Fabrics printed with sublimation inkjet technology make up a fast-growing and lucrative market within the wide-format-graphics industry. From trade-show displays and banners to upholstery and architectural graphics, you’ll find dye-sublimation prints hanging around everywhere. This overview looks at equipment and ink options for dye-sublimation printing and how you can use the technology to produce unique graphics for a variety of applications.
By Lori Leaman
A big question for print shops considering wide-format sublimation technology is the difference in quality between the sublimation transfer process and direct printing. As you can imagine, there are advantages and drawbacks to each type of technology, and depending on the needs of your shop and the types of applications for which the technology is intended, one process might be a more suitable option.
Michael Labella, product manager of US Sublimation, says the real difference is the flexibility between one system and the other. He says that the sublimation transfer process is the most flexible one because it allows users to print an infinite number of polyester-based fabrics with few limitations, whether the fabric is stretchable, non-stretchable, treated, or non-treated. Transfer technology also allows shops to use the transfer paper to print on other non-fabric items, as long as they have the proper heat press in place.
Grad Rosenbaum, vice president of HP’s North American Signage Business, says, “Dye sublimation offers a superior color gamut to inkjet fabric printing and offers prints that are dry and ready to handle as soon as they exit the printer, making sublimation ideal for trade-show and booth decorations.”
R.J. Sullivan, product manager at EFI VUTEk, says the primary advantage of sublimation transfer printing is that you tend to get crisper line definition, a cleaner image, and effectively better resolution because the transfer paper can control the spread of the ink when it makes contact with the paper.
Cousino explains that some of the cons of sublimation transfer printing are that it is not suitable for short-run applications where personalization is required. He also points out that more time is required of the user than in direct printing because of the extra heat-transfer step.
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