Sublimation printing is a type of printing in which the design is transferred to the fabric by sublimation of the pigment. Sublimation is a term in physics that means «pass directly from the solid state to that vapor.» To make matter pass from the solid to the gaseous state, without passing through the liquid state at any time, is the action of sublimating. Sublimation is characterized by being a digital printing print.This type of sublimation print contains a lot of colors and these are very intense, it does not feel to the touch and is breathable.
I wanted to know more in detail this process so I contacted with Héctor de Maza Coatelier. Hector, despite being very busy preparing the prints of the Epson stand at Graphispag, was very kind and explained me with all the details of his work with digital printing.
The stamping process
First, you have to print the print on paper. So the design must have a color profile appropriate to the printer. In the case of sublimation printing, it is a four-color print. Therefore, the document must be worked on color CMYK.
The printer must be of large format, according to the fabric widths, 1.10 or 1.60 meters. Therefore, it has printed with a four-ink injection plotter. Sublimation inks are water-based inks. That is, the color is a pigment suspended in a solvent liquid, usually water.
The printing must be did on a paper that has the characteristic of not absorbing the ink. In addition, the underside of the paper has varnished so that it does not let the ink pass. In this way it is facilitated that the transfer of the dye is in a single direction. For the face of the right that is the one that is in contact with the tissue.
The stamping is transfer from the print paper to the fabric by the application of heat and pressure. An industrial ironing machine does this. With the ironing machine, the color has fixed at a minimum temperature of about 190ºC. The heat causes the dye suspended in the ink to pass from the solid state to the gas, the sublimation, at the same time as it opens the pores of the polymer of the fabric. The gas penetrates the polymer through its pores and becomes part of it. As the fabric cools, the dye also solidifies but already inside the textile polymer. Once the color has transferred, the paper is separate from the fabric in the same iron machine.
The Sublimation printing characteristics
As we could say is characterized by its color, touch and breathability. It is also a type of stamping appropriate to make low productions and for positional. Only applicable in synthetic fabrics.
Being a digital printing in four colours allows the stamping to have many colours. Cost of printing is the same for a colour as for multiple colours. The reproduction quality is photographic. The technique of reproduction is the same technique used in graphic arts. Transferring the colour to the polymer of the fabric makes it very intense and durable.
Being a digital printing in four colours allows the stamping to have many colours. At same time the cost of printing is the same for a colour as for multiple colours. And the reproduction quality is photographic. Alsi the technique of reproduction is the same technique used in graphic arts. Transferring the colour to the polymer of the fabric makes it very intense and durable.
As the application of colour has made by transfer to the synthetic fibre, the fabric does not see its touch altered. Therefore, the stamping is not appreciable to the touch. In addition, for the same reason it maintains the characteristics of transparency and softness of the fabric.
Also, as the pigment does not cover the pore of the fabric, it does not lose its breathability properties. So that sublimation printing is very appropriate for printing for sportswear and technical garments.
Due the characteristics of the pigments type and the technique used, this type of printing can only be make in heat-resistant synthetic fabrics. In non-synthetic fabrics, you need to finish them with a layer of polyester coating.
The Sublimation in printing is ideal for sample making. By not requiring screens, photolites, clichés, etc. it allows stamping of a few meters without added cost. It also allows working with low quantities since the process is the same for 5 meters as for 200 or more.
Position can be made according to the type of pattern piece allows a considerable saving of tissue losses. In addition, as it does not shrink the fabric, the positional can be done without having to leave a margin of special fabric.
Once we have seen what the characteristic elements of sublimation printing are, we can say that the quality control points are found in:
- Intensity of the colour
- Colour resistance
- Uniformity of the print
- Touch of the fabric
The most common defects of this type of printing are:
Stain Marks due to a dirty environment. The elements of dust or fabric fuzz can be droped on the surface of the fabric at the time of fixing the color. This makes the stamping present small areas without color in the fabric.
Ironing default marks. When the fabric or transfer paper cross through the iron this is wrinkled and leaves the mark of the wrinkle without color.
Color migration due to deficient fixing. The printing loses color and stains the witness.
Subdued color. The fabric does not properly absorb the color due to the composition of the fiber with which it is made.
Pilling occurs. Pilling appear after ironing the fabric. This happens in some types of synthetic fabric that are not suitable for this type of printing.
Editora de Seampedia
Dirección Técnica de Moda / Consultaría
Desarrollo de modelo / Control de calidad / Control de producción.
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