Sublimation is a printing technology, also called graverton which means the transition of ink when heated from a solid to a gaseous state, bypassing the liquid stage. For sublimation you need: a polymer-coated preform, a printer printing with sublimation ink, photo paper and thermal press.
The sublimation press was invented in 1957 by Noel de Plasse, an employee of The Lainiere de Roubaix Textile Factory. The factory was located in the city of Roubaix on the Franco-Belgian border. The technology began to be used in the manufacture of clothing but the real sublimation boom occurred in the 1970s with the advent of special printers in the United States and Japan.
The process of sublimation printing is as follows. First, we print any image on the photo paper using a sublimation ink printer. There are no restrictions on the image, it can be a black-and-white or color image, the layout quality is more than 300 dpi. You can choose the company of the printer, ink and photo paper manufacturer of your choice, usually Epson and Lomond. Before printing, the image should be flipped to a mirrored image, and photo paper should be taken matte without a synthetic substrate with a density of 120 g / m2. The synthetic substrate will melt at high temperature.
After we have printed the image on paper, we glue it with thermal tape to the blank with a special coating. The workpiece material may be: ceramics, fabric, metal, wood, glass. The main requirement is that the surface be coated with polymer, that is, a thin layer of polyester fibers, which is applied with varnish or sprayed at the factory in the manufacture of blanks for printing. Next, we put the workpiece under a thermal press, where under high temperature (from 162 to 210 degrees Celsius) for 30-120 seconds, the ink from the paper goes into a gaseous state and enters the polymer layer of the workpiece and when cooled below 162 degrees, it remains there forever in the solid state, as on paper. This is a very simplified explanation of the sublimation process, below we will consider it in more details with examples.
Sublimation can also be divided into categories or groups in which it is applied. Sublimation on fabric, plastic, ceramics, metal and wood. Each print has its own small features and areas of application but the process is the same everywhere, described above in the article.
Sublimation on the fabric. For printing on fabric, only synthetic white fabric with a content of polyester fibers of at least 60%, and preferably more than 70%, is taken. White color of the fabric is needed so that the background does not change the color of the image after printing. The fabric can be atlas, satin, gabardine, polyester, flag mesh, velvet, chiffon and blackout. Each of these fabrics has its own sphere of application in the manufacture of the promotional products but they are all well suited for this type of printing.
Printing the layout itself is done not only on printers but also using large format printing technology on plotters. The printed paper is fixed onto the fabric with a thermal tape and a tablet or calender press is used to transfer the image onto the fabric. After printing, the fabric roll is cut and the finished product is sewn. This is a way to make 100% imprint when making T-shirts or other stitched products. The finished product can be safely washed, the less cotton in the fabric, the less it fades and the print is resistant to ultraviolet radiation and does not fade in the sun for a long time.
The following promotional products are printed by sublimation on fabric: T-shirts, flags, small flags, bandanas, bibs, pennants, ties, pillows, tents, tops, covers, wraps, bags, shirt-front jackets, vests, chevrons, ribbons, curtains, aprons, tablecloths, scarves, kerchiefs, eco-bags and other products.
Sublimation on plastic. This type of sublimation differs mainly in a special thermal sublimation printer. Thermal sublimation printers use cartridges with ribbons in three different colors. During printing, the head warms up and transfers the ink from the ribbon to the plastic, after applying three colors to each other, a full-color image is obtained. Then the printer covers the image with the special protective film. The print quality is very high and differs qualitatively from digital printing by the absence of grains.
The following promotional products are made by sublimation on plastic: plastic cards, plastic certificates, office plates, plastic diplomas, letters, certificates, CDs, badges, key chains, coasters, plastic tags, pens, nameplates, badges and other plastic products.
Sublimation on ceramics. For this type of sublimation, the main feature is the shape of the blanks and the process of heating the product. For sublimation printing on cups or glasses, a flat thermal press is not suitable. Here you need a special press with a round hole for dishes. The blank is wrapped in paper with a printed mirrored image and placed in a special thermal press where the dishes are crimped in a circle.
It is also important to choose the right temperature so that the ceramics or glass do not burst during the printing process. It is best to preheat the workpiece in advance and place in the press already warm. Also, when printing plates, it is best to do this in three stages of 20 seconds so that the ceramics does not overheat in the center of the plate and it does not burst. Selecting the wrong temperature may cause print quality problems. If the temperature is small or not enough time to keep in the press, the image will be faded. If the workpiece is overexposed in the press or exceeds the permissible temperature, the finished product may have yellow spots from overheating.
The following promotional products are made by the sublimation in ceramics: cups, mugs, glasses, coasters, plates, saucers, magnets, key chains, ashtrays, tiles, openers and other glass and ceramic products.
Sublimation on the metal. The printing process on metal is no different from printing on ceramics or fabric. The only significant difference is the blanks, for printing on metal only special blanks made of anodized aluminum are suitable. The color of the workpiece may be different but most often gold, silver and white one are used. The thickness of the plate is standardly 0.45-0.6 mm. Printing on metal can be on one or both sides, it all depends on the workpieces.
The following products are made by sublimation on metal: key chains, tablets, badges, business cards, business card holders, badges, lighters, wardrobe tokens, medals, metal plates, USB flash drives, nameplates, metal diplomas, award certificates, certificates and other metal products.
Thus, we can summarize and list the advantages and disadvantages of the sublimation printing.
- Many types of equipment: different printers, thermal presses, blanks, thermal tape, crimps, ink and so on.
- Many stages in production: preparing the layout, printing on paper, preparing the blank, printing in a thermal press, cooling, removing thermal tape from paper from the product. Because of this, high cost with large runs.
- Ability to print only on special blanks with a polymer coating.
- Full-color printing on any material: plastic, metal, ceramics, fabric, wood, glass.
- Printing from 1 piece of absolutely any product.
- Photo quality printing images, thanks to the features of sublimation printers.
These are the main advantages and disadvantages, although it can be recalled once again that the fabric can be washed in dry cleaning, printing does not fade in the sun for a long time, the clarity is higher than that of the digital printing, the inability to print with pantones and so on. But all these are the nuances.
In our advertising agency ‘Vmeste’ you can order any final product printed using the sublimation technology. And our managers and technologists will try to leave you satisfied with your order.