in printing
methods, the dye used in sublimation printing is different than the ink used in
digital printing. Something in the chemistry of sublimation dye allows it to
become a gas during the printing process.
The dye set also has a different color
designation than digital printing inks, which is the standard CMYK
(cyan-magenta-yellow-black) ink set. Dye inks use a CMYO (same first three with
an overprint clear), in which the clear, when activated by heat an pressure,
creates the black component in this type of printing.The dye is printed using a
digital printer which prints the image in reverse on a dye sublimation transferpaper. Once printed, this paper is matched up to a piece or roll of polyester
material (or other oil-based fabric - natural fibers like cotton and linen will
not work with this print method), and fed slowly through a set of heated rollers
at around 400°F. The pressure combines with the heat to turn the dye into a
gas, while simultaneously opening the pores of the cells of the fabric, thus
infusing the dye into the open pores.
As the fabric cools, the porous cells
close, trapping the dyed colors into the cellular structure of the fabric. This
is why dye sub printed materials are resistant to fading compared to other
types of printing.
Another feature of this type of printing is that because the dye
turns gaseous, it creates a continuous tone print compared to other types of
"dots per inch" printing, and is more like a photograph than a
digitally printed banner or sign. This is one of the reasons I'm a huge fan of
dye sublimation. The quality of the print and the durability of the fabric is
unsurpassed in the advertising industry, in my view. This is not to say that I
don't like digital printing. I love digital printing, but it's just a small
step below dye sub print, although the substrates are usually different, so
they comprise different areas of print than an inkjet printer does.
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