What is Sublimation:
Sublimation is when a substance transitions between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage, dry ice is an example. In a dye sublimation printer the
printing dye is heated up until it turns into a gas, at which point it diffuses onto the printing media and solidifies. Dye sublimation can also be used as an indirect printing process. Standard black and white laser printed are capable of printing on plain paper using a special transfer toner containing sublimation dyes which can then be permanently heat transferred to hats, mugs, metals, puzzles, and other surfaces.
Dye sublimation printing can be used to print on fabrics and clothing, for example T shirts. These printers are similar to inkjet printers in that they spray ink onto a sheet of paper, but the ink is actually dye sublimation ink held in a liquid solvent, like water. The ink is applied to a donar material, a special type of paper. The image on the paper is reverse image of the final design, so that when it is dry it can be placed onto the fabric and heated, transferring the completed image onto the material via the dye sublimation process. In case, the dye turns into the gas and permeates the actual fibers of the material, then solidifying. Sublimation printing does not produce that bump feeling when you run your fingers over the printed area. Its as if the image was part of the product all along.
Starting your own Sublimation Business:
You will need:
Computer, Sublimation compatible printer, the more ink cartridges it takes the better the image quality, 6 or more would be best Scanner, Graphics program such as photoshop or corel, heat presses, Sublimation ink, Sublimation paper, Camera, Blanks, CISS and a flare for creativity.
You will need to decide what products you would like to be selling before purchasing so you can purchase the right heat press. To start you may want to sell mugs. You would need to purchase a mug press and sublimation mugs. Once you get the hang of this, you can upgrade your business by purchasing other presses as your business grows. The great thing about starting your own sublimation business is that you do not need to purchase everything at once.
What materials can be printed & what limitations are there?
As long as you have the machine to transfer it, just about anything that has a sublimate coating on it can be printed on. Ceramics, Polysub which is a type of plastic, metal, polyester, poly lycra, poly mesh, glass, cardboard just to name a few. Limitations include natural fibers such as cotton, printing on 100% cotton will cause the image to fade and wash out. Sublimation inks are dark, yet print out with bright and vibrant colours. You cannot print on dark coloured materials, you can however print on pastel colours and white. You cannot transfer an image onto a plain mug you purchased on sale or picked up cheap from the junk shop. It simply will not work. The materials used must be sublimated. You cannot use a home iron, as sublimation ink is activated by heat, the home iron is just not hot enough to transfer the image. Just in case you are wondering how hot, 180 to 400 degrees celsius in order for your image to be transferred to the product.
What are the costs involved?
You can start your business with good quality products starting from under $2000.00 with the basics. Assuming you already own a computer, printer and software. Sublimation ink is not cheap, for good quality ink it will cost you around $245 plus for 6 cartridges and just under $1000.00 for 6 x 125mls. Presses start at around $300 to $1500.00. You will get what you pay for. The more expensive presses will have little extras like digital timers and better heating.
Sublimation Transfer Paper
Should be stored away from the light as too much exposure to light can cause the paper to damage and fade the quality of the paper.
You should use a teflon mat when printing. If you have an overlap of ink on the paper, when pressing it will transfer to the rubber mat on your press, each time you print the ink will heat up and transfer onto the product you are pressing. To avoid this, it is a very good idea to use a teflon mat. It can withstand the heat and wipes off excess ink easily.
A temperature of 200 - 400 degrees Celsius is recommended depending on the product. Time and pressure varies with different presses.
Sublimation products feature UV absorbers to help extend the life of the product for outdoor use. It is not recommended that a product be left for long periods of time in direct sunlight as the ink will fade with time. This is also dependant on the quality of ink used.
There is of course so much more on sublimation, and we could go on forever but we have to finish somewhere. We have a range of personalised sublimation products that we sell. If you find we are currently not selling anything through eBay but would like something personalised with a photo or logo, please send us an email and we shall direct you to our online store that is open 24hours a day
Some Examples of sublimation products