Purpose and types of sublimation printing. Selection of equipment and materials

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Recently, many services have appeared that offer the service of sublimation printing on T-shirts, mugs and many other everyday items. At the same time, most customers of such a service do not really understand what sublimation printing technology is and how the selected image is transferred to fabric and other materials. Therefore, we have prepared an article in which we will present basic information about sublimation printing. As we provide the service of sublimation printing in Dallas lets explain this method of printing.

Sublimation Printing Technology

In the understanding of most people, sublimation printing is the process of transferring a specific image onto a carrier made of fabric, plastic or other material. The essence of this definition is correct. It’s just that the transfer mechanism is a little more complicated than the vast majority of those interested in it represent. Sublimation printing requires the use of several types of specialized equipment, as well as very high-quality consumables and, of course, suitable blanks for printing (we are talking about T-shirts, cups and other items on which images are applied).

Currently, sublimation printing is practiced on a variety of blanks – from small cups and bags to interior racks. The principle of operation of technology is the same everywhere. The only caveat is the need to purchase or rent equipment suitable for a particular case. 

Most often, such printing is used in relation to fabric products. At the same time, textiles must contain at least 60% polyester, otherwise the pattern will not hold well and disappear after several washes.

Types of sublimation printing

Today, two types of sublimation printing are used in production. In enterprises that produce products on an industrial scale, direct printing is usually used, but in small-scale production, indirect (intermediate, indirect) printing is more often used. We will describe the differences between the options in the next two subsections.

Direct sublimation printing

This option involves drawing a picture without intermediate steps. Heating and mixing of paints are made in the printing device. After that, the drawing is immediately applied to the workpiece. Typically, this method is used for the production of flags, curtains and similar products.

Direct sublimation printing is divided into 2 types:

  • Wet. First, the products are treated with a special primer. Then, using an inkjet printer, paint is applied to their surface.
  • Dry. Special paper is used for printing. Most of the time there is no special training.

Both solutions are expensive to purchase equipment, so they are mainly used in mass production.

Indirect sublimation printing

In simple terms, indirect sublimation printing is carried out in two stages. First, a mirror (required!) Image is created using a printer on sublimation paper. Then, by using a heat press, the image is translated to the object to be painted.

As a result of heat treatment, the paint particles are actually connected to the structure of the workpiece. As a result, a clear pattern appears on the object, which is not subject to removal by washing or other influences that do not violate the basic structure of the thing. Indirect sublimation printing is mainly used for retail orders.

Equipment and materials for sublimation printing

To create really high-quality products using sublimation printing technology, you must first take care of purchasing reliable equipment and suitable consumables. Next, we describe the devices used for sublimation printing, as well as ink, paper and thermal tape.

Sublimation Printer

Our website has already posted an article with recommendations for choosing a printer for sublimation printing , therefore, we will immediately provide you with the following information in the shortest amount of time:

  1. Print sizes. For printing images for the subsequent application of prints on small items (wallets, bags), printers with a maximum A4 format are suitable. If you need prints for clothes, it is better to order a device that supports A3 format. If you need sublimation printing on fabric in the form of rolls, then you should consider options for technology with support for A2-A0.
  2. The presence of CISS. It is advisable to purchase a printer with CISS. Immediately for two reasons. First, the system’s plastic containers hold more ink than stand-alone cartridges. Secondly, the ink from the cartridges is supplied in small portions, as a result of which streaks may appear on the image.
  3. The naturalness of the image. The number of paint containers in CISS plays an important role. With four colors, the naturalness of the picture is quite sufficient, but ideally, systems with six colors should be used.

The rest of the nuances are given in the above article. When choosing a manufacturer, you should take a closer look at Epson sublimation printers. It uses piezoelectric printing. It is better suited for sublimation than the thermal inkjet used in Canon and HP sublimation printers.

Heat press for sublimation printing

This equipment is a structure consisting of two clamping surfaces. An object and printed paper with a transfer image are placed on the bottom. The top one is needed to cover the workpiece and press it tightly against the bottom surface.

