The future's here. Dye sublimation (dye sub) performance textile is the latest entrant in the world of functional textiles. Till a few years back, it would have been difficult to believe that such advanced, multi-utility functional textiles could be manufactured. Today the scenario has changed. Dye sub textiles have entered the market and have grown beyond printed fabrics. They are an excellent printing material for making banners of superior quality, graphics displays, theatrical displays, light box frame systems and advertising displays. After printing, the fabric provides excellent colour consistency, with clearer and sharper images in a wide range of colours.
What it means
Dye sublimation process is a new and advanced method of direct printing which requires specially engineered textiles to get outstanding results. A US based international premium textile supplier, Top Value fabrics, has introduced a new range of fabrics especially for dye sub printing. They offer a wide range of dye sub performance textiles which are specially designed to give out excellent results when dye sub transfer technology is used.
The dye sublimation process dyes the image directly onto the fabric. In the dye sub transfer process, a digital image is created and printed on special paper using special dyes. This paper is placed on top of fabric and then heat-pressed. The solid particles in the dye are converted into gaseous form to unite with the polymers of the fabric. This results in the transfer of dyes back to solid form and into the fabric. This process ensures that the dyes seep into the fabric and make the image permanent.
In traditional screen printing, the image is made in ink which then bonds with the fabric and settles on the top of the fabric. Dye sub uses the dyes to permeate the fabric to make the image long-lasting. The fabric itself is special, constructed to make it compatible with dye sub transfer ink. This makes such fabric excellent for printers that use such advanced applications.
Advantages of dye sub
The dye sub method offers unlimited shades of colour in an image without any extra cost. Moreover, it eliminates cracking, peeling or fading of the image in the long run. Any image, including digital photography, can be printed on the fabric. Unlike traditional screen printed images that clog the pores of the fabric, this process allows the fabric to breathe and absorb moisture, making it comfortable for the wearer.
In traditional fabric, the heat and sweat are sealed inside and cause the wearer to feel sticky and uncomfortable. As sublimation is a dye and not an ink, the base colour of the fabric should be light so that the colour of the image does not change. For example, if a shirt is black or very dark, the image will not be visible at all.
Utility of dye sub performance textiles
There are different types of dye sub performance textiles that are specifically designed for printing when using dye sub transfer technology.
Triple white: It is a triple-layered uncoated, flame-resistant woven polyester textile in bright white. It is specially designed to block images on the print surface and engineered for printers that require excellent results using dye sub transfer technology. This fabric is useful for applications such as banners, backlit display frames, retail's POP display, tradeshow graphics and theatrical displays.
Tri poly fabric: It is a fabric that is uncoated, fire-resistant, wrinkle-resistant woven backlit polyester fabric used for frontlit and backlit advertising. It is best suited for printers that require high performance textiles for dye sublimation production. The fabric is used for banners, interior decor, tradeshow graphics, theatrical display, backlit display frames etc.
Heavy knit fabric: Uncoated, flame-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, heavyweight polyester fabric in bright white, its speciality is its construction and weight. It is also used in applications similar to the tri poly fabric.
Ultra white blockout fabric: This is a double-sided, flame-resistant, uncoated, bright white fabric which has a black blockout layer in the centre. This fabric is produced with three layers to ensure it is not transparent and can be used where the fabric needs blockout. It gives excellent results in double-sided graphics as it is constructed with a deep black blockout layer and yields results that are far better than industry standards. These fabrics are used for theatrical displays, banners, POP displays, blockout curtains etc.
Other premium textiles for direct printing
There are other specialty premium textiles for direct printing. Flag polyester fabric with liner is designed especially for flag manufacturers who require the fabric to be compatible with solvent, eco-solvent or UV ink. The flag polyester contains removable paper liner which makes the printing through the machine easy.
PVC-free self-adhesive wall covering is a woven fabric with superior inkjet friendly layer. This polyester fabric is flame-resistant and has removable, repositionable reverse side. It is easy to install on flat surfaces, corners or simple curves. It can be applied and reapplied and it leaves no scum, making it a stress-free installation.
In addition, there are silver, black and heavy polyester woven fabrics that also have similar characteristics. These fabrics are used in high-end retail's POP, interior decor, assorted wall coverings, roll-up displays etc. These premium print textiles provide image sharpness and excellent colour consistency.
The dye-sub print market started just a few years ago but the market had evolved rapidly. For those who would like to enter this territory, the advice would be to do the homework thoroughly before taking the leap. Those who are already in this business know that the process is expensive, complicated and needs complete understanding of both the customer need and factory's physical space.