What is Dye Sublimation?
There are many ways to print. Most of us are familiar with inkjet or laser printers and use them in our daily lives printing paper and photos at home or in the office. Some commercial printing equipment uses similar methods on a grand scale, printing direct to fabric or vinyl using a lot of ink and heat to set the image.
Unlike direct to fabric printing, Dye Sublimation is a transfer process based on a chemical reaction, with a few extra steps. The fabric, or substrate, can be polyester or nylon and offer a very good bleed through. First, an inkjet printer prints a special sublimatable ink onto transfer paper. The paper is then put through a heat press. Presses range from 12" square to grand format 10' wide roll-to-roll calendar presses. This part of the manufacturing process is like cooking. Time, temperature and pressure all factor into how the final image will look on the other end. Balloon Boys has perfected this process. The image on the paper migrates to the fabric during a heating process that requires temps of 200°C (400° F). Here is where the printed sublimation ink goes from being a solid, to a gas, then back to a solid again as it transfers into the fabric. It not only transfers but also imbeds, or sublimates, the ink into the fabric and sets so it won't run, fade, flake or peel off.
Sublimation printing produces a very high-quality, brilliant, lasting image that adds zero weight and is undetectable to the touch. The finished fabric has unparalleled resistance to washing and when compared to any other printing method, it's final look can not be beat. And it's not just fabric that can be made into a beautiful product. Dye Sublimation has many applications. AirDancers.ca sells some of the more common custom fabric sublimated products like Flags, Air Dancers and Tents.
What are VOC's and why do I care?
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a VOC “is any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions except those designated by EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity. Many VOCs are found in emissions from burning coal, oil and gasoline, and in solvent based inks. VOCs are of special concern because they photo-chemically react (in sunlight) to cause ozone or smog."
Solvents can be a common source of VOC emissions and they are used to produce solvent-based inks, which are then used to print on vinyl and other substrates, such as specially pre-treated fabrics in the sign industry. Oil-based inks also emit VOCs, while water-based inks, dye-sublimation and a few other inks have no harmful VOC emissions.
Vinyl Substrates (banner material) are Toxic!?
I was shocked to find out that the most common banner material used in advertising today (Vinyl) are manufactured with chlorine gas, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, mercury, dioxins, PCBs and other hazardous pollutants. It is nothing short of an environmental nightmare. Most VOC emitting inks are printed on it making for a terrible combination.
Why is Dye Sublimation on textile (fabrics) better?
- The end result is a much nicer looking image
- Sublimation inks are non-toxic and more environmentally friendly
- Fabrics can be dyed any colour
- Images will never flake or peel off
- Fabrics can be washed without fear of fading
- The material your image or message is printed on doesn't contain toxic chemicals like vinyl
- Lightweight, easy to pack and easier to ship than other banner materials
The fact that this printing method was designed for full-color applications serves as a huge advantage. Dye sublimation printing doesn’t need halftone dots while producing high quality images. This enables us to make an image that has excellent photographic quality unmatched by any other printing method.
The process we use is good for printing on so many different products and materials:
- Air Dancers
- table covers
- ceramic mugs
- and many more...
The most common substrate is polyester fabrics and there are so many different threads and weaves that we have a fabric for just about any application. If you have something you'd like us to custom print for you that you don't see on the website, send us an email to email@example.com and we will let you know what can be done.
- Mitch Belfry