Live and Let Dye
You’ve all heard that selling more to existing customers is more cost-effective than trying to find new ones. If you’re a wide-format print provider, hopefully this 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.
Dye sublimation printing - traditionally the preserve of specialist printers producing textiles, T-shirts, and novelty items - is a process that uses solid inks vaporized during transfer to the final substrate. The resultant images are color-rich, vibrant, and long-lasting. Dye sublimation printing can be done direct to the final substrate or via a transfer paper, which is then applied to the substrate and transferred by heat using moderate pressure.
Today, there is a convergence of factors which, if you’re a wide-format print provider, might make it worthwhile to consider dye sublimation printing as an additional revenue stream.
The first 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 substrates. Secondly, the proliferation of wide-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 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 latex) printers and dye sublimation printers.
The easy availability of small sublimation printers as well as those up to wide-format sizes means the process is more widely used in the consumer retail market. Dye sublimation printing may be used on textiles, ceramics, glass, aluminum, brass, stainless steel, plastics, and hardboard, which has led to the availability of dozens of different products that can be printed as one-offs, as well as both small and large quantities. Images printed on suitable substrates can also be used outdoors.
However, it is the field of textile printing that dye sublimation is possibly best known. When printing on polyester (and blends with a minimum of 60 percent polyester),, the colors 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 fibers, 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, wide-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.