News 01/24/2020 12:05

What is a dye-sublimation printer?

How are the images offered by a dye-sublimation printer different from other prints? They can be easily recognised, above all, due to their quality and the intense brightness of their colours. Discover how this technology works.

Ink cartridges for a dye-sublimation printer.

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing was originally created for professional jobs that required high quality, such as photography. This is an image transfer based on the use of a ribbon with specific dyes that react to the application of heat. 

It should also be noted that these high quality image printers can be used to print on materials as different as ceramics, plastic and textiles (especially polyester), among others. This type of sublimation printer for heat transfer is also possible on specific paper, such as photographic paper.

The sublimation process

In this printing, the dye is heated to a very high temperature until it turns directly into gas, without becoming liquid at any time. At the same time as this change in state takes place, the pores in the paper or polyester, into which the colour is injected, are opened

It should be noted that the dye does not set until the material has cooled and therefore the pores are closed. This is one of the factors why it is considered a high quality image printer.

Sublimation dyes

The dyes used in a sublimation printer are a synthetic polymer, so they can actually be fixed correctly by the heat applied to the desired surface.

This type of device usually works with 4 basic colours: cyan, yellow, magenta and black. The entire colour range can be achieved with its combination. However, some printer models also use additional tones (such as light cyan) to achieve an even more realistic effect.

Results from a sublimation printer

The images transferred in sublimation printing are so delicate that they are virtually invisible to the touch. The setting system makes them extraordinarily resistant to any external aggression, such as water or ultra-violet rays. Therefore, its durability in perfect conditions is guaranteed in the long term.

In terms of image quality, a sublimation photo printer achieves extremely realistic results, with special emphasis on colours. The possibility of injecting a specific amount of dye at each point makes it possible to play with the gloss until the desired effect is achieved on each occasion.

It should also be noted that a sublimation printer allows you to combine colours at each printing point. This way, the final result is very uniform and stands out due to its great clarity. For this reason, it is mainly used for digital photographic images, brochures and all kinds of professional prints.

Differences between sublimation and other printing systems

Traditional printