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Sublimation Print for Textile Material
Textile printing requires the correct coordination between the printing machinery support and the human skill for producing the best of the results, says Vasant R. Kothari latest and the most popular is Sublimation Print for Textile Materials. Dye sublimation printing work under the process of sublimation, so it is necessary to understand sublimation to understand the dye sublimation printing process. We have learnt in Chemistry that an element or compound normally has 3 states viz. solid, liquid and gaseous state and conversion from one state to another can happen by applying heat (solid >> liquid >> gaseous) or by removing heat (gaseous >> liquid >> solid). Colour is something, which makes the object more appealing, attractive and gives the pleasure of observation. The desire to create garments and other artefacts that reﬂect the beauty of the world around us and provide for the expression of artistic nature has been evident from early in human history. Textile materials like fabric and garment can be coloured in two ways either by dyeing or printing. Dyeing is colouring the fabric or garment with the single color and printing is applying coloured patterns and designs to decorate a ﬁnished fabric. Textile printing is the most versatile and important of the methods used for introducing colour and design to textile fabrics. Textile printing requires the correct coordination between the printing machinery support and the human skill for producing the best of the results. Textile printing uses various printing techniques like, Screen, block, ink jet, hand, block, tie and die, kalamkari, batik, while garment printing can be done by Plastizol, Fluorescent, Metallic, Puff, Foil printing apart from above textile printing. Several techniques have been are in use and the colorants available have multiplied, the See Fig. 1. Process The technology works primarily on polyester and special polyester coatings applied to the surface of an object. Sublimation works by dying the fabric with colour, allowing the fabrics natural wicking properties to be maintained. At high temperatures, the solid dye converts into a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The same high temperature opens the pores of the polyester fabric and allows the gas to enter. When the temperature drops, the pores close and the gas reverts to a solid state. It has now become a part
Fig 1 : The nomenclature for different phase transitions
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ignore everything else. It is like trying to mix oil and water with most natural materials. Out of all of other printing methods, dye sub is the most eco-friendly Dye sublimation will produce fantastic
color on white and light colored fabrics. The technology is perfect for high-margin customization, certain sporting uniforms or jerseys, performance apparel or any application where photo-realistic images are needed and durability a top priority.
Fig 3 : Process ﬂow of Transfer Dye Sublimation Print
Direct & Transfer Dye Sublimation can be applied on the fabric in two different ways either directly on fabric, i.e. direct print or ﬁrst on the paper and then on fabric i.e. transfer print Transfer Dye Sublimation Print The images are initially printed on coated transfer paper as a reverse image of the ﬁnal design. The paper is then placed on the precut polyester fabric pattern and both are placed into a heat press. When the heating cycle is completed, under high temperature and pressure, the dye turns into a gas and permeates the fabric and then solidiﬁes into its ﬁbers, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually reformed into or underneath the surface. The fabric is permanently dyed so it can be washed without damaging the quality of image. See Fig. 3 and Fig. 4. Direct Dye Sublimation Print The images are directly printed on treated polyester fabrics, which are then heated by heatﬁxation devise that ﬁxes the color on the fabrics.
of the fabric, meaning there is no chance of colours bleeding, or washing out, and one of the biggest advantages over 'screen printing' and other processes. The only way Dye particles that are used for this type of dye sublimation are designed to only bond with polymers, so the higher the polyester content in the material the more dye that will bond giving a brighter image. This is why dye sublimation can’t be done on natural materials, such as 100% cotton. they are going to come out is possibly if fabric is kept in the sun for the next two or three years but then the material will probably sun rot before the dyes go away. Dye particles that are used for this type of dye sublimation are designed to only bond with polymers, so the higher the polyester content in the material the more dye that will bond giving a brighter image. This is why dye sublimation can’t be done on natural materials, such as 100% cotton. Natural ﬁbers and noncoated materials which have no 'pores' to open cannot accept the gas vapor. The dye particles are designed to bond with polyester, and
Fig 4 Process ﬂow of Transfer Dye Sublimation Print
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the This paper and
The typical viewing distance of print is again one of the most important factors to determine which method to go with. Closeup viewing with high-resolution requirements on knit fabrics, normally used in sportswear, would lead to paper transfer which gives the most saturated color and crisp line detail as compare to direct print. Further, in case of panel printing transfer print is more suitable as the prints are small in size and placement of print design is of prime importance which can be comfortably achieve with the help of transfer print. Direct printing gives less resolution and suitable for distance viewing. So it is widely used for the industrial purpose like home furnishing, curtains, banners, and signage. Another advantage is the production rate which reduces the total production cost in terms of longer length fabric. Applications
papers. cockling reduction
in defects such as ghosting and various wave or tiger stripes that are common in roll-to-roll transfer printing.
