Sublimation printing is a widely accepted and common application for high quality and brightly colored images and vivid designs. Sublimation printing requires special sublimation inks which are made from dye particles. These inks are grounded and then suspended in a liquid that carries them without dissolving them.
Sublimation inks are used by inkjet printers as it prepares to print on the sublimation paper. This causes the powdery dyes to heat up and vaporize into a gaseous form. These gaseous dyes diffuse and are allowed to permeate the printing surface, creating a photo quality print by gentle gradations. Once a color has been used, the roller of the printer is then reset for the next color to be printed. After all the colors have been printed , the substrate then makes a final pass over the printed image to give it a glossy outlook by lamination.
Dye sublimation inks are used to print reverse images on heat resistant sublimation paper for the final design. When they are about to be transferred to the polyester fabric, a heat press is used that operates at a temperature around 180⁰C to 210⁰C (375⁰F).
The dyes get separated from each other using a class of organic chemicals system often known as anthroquinone, azo, and phthalocyanine dye systems.
When using Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer (D2T2), the YMCKO ribbon is used to transfer pixels on the substrate through the thermal head. The ribbon consists of Y-yellow, M-magenta, C-color spectrums, K as black panel and O is the overlay which is a thin protective covering.
Sublimation inks consist of basically tow different types of dyes. Aqueous sublimation ink dyes are used for desktop and large format printers. The other type includes the solvent type of sublimation ink dyes are used by printers with a wide head like Konica, Spectra and XAAR. The former type of sublimation inks have been found to be used increasingly by piezoelectric printers due to their print speeds for large formats.
Sublimation inks can be utilized for the following purposes:
- Textile– polyester fabrics become sublime with versatile inks and able to create carpet fabrics, flagging material, sails, and sportswear. All of them are washable and sustainable even after hardwearing.
- Hardware – ceramic, wood, and metal items can be used for sublimation prints to decorate and create signage for companies like on mugs, key chains, magnets etc. The vivid inks are applied to the items and are able to maintain their look even after continuous washing. Synthetic materials with a polyester base can be easily sublimated. This includes rigid polyester films, polyester textiles, including nylon and those items that can be treated with polyester.
It is important to know that sublimation inks are genuinely transparent by their natural composition making them useable only for light colored and white backgrounds and objects. Another limitation to sublimation printing is that they don’t sit well with fabrics containing pure cotton and surface that are non-porous and don’t have a coated layer of polyester.