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What's so great about dye sublimation?

What is dye sublimation?

Digital dye-sublimation is the printing process by which water-based dyes (or inks) are printed onto a release paper, and then transferred onto a substrate, or surface. These surfaces can range from fabrics to ceramics, metals, timber, leather and many other materials - as long as they are treated with a polymer, or acrylic coating. 

Sublimation simply means a change from a solid to gaseous state and back to a solid without becoming a liquid. So in the case of a fabric print the dye particles migrate from the paper as a gas to bond with the fabric, and become solid again.  The transfer is affected using high heat (205°C) and pressure thus guaranteeing the image penetrates and becomes an integral part of the fabric. It also explains the amazing vibrancy that can now be achieved with printed fabric displays – we can achieve some truly extraordinary colour reproduction.

As a result of the image bonding to the fibres of the fabric it will never crack or peel off.  It provides a permanent, colour-fast and colour true image.  It can be machine washed using regular detergents if it ever gets dusty or dirty.

Dye sublimation in portable display and exhibitions

The use of dye sublimation print technology supports the use of fabric in both portable displays and larger scale expo stands, which is the print material of choice for those who know display.  For displays that feature so-called "tension fabric" (i.e. fabric that is placed under tension so as to pull tight and present well), it calls for specific fabrics designed for the purpose.  In this case fabric is knitted, not woven, which allows it to stretch in both directions to achieve a smooth, even finish.  Woven fabrics will only stretch well in one direction, which means the fabric will pull unevenly when placed under tension and will not present nicely on the display frame. 

A typical fabric consists of 50% new and 50% recycled polyester, with the recycled component being sourced from PET drink bottles that are converted to polyester thread.  With any display of this style it is critical to use the right kind of fabric in the right thickness with the right knitting.

The eco-friendly print choice

Dye sublimation is the ultimate ‘green’ print solution.  Water-based dyes are so environmentally friendly they can be safely poured down the sink. Traditional screen-printing involves large amounts of wasted water; first to expose the screen by washing away the emulsion, and then to clean the screen of excess inks.  Digital technology, being computer driven and controlled, ensures that there are no set-up costs and that just one item can be printed successfully and economically. It also means vibrant, sharp, reliable and repeatable print results.  Dye sublimation print resolution is up to an exceptional 720dpi, to ensure images are sharp, crisp and true.

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