As for transfer papers, it is best to start out using whichever type is recommended by the ink, toner or ribbon manufacturer. Then, once the sign shop has built up sufficient experience in dye sublimation, it can venture out and try other transfer papers.
Blank substrates need to be right for the type of sublimation being performed. This is especially true with ceramic products.
There are several types of heat presses available. As with printers, the choice will depend on the sign shop’s specific needs. A clamshell-style press will be useful for sublimating mouse pads, shirts and other small, thin and flat items. A swinger-style press is well-suited to thicker flat substrates, such as tiles, marble, glass and wood. Specialty presses can accommodate non-flat substrates, including mugs and hats. There are also ‘combo’ presses, which use interchangeable platens to combine the benefits of flat and specialty presses into one device.
The need for research
With all of this in mind, the decision whether or not to enter the dye sublimation business should be based on careful research. A sign shop will need to be able to invest time, money and effort to make it work, so it is important to know there will be a sufficient return on investment (ROI) from the market.
One of the best ways to answer that question, after understanding the equipment and the process, is to talk to people who have been in the dye sublimation business for a while and can share their experiences.
Johnny Shell is vice-president (VP) of technical services for the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). For more information, visit www.sgia.org.