Fig 5 : Process Flow of Direct Dye Sublimation Print
type needs an ink waste pit to collect
excess ink and prevents it from staining the reverse side of the fabric. See Fig. 5. Starch is coated on fabrics to avoid blur or bleeding of ink Print directly on pre-treated fabrics Non-contact heater ﬁxes color on the fabrics. See Fig. 6. Method of selection Dye sublimation transfer is relatively old as compare to direct dye sublimation and hence has a big market share. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages and the selection is purely based on the customer requirement, the type and quality of output required. Transfer yields higher quality and direct yields higher productivity.
Dye sublimation is perfect for printing to a wide range of manmade and mixed content textiles including : Whether it is a printing a repeated textile pattern design to be incorporated into a garment, creating cushions, curtains, banners and much, much more, the process of dye
Fig 6 : Process Flow of Direct Dye Sublimation Print
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sublimation is simple, clean and easier than other processes. But dye sublimation is not limited to decorating the fabrics only. Many products such as ceramic tile, mouse pads, mugs and plates can all be decorated using practically the same equipment, so generating multiple lives for dye sublimation is quite easy.
Comparison with Screen Printings One of the main advantages is that dye sublimation papers used for high quality sublimation transfers are designed to print a wide gamut of vibrant colors while enhancing the release of ink during the sublimation process, allowing for a permanent 'color pop' that does not fade over time. While the colors produced by screen printing are comparable to dye sublimation, screen printing usually requires large minimum order quantities and tooling costs. Alternatively, sublimation enables the ﬂexibility to produce one-offs digitally with the image permanence of screen printing at a fraction of the cost, allowing print providers and sign shops to produce
Fig 7 Comparison of Screen Print and Direct Sublimation Print
One of the main advantages is that dye sublimation papers used for high quality sublimation transfers are designed to print a wide gamut of vibrant colors while enhancing the release of ink during the sublimation process, allowing for a permanent 'color pop' that does not fade over time.
Polyester Acrylic Faux Suede Poly Felts
Poly/Cottons Satins Nylon Voile
Canvas Dacron Nylon 66 Baize
Rayon Poplin Ripstop Lycra
Comparison of Direct and Transfer Dye Sublimation Prints
Direct Dye Sublimation Transfer Dye Sublimation
Prints directly on the fabrics Cost of printing machine is more Material cost is less Labour cost is less Production rate is high Cost of printing is less Less wastage Best print are limited to flat, smooth surfaced fabrics Quality of print is not that much superior as compare to Transfer Suitable for longer length fabric More application are there in home furnishing, banner, backdrops
Needs the medium, normally paper, for transferring the print on the fabric Cost of printing machine is less Material cost is high Labour cost is more Production rate is less Cost of printing is more More wastag Excellent on knitted fabrics
Quality of print is superior as compare to Direct Suitable for panel printing Widely used in apparel sector
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A half-toning device such as an ink-jet printer will use a dithering technique of placing dots close together in order to trick the eye. In other words, ink jet printers use a series of black dots placed close to white dots in order to trick the eye into blending the pixels when viewed.
items as ordered rather than committing to a large inventory position. See Fig. 7. Comparison with Digital Inkjet Printing Dye-sublimation differs greatly from inkjet in many ways; most signiﬁcantly in quality. Dye-sub is known for its high quality and continuous tone output. Continuous tone means that all gradations of colour are used when creating an image. For example, when creating a grey scale, from black to white, a continuous tone printer will show all shades of grey in between the black and the white by actually printing them. See. Fig. 8. A half-toning device such as an ink-jet printer will use a dithering technique of placing dots close together in order to trick the eye. In other words, ink jet printers use a series of black dots placed close to white dots in order to trick the eye into blending the pixels when viewed. With magniﬁcation the difference can be seen where the dyesub output is clear and sharp, but dots can be seen on ink-jet prints. Dye-sublimation printing has an important advantage over Inkjet printers - the ability to print a superior range of colors. Dye-sublimation printers are able to change the temperature of the thermal elements in its head at 256 different degrees, therefore producing 256 different shades of each of the colored panels. More importantly, due to its properties, the dye is transparent and colors can be laid on top of each other, combining to produce 16.8 million different
shades. The technology also features a ﬁnal laminate coating which makes prints from a dye-sublimation devices look as if they have been developed from a photochemical lab. Another advantage of dye sublimation is that the prints are dried up and able to use when they get out of the printer. Considering that thermal head doesn’t have to sweep backwards and forwards above the print media, there can be fewer moving pieces which could break down. Since the dye in no way enters a liquid phase, the entire printing cycle is extremely clean; one can ﬁnd no liquid inks to clean up along with no print heads for getting clogged. These variables cause dye-sublimation usually a more trustworthy technology over inkjet printing. Dye-sublimation has another two major advantages over Inkjet technology. UV & Water Resistance. However, dye-sublimation printers also have some drawbacks over their inkjet rivals. Each of the colored panels of the ribbons, and the thermal head itself, match the size of the media that is being printed on. This means that dye-sublimation printers cannot match the ﬂexibility of the inkjet printer's ability to print on a wide range of media. In addition, dye-sublimation printing media and ribbons are sensitive to skin oils, which affect the sublimation capacity, and must also be free of dust particles which can lead to small colored blobs appearing on the printed media. The current standard is to include special ﬁlters to reduce the likelihood of these incidents, but keep in mind that a speck of dust can only affect one print as it becomes attached to the print during the whole process. Pros and Cons of Sublimation Printing Pros ..... • Dye Sublimation has the highest print quality for printing on fabric/textiles.