The press is selected depending on the shape of the workpiece. The following presses are especially popular:

  • Flat. The device is designed for printing on fabrics and ready-made clothes, including pants, T-shirts and even sweatshirts.
  • Kruzhechny. Its clip follows the contour of the mug. With a horizontal position of the workpiece, the heat press allows you to process dishes of any length (invariably round). There are also similar presses for plates and other utensils.
  • Cap (baseball). It has a clip for fixing a cap (baseball cap), allows you to evenly apply a print on its surface. At the same time, the fabric is easily stretched and smoothed.

When choosing a device, you need to pay attention to its key parameters – the density and uniformity of the clamp, the options for adjusting temperature and pressure, the density of fixing the upper clamping element.

During the operation of the heat press, one should correctly approach the setting of pressure, the choice of the “baking” time and, of course, the determination of the optimal temperature indicator. Parameters such as web characteristics, sublimation paper thickness, and ink properties must be considered.

When setting unsuitable indicators, two unfavorable options are possible – the picture on the product will not be printed or the material will burn. Therefore, in order not to spoil the materials, you must first read the user manual and act in accordance with the instructions of the press manufacturer.

Sublimation Printing Ink

To perform such printing, it is necessary to use special inks created on a water basis and with a certain concentration of pigment. There are many variations of inks on sale, therefore their selection must be carried out individually (depending on the properties of the material on which the print will be made, and the characteristics of the transferred image).

For example, if you need high-quality images with a pronounced red color, you should purchase Lomond ink. If you want to create saturation in green, Durafos products are suitable. There are many options. Before buying, you need to evaluate the merits of all available inks, and only then make a choice. It will not be superfluous to read the product instructions, paying close attention to its characteristics (including the evaporation temperature of pigments) and the conditions of use.

Sublimation paper

The range of sublimation paper is very extensive, but the general criteria for choosing this material usually remain unchanged. The most important feature of such paper is the presence of a special coating that prevents the absorption of paints and leaves them on the surface of the material.

The ideal paper weight for transferring an image onto a fabric is 90-120 g/ m2 . If you use paper with a higher index, you will need to increase the amount of ink used accordingly. This will mix the excess pigments, which will affect the quality of the image. To transfer the print on plastic and ceramic products, you can use paper of higher density (150-160 g/m 2 ). Features of the selection of the format and density of the material can be found in the article on the nuances of choosing and using sublimation paper .

As with ink, there are different brands of sublimation paper on the market. When buying, you should evaluate its characteristics and correlate with the characteristics of the blanks. For example, Lomond paper will be one of the best solutions for ceramics, and IST for fabric. 

Adhesive tape for sublimation printing

To securely fix the sublimation print on the workpiece, a special heat-resistant adhesive tape is used. It easily withstands exposure to high temperatures, while maintaining stickiness, which ensures even application of the image on the workpiece. Adhesive tape for sublimation printing is used when transferring images to many products, including plates, mugs and other blanks made of various materials.

Advantages and disadvantages of sublimation printing

Basically, sublimation printing is carried out by large organizations engaged in the production of T-shirts, mugs and other products with printed images. However, over the past 10 years, the business of providing sublimation printing services on a retail scale has also gained popularity, and some connoisseurs of technology even install the necessary equipment at home, printing for themselves and friends.

The benefits of sublimation printing include:

  • excellent clarity of the transferred print;
  • resistance of the image to fading when washing and rubbing;
  • environmental friendliness of printing due to the absence of toxic elements;
  • ease of use of equipment;
  • saving the properties of the material of the workpiece after printing the picture.

Cons of sublimation printing are as follows:

  • the need for competent selection of blanks, paper and ink;
  • high cost of equipment and consumables;
  • the complexity of the initial setup of the printer and thermal press;
  • the need for a well-ventilated area.

Sublimation printing on fabric, mugs and many other materials is a good solution. When it comes to the quality of the print and how long it lasts. But since it is quite difficult to understand the nuances of this business, and consumables are expensive, it is advisable to organize sublimation printing only if you have money and time.

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