What is Dye Sub Printing?

What is dye sublimation printing, and when is it best utilized? In general, sublimation printing is the preferred method for printing polyester and other synthetic-based fabrics. Digital sublimation printing has spurred explosive growth of custom-printed textile-based products used for promotional materials, advertising, events, apparel, home furnishings, and decor. Many companies use sublimation printing for fabric banners, flags, trade shows, and point-of-purchase displays. Sublimation printing roots trace back to the creation of dispersed dyes between 1923 and 1924. Dispersed dyes are non-ionic and partially soluble in water. During the sublimation process, the water acts as a medium for the dye. When a polyester fabric and dye are combined under high temperature and pressure, the dye transforms from a solid to a gas. This transformation is known as sublimation. The heat also causes the polyester to swell chemically. The swelling opens the fiber's molecular structure, allowing the dye to penetrate the fabric's polymer system. The dye molecules now take their place in the polyester's amorphous regions. Once inside the polymer system, hydrogen bonds and Van Der Waals' force hold the dye molecules inside the polymer system.

Dye Sublimation in the 21st Century

Digital sublimation printing is the next evolution of nearly 100-year-old technology. The combination of digital printing in the late 1990s and much more refined (smaller particle) disperse dye inks brought on a new evolution in textile printing. For the first time, producing small quantities of custom-printed textiles was possible. The early process was slow, fraught with finicky print equipment and high error rates. There was also a high learning curve in producing accurate color prints because dyes do not behave like pigments. The prospect of creating short-run textiles attracted the necessary talent to allow the market to mature. Today, we are on the cusp of a new era in digital sublimation printing. The demand for personalized products continues to soar. Digital printing equipment is now much faster and more reliable. Websites now offer the ability for an individual to upload a photo, corporate logo, custom textile pattern, or other custom design. Most companies offer low minimums and, in some cases, no minimum orders. To top it all off, the products can be produced and received by the user in just a few days.

Why Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is generally considered a better choice than inkjet printing for textiles. The most significant advantage is that the thermal sublimation produces a finished product that is significantly more durable than an inkjet-printed product. Since the dye permeates the fabric, it becomes a part of it. Prints cannot be damaged by wear, as there is no ink to chip or crack on the surface. Compared to other fabrics, dye-sub printed fabrics are lighter in weight, are space-saving, and are more wrinkle-resistant.

Is Dye Sub Printing "Green"

No printing process is perfect, and dye sub printing has its critics, namely those who take issue with the reliance on synthetic fabrics. But even natural fibers like cotton have their drawbacks (Consider that it takes roughly 750 gallons of water -- almost three years' worth of drinking water -- to produce one cotton shirt). While polyester yarns are made from PET, a petroleum-based product, the textile industry has also benefited from large-scale efforts to create synthetic fabrics from recycled items such as plastic soda and water bottles. Companies like Patagonia have helped make recycled yarns commonplace in polyester fabric markets. Digital sublimation also produces no VOCs, which digital solvent and UV printing cannot claim. Companies like FLS have worked to ensure that all of our spent sublimation transfer paper is up-cycled into other products, such as wood pellets so that it does not go into a landfill. We also pride ourselves on making the best and longest-lasting custom-printed fabrics. Our products are designed to last many years, even in the most challenging conditions. We believe in products that last because they are one less thing that needs to be replaced by our customers and one less item in the waste stream. For these reasons, our dye sublimation printing process is an easy choice for those who want the best fabric-printed product with the most negligible impact on Mother Earth.