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General Introduction to dye sublimation with wide-format inkjet printers Print E-mail

At the 2-week long DRUPA trade show in Germany it was possible to gather information to update our general introduction to dye sublimation with wide-format inkjet printers. The present page is only a beginning. Updates will provide more of a primer-like introduction, reviews, tips, and naturally will compare prices and costs.

Stand-alone dye sub printers require a separate heat transfer press. Samples of stand-alone dye sublimation printers include the new Seiko ColorTextiler 64DS.

Samples of stand-alone dye sublimation printers include the new Seiko ColorTextiler 64DS
Front view of Seiko ColorTextiler 64DS Printer.

Heat transfer paper.

Heat transfer paper is available from Beaver Paper & Packaging (TexPrintXP Plus) and others. We recommend using a heat transfer paper from a known brand and known vendor (Conde would be one I have known for years).

Heat presses and calendaring machines.

Heat presses are used by small printshops or people at home or with a second-business or retirement business. The major brands of desktop-sized heat presses that I see at most major trade shows are heat presses from Geo Knight or Hix.

Roll to roll calendering machines are used by large production shops for mass production of soft signage and banners. A calendering machine is to use heat and pressing to sublimate and fix the ink from transfer paper onto a polyester material. The brands of calendering heat presses that I see at trade shows in the US and Europe include Monti Antonio, Practix, Transmatic and AIT, Klieverik. Recently DigiFab has added their versions, DigiHeat.

Kolorfusion: Unique and Exceptional Dye Sublimation Processes.

About four years ago, at ISA or STIA, Kolorfusion exhibited their unique dye sub for three-dimensional objects (especially for bathroom fixtures). The Kolorfusion system uses a vacuum system. But I never saw this company exhibit again after that, though I did meet a Kolorfusion person while walking the aisles at a recent trade show.

Textile printers with dye-sublimation built in.

The best known company in this field would be d-Gen Teleios. They add heat-transfer units to after-market adaptations of Roland printers. D-Gen systems are put together in Korea and exhibited at major trade shows both in Europe and the US.

Textile printers with dye-sublimation built in
Front view of d-Gen Teleios printer.

Grand format dye sublimation printers.

There are water-based dye sublimation inks (used by Mimaki, etc), oil-based dye sub inks, or solvent-based dye sub inks. Solvent-based dye sublimation inks tend to be used on dual-use printers that can switch from solvent ink for printing on vinyl to dye sub ink for printing on textiles. The dye sub ink has to be solvent based in order to mix in the same ink tubing as the regular solvent inks.

HP Scitex XL 1500, with a dye sub upgrade kit, turns this solvent-based printer into a dye sub printer. In effect you get the same benefit as the VUTEk 3360 Fusion switchable system. I have more experience with the VUTEk 3360 Fusion because it was possible to test it at the VUTEk demo center and see it being manufactured at VUTEk headquarters.

VUTEk 3360 Fusion is a light weight printer that can achieve comparable switching from solvent to solvent-dye sub like the HP Scitex. The HP Scitex machine, however, is more sophisticated. A FLAAR Report is available on the VUTEk 3360 Fusion based on inspecting and testing it in New Hampshire.

Gandinnovations uses a combination of oil-based with solvent based dye sublimation inks in its grand format Jeti dye sub printers, the Jeti 3312 DS and Jeti 3324 DS roll to roll.

Gandinnovations uses a combination of oil-based with solvent based dye sublimation inks in its grand format Jeti dye sub printers
Front view Gandy Printer.

Electrostatic printers were used in a previous era.

In the 1990’s, hundreds of printshops large and small used electrostatic toner-based printers for dye sublimation. Using toner from STC (Specialty Toner Corporation), and printers such as #m Scotchprint Printer 2000, this technology was popular and successful for years. Scores of these venerable old electrostatic printers are producing tons of dye sublimated fabrics still today in 2008.

But these electrostatic printers are obsolete, and consumables are harder to find every year. No start-up company today would likely even consider an electrostatic printer any more: no new technology or advances have improved electrostatic printers in probably more than six years (a polite way of saying this technology was great in its era, but it’s dead for the present and future).

Do not confuse dye sublimation via heat transfer paper with thermal dye transfer with wax or resin ribbons.

The Kodak 8500 thermal dye sublimation heat transfer printers, and all the small desktop “dye sub” photo printers are thermal heat transfer printers (which is not the subject of this web page or FLAAR evaluations). Thermal dye sub heat transfer has changed almost not at all in the last ten years (other than get less costly). Other models of thermal dye diffusion printers are the Kodak Professional 8650R, Kodak Professional 9810 digital photo printer.

The advantage of a Kodak-kind of thermal dye transfer printing with wax or resin ribbons is pure continuous tone. No inkjet printer, no how much they claim, not matter whether twelve colors, can’t give real continuous tone.

The downside of thermal dye transfer printing is that it works only on a limited number of papers, and the ink-coated transfer material is expensive since most of the ink is wasted (never used, but expended with each print).

Updated December 1, 2008.
First posted May 5, 2008, as part of the expansion of this fine art digital imaging site to include interior decoration and decorative arts in general.

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