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A Look at Dye-Sub Printing for Garments

(August 2012) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2012

This article describes effective and profitable ways to integrate a large-format dye-sub printer into your garment-decorating operation.


By Syd Northup

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Heat press
A heat press is mandatory when you’re printing dye-sub transfers. It initiates the process of transforming inks from a solid phase to a gaseous phase without passing through a liquid phase. Once this occurs, the ink becomes permanently embedded in your fabric or substrate.
One of the most crucial points with a heat press is maintaining consistent heat on your platen. Changes to heat, time, or pressure can affect color quality. The U.S. market has many manufacturers of heat presses, including George Knight, Practix, and AIT. All of these manufactures have heat presses in all shapes and sizes for sublimation. If you are looking for a true garment solution, I recommend investing in a small 16 x 20-in. swing-away heat press and a larger 42 x 64-in. single- or dual-shuttle press for the all-over garments.

When it comes down to your day-to-day heat-press production, use what works well in your environment with respect to time, temperature, and heat settings. For example, I have a customer who uses 375°F at 25 seconds of dwell time with 40 pounds of pressure and profiles that match for color. If it works, keep it simple. Always use heat-temperature test strips to control temperature, time, and pressure settings. Typically, a golden rule for sublimation is 400°F and 40 pounds of pressure for 35-40 seconds. Keep these settings in mind when you create your own in-house standard for your products.

Ink and paper costs
Running a square-foot cost analysis on paper and ink is the best way to find your true cost for sublimation printing. Let’s say your cost of ink per liter is $150.00 and ink yields are 1000 sq ft of printing. Total cost per square foot on ink is $0.15. In reality, most companies will likely produce 800 sq ft/hr with ink costs more along the lines of $0.20-$0.25/sq ft. Being conservative is a golden rule when it comes down to analyzing the cost of ink and paper. Running the math and incorporating the ROI on your total investment gets you closer to a true cost-per-square-foot analysis (Figure 4). As most companies grow their sublimation business, buying ink in bulk quantities and pallets of paper will decrease your overall total cost per square foot.


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