April '23

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M A P R I L 2 0 2 3 • G R A P H I C S P R O 5 1 of the dye-sublimation process from inks to equipment. In subse- quent articles, we will further examine such topics as substrates, inks, fixation methods, finishing, marketplace economics, and workflow. Although there are many different approaches and variants to sublimated fabric printing, we will focus primarily on transfer paper dye-sublimation because that is more widely used in the U.S. grand-format arena. Silicon Edge Graphics (SEG) are quickly becoming the norm in retail fabric displays due to their ease of installation, reduced shipping costs, and overall upscale look and feel. What is dye-sublimation? Dye-sublimation is the process of converting printed, solid dyes into a gas without going through the liquid stage. Heat and pressure are used to infuse colorant into a polymer material (usually polyester). ere are two basic methods for printing with dye-sublimation inks: direct and transfer. Transfer is the most common method and consists of printing a mirrored image on donor paper and transferring the image onto a polyester-based product, usually a textile, with heat, pressure, and dwell time. e direct process differs from transfer printing in that the image is printed directly on a coated fabric and then sublimated in a similar fashion, without the use of transfer paper. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the direct and transfer processes? Both methods require heating the fabric to infuse the ink into it, but both have their pros and cons. Transfer printing allows the most flexibility in terms of substrate range. You can basically sub- limate to any polyester textile (or other polyester-coated product, for that matter). Transfer printing is very efficient, as you only need to set up the printer for the one transfer paper you are using. Adjustments for different fabrics are made at the fixation unit. Direct print has been around for several years, and many pieces of equipment have been designed specifically for this application. An advantage of this is that you can eliminate the need for trans- fer paper altogether, which can simplify the process in some ways. Direct printing also increases strike-through, making the image appear on both sides of the fabric. In some applications, this may be desirable. Several manufacturers have released direct-in- line sublimation systems, allowing a print provider to print and

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