Science pushes business forward in myriad ways, and dye sublimation printing is just one of those high-tech methods that produce incredible results. In the decorating industry, many patterns and designs need perfectly precise implementation, from computerized graphics to product prints, which dye sublimation can do with distinction. This is what to know about dye sublimation printing and how it works.
Chemistry at Work
The power of science is the key to dye sublimation printing; it is chemistry at its finest. Without the combination of chemical interaction, physical mechanics, and computerized precision, this printing process couldn’t exist. Check out the ways science makes better graphic-printed products.
What Is Sublimation?
Sublimation sounds like an intimidating and confusing science-y term, but it merely refers to the transition between two states of matter: solid and gas. Take the water cycle as an example. Solid ice melts into water, which then evaporates into water vapor, a gas. There is a system and order to the process which occurs in the natural world. However, these simple transitions are not the only ones in existence. Sublimation is the process by which a solid turns into a gas. In the water cycle, this occurs when water vapor turns directly into snowflakes and frost without becoming a liquid first. Sublimation typically occurs under extreme temperatures, such as the freeze-drying of fruit.
Why Does Dye Sublimation Work?
When it comes to dye sublimation, the solid-to-gas transition still occurs but through the application of high heat. A dye is a fine, particulate solid mixed with water that inkjet printers spray onto paper in short bursts. Dye sublimation printing is unlike many other printing forms, so it requires a special kind of dye called disperse dyes or dye-subs. These disperse dyes come in all sorts of vibrant colors just like regular ink, though their application is different. Due to its unique chemical properties, dye-subs quickly vaporize and sublimate when printing.
Dye Sublimation and the Printing Process
Dye sublimation is a fine-tuned procedure that requires the utmost attention to detail. The dye itself is one thing, but printing it is quite another. Understanding how the dye and material work together is critical in the grand scheme of the printing process.
Specialized Tools and Materials
Before you can print anything, you’ll need special tools and materials. Manufacturers craft dye-subs to sublimate quickly and easily, but why exactly do these gaseous dyes stick? Well, dye sublimation printing requires unique fabrics that many others don’t utilize. Most dye sublimation printers use polyester or polyester resin coated fabrics to optimize printing performance. These plastic microfibers work with the dye at a molecular level. Polymers are long, repeating chains of molecules. Many of the plastics we use each day are polymers which, when heated, bond closer together. These bonds are the key to dye sublimation itself.
Dye sublimation printing isn’t possible without the right equipment. You need the dyes, yes, but you also need the computer, printer, and heat press. You cannot print anything unless you have the software to create designs and export them to the printer. You’ll also need some kind of fabric cutting device that will work on your polyester fabric of choice. Then, of course, you must have a dye sublimation printer that is compatible with your computer and prints the number of colors you need. Lastly, you must use a heat press to transfer the ink to the fabric.
From Printer To Product
The process begins with a computerized template, much like our custom graphics at Ribbon by Design. The printer recognizes these files and arranges the colors accordingly. Then, the inkjet printer uses dye-sub inks to print the image onto transfer paper. This paper then transfers the ink to the fabric when heated. Though the process takes more effort than other fabric printing methods, it is the longest-lasting kind with the best results.
Heat is the key to dye-sub printing. Without it, the dye wouldn’t sublimate, and the fabric wouldn’t bond with the color. When heated, the gas speeds toward the polymer fibers. Because both items are hot, the temperature binds the dye with the fabric at a microscopic level. This fine-tuning is crucial because it allows for a highly precise rendering of the graphic onto the textile.
The dye sublimation printing process yields real, meaningful results. Rather than a quick sticker on a fabric, the sublimation method leaves a lasting mark. This form of printing creates high-quality products that don’t fade or break over time. In fact, these finished fabrics are fully washable, like our custom printed ribbons here at Ribbon by Design. These distinctive qualities set dye-sub printed items above the competition since the products are more aesthetically pleasing and reusable. Instead of the flaky, plasticky heat-pressed designs you so often find on fabrics, you can have a deep-set and smooth graphic on your material. No matter what you use dye sublimation printing for, the end results are undeniable.
As you may imagine, the highly technical but incredibly useful dye sublimation process is a staple for many industries. Some of the most common applications include home décor, clothing and apparel, and textiles like ribbon. For example, our team uses dye sublimation printers to render client logos and themes onto grosgrain ribbon for a precise and professional effect. You can use everything from our baby ribbon to our wedding ribbon for your business. If you can’t find a preset ribbon design that fits your needs, we can create custom fabric just for you.
Once you know about dye sublimation printing, you can use it for your own business. Here at Ribbon by Design, we pride ourselves on our top-of-the-line dye sublimation process, which provides our customers the precision and vibrancy they need in their custom printed ribbon. Whether you need specially made fabrics for a product packaging makeover or an item rollout, we can help build your creative aesthetic. Reach out to us today to find the perfect solution for your marketing needs.