Fig 8 Comparison of Digital Print and Sublimation Print
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Over the last decade, textile printing sector has redeﬁned itself as the contemporary fashion statement of textile industry. World over it is emerging as not only the most 'in demand' area, but also as driver of the further growth of the textile industry. One of the factors to catalyze this is the rapidly transforming consumers.
Excellent Coverage and Extended Ink Yield.
durability, image detail and color vibrancy. • The ﬁnished print has no "hand," which makes them feel second to none. The technology is well-suited for popular newer trends in urban fashion and performance/wicking fabric markets. Additionally, dye sublimation offers the potential for product diversity that can beneﬁt a company since all of their business will not be in one product type. Sublimation dyes are permanent as they have become part of the fabric, and thus give the excellent fastness properties. It is the most eco-friendly printing. Dye sub is great for full color designs on white or light colored garments. There is no crack or fading of colors in this type of printing. Dramatically Reduced Maintenance Costs. Waste and •
Trouble-Free Unattended Printing and Maximum Uptime.
Can print larger print sizes screen printing.
Photographic quality image capability
Cons ..... • The drawbacks of dye sublimation include higher cost of dyes. • It can be applied to a limited, more expensive apparel choice. • Nevertheless, niche markets that match technology with need do exist and some offer a handsome return. • • It can only be printed on white colour. Suitable for limited ﬁbers like dryﬁt, silk, polyster fabric. • It cannot be printed on black or dark colour fabric. • Metallic colours are not possible.
Conclusion Over the last decade, textile printing sector has redeﬁned itself as the contemporary fashion statement of textile industry. World over it is emerging as not only the most 'in demand' area, but also as driver of the further growth of the textile industry. One of the factors to catalyze this is the rapidly transforming consumers. Emerging and changing consumer needs have forced companies to redeﬁne their business approach. It is the diversity of ideas that is deciding the product lines. Emerging expectation from design is highly evolved and much diverse nature. Providing product that attracts the buyer because of
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and improved combinations of dyes, media, hardware and software are fuelling the usage of sublimation as a less expensive, long lasting, and customizable alternative to direct and screen printing methods. Breakthroughs in technology will also likely lead to sublimation playing a larger role in the sign industry, particularly in instances where it is preferable for signs and displays to be used multiple times. With the new generation of wide-format digital printers, the creative possibilities for producing applications using dye sublimation are endless. Prior to these technological advancements, entering the dye sublimation market required a considerable investment of time and money, but now it is often favoured as a less expensive alternative to other printing methods. Dye sublimation is a top contender for color vibrancy, durability and image detail. Newer urban fashion trends use dye sublimation and are generating a new wave in fashion apparel. Dye sublimation is rapidly gaining market share due to the increasing availability of new and improved combinations of dyes, media, hardware and software that have pushed the quality range to higher levels. In today’s market, it remains the preferred method over direct printing.
something other than the price is much required. Many of the popular decorating methods such as screen printing and embroidery are time tested choices for the apparel market. However, markets inevitably change, fashion trends and consumer tastes change rapidly as well.
What's "hot" today is old news tomorrow. New techniques, materials and processes are being implemented to realize the consumer expectations and aspirations in much sophisticated manner. Sublimation print can be used mainly on the polyester ﬁbre, in the past, nobody wanted to wear the garments made out of a polyester ﬁbre because they were uncomfortable and lacked many of the desirable qualities of cotton. But today, a number of manufacturers have come up with new processes that have resulted in polyester garments that are soft, breathable, and comfortable even in warmer temperatures, and with the increase in application of polyester ﬁbre in the apparel segment sublimation will also grow at the same rate. Further, the increasing availability of new
Sublimation print can be used mainly on the polyester ﬁbre, in the past, nobody wanted to wear the garments made out of a polyester ﬁbre because they were uncomfortable and lacked many of the desirable qualities of cotton.
Vasant R. Kothari is Assistant Professor, Department of Fashion Technology, NIFT, Bangalore. Committee Member of The Textile Association of India (TAI), Karnataka Unit. He can be contacted @ www.vasantkothari.com
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