Awards & Engraving

November '19

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D iversity is one key to success for any awards and personalization business. Those shops that only offer engraving on trophies or sublima- tion on ornaments will almost always fall behind to those who offer both and more. As the industry continues to progress, many customization businesses are finding the balance between being one-stop shops and being the best at what they specialize in. In that light, many now offer heat- applied graphics in addition to decora- tion methods such as laser engraving. From hard substrates like plaques to soft bags and T-shirts, heat-applied graphics make a great addition to any shop. But if you're new to this aspect of the market or are simply thinking about adding these decorating methods, you may be unsure of how to apply them. To help, A&E enlisted the expertise of a few industry experts in this arena. THE DEFINITION OF HEAT To start, it's crucial to understand the various heat-applied methods available for decoration. Depending on technology and substrate, heat-applied graphics primarily include sublimation and heat-transfer vinyl. While the two have similarities, it's crucial to understand their differences. "The biggest difference between the heat-transfer process and the sublimation process is that with heat transfers, you are transferring the print onto the surface and with sublimation, you are transfer- ring the print into the surface," explains Sarah Montreuil, Stahls'. With sublima- tion, you are essentially dying the surface of the substrate using heat. "Since the sub- limation ink is being transferred into the substrate's surface, the end product won't crack, scratch, or peel." "(Heat-transfer vinyl, or HTV)… is a film that has a clear plastic carrier sheet on the front," Colin VanLint, JDS Industries, elaborates. HTV can be used to decorate fabrics by using a plotter cutter to cut a design into the back side of the vinyl, remove the excess vinyl away from the design (a process called weeding), and then you place the design onto your garment and heat press it for the recommended time. As the vinyl heats up, the glue activates on the back side of the vinyl, adhering it to the garment, he states. As you can see, the similarities between the two are that they both use heat to pro- cess them, adds Joseph Tovar, Synergy 17. But as far as similarities go, that's pretty much where it stops. Aside from how the print is transferred, there are also certain substrates sublimation will not work on. "The sublimatable ink can only bond to polyester and because it is semi-translucent, you are not only limited to the blend of shirt but the color of the shirt as well," says VanLint. "You can use a cotton-poly blend but the higher the poly content the brighter your design." "Heat-applied transfers can be applied onto a much wider range of fabrics, colors, finishes, and at a lower heat setting, allowing you to decorate on sensitive fabrics," Montreuil adds. In some instances, it is a more affordable option for customization, though that's not always the case. At this point, you might be noticing a key consideration in all of this: hard substrates versus soft. Both can be used to decorate soft substrates provided they are 100%, or at least primarily, polyester for sublimation. When it comes to hard, there are some key pointers to keep in mind, especially when going the vinyl route. "If you want to decorate on a hard substrate, cut vinyl is more suited for the job instead of an HTV because it has far superior adhesive technology," VanLint believes. To take an in-depth look at why this is, check out the sidebar on page 37. By Cassie Green Heat up Your Business with Heat-Applied Graphics What you need to know about adding heat-applied graphics to your offerings 34 a-e-mag.com • A&E NOVEMBER 2019

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