Roland DG Blog

Getting Started with Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation printing is one of the most effective methods for creating a range of customised and personalised products on-demand. This means you can deliver an almost limitless variety of creative and profitable applications that will enable you to extend the range of services you offer to your clients.

With inkjet dye sublimation printing, you can print onto fabrics and surfaces of many widths and lengths. It's quick to learn, quick to deliver and means you'll continue to surprise and delight your customers. They don't see the difference between printing on paper, vinyl, banner or textile. To them it's just an image, graphic or piece of text they want to reproduce in different ways. Use digital dye sublimation printing to extend your capabilities, satisfy the demands of your customers and keep you ahead of the competition.

Where Heat and Pressure Combine

Printing is only the first step of the process in dye sublimation. For sublimation to take place, you need heat and pressure.

Successful dye sublimation requires the following process:
1. Print graphics onto special transfer paper using sublimation inks; and
2. Use a heat press to transfer the ink-on-paper to the item you want to decorate.

To ensure correct ink transfer, smooth saturation, and fine image quality, always use a coated sublimation transfer paper with excellent ink-absorption and high-ink release. If you’re planning to use your dye sublimation printer for applications that include everything from apparel to décor and soft signage, you’ll also need the following essential items:

  • Computer and RIP Software – First and foremost, you’ll need a computer and software to design and process your digital graphics for printing and to manage your overall print production. Not all sublimation printer manufacturers supply software with their machine. Fortunately, the Roland Texart XT-640 is bundled with ErgoSoft Roland Edition RIP that was created especially to support both 4 colour and 8 colour sublimation printing.
  • Cutting Device – Initially, you’ll need a rotary blade and hot knife for simple cutting of knit materials and for cutting and sealing of woven fabric. But you’ll ultimately need an X/Y table cutter or digital flatbed cutter/plotter for accurate knit and woven cutting and for effective pattern cutting.
  • Sewing Device – Apparel and soft signage production requires some sewing and hemming for custom apparel, custom upholstery, banner pole pockets, etc. This requires a manual sewing machine for apparel and small signage solutions and computerised automatic sewing machine for large format joint and hemming.

A Quality Heat Press is a Must

Heat presses vary in size and application but all function the same way; at 400 degree Fahrenheit, they simultaneously heat the ink on the transfer paper and the polymer fibres within the substrate, enabling the transfer of ink-to-media. After about a minute, the heat is removed and the transfer paper is peeled off, leaving behind a permanent, full-colour graphic on the substrate.

The process is a simple and effective method to apply graphics to fabrics and other media. In comparison to traditional print methods, it saves hours of print work and with the right machine, the quality results are comparable to screen-printing.

Types of Heat Presses

There are four main types of heat presses:

1. Small Format Heat Press – If you’re planning to sublimate on t-shirts and small items such as caps, mugs, plates, and shoes, then you might not need to spend a great deal on a heat press. Expect to pay around $1,500 and upwards for a decent 16”x20” full-size shirt press from brands such as Geo Knight and Hotronix that have heat and pressure controls.
2. Calender Heat Press – Heat presses such as the Texart CS-64 Heat Transfer Calender System are large format presses that are built for flags, large exterior banners, and other large soft-signage applications, as well as day-to-day soft signage and fabric sublimation. With the addition of table attachment, users can cut and sew apparel pieces.
3. Flatbed Heat Press – Although they can’t effectively manage the kind of rolls and fabric sizes that a Calender heat press can, flatbed style heat presses are versatile presses that can heat transfer onto fabric as well as aluminium, hardboard, floor mats and other unique media.
4. 3D Vacuum Heat Press – A 3D vacuum heat press is a compact desktop machine that allows heat transfer onto materials with a curved edge or shape. Sublimation blanks and pre-treated objects, such as a smart phone covers, mugs, ceramic plates, picture frames, sporting goods, buttons and others are available for sublimation by this handy device.

Plan for Business Growth

A reliable large format press should last decades and fulfil an increasing sublimation output as your business and printing requirements grow. By investing in a reliable quality heat press along with the right dye sublimation printer, you can confidently plan for business growth.

At Roland, our Texart series of dye sublimation printers provide superb quality, productivity and value. Click here to find out more about our range and the benefits they can give your business. To talk to one of our dye sublimation experts, call 1800 500 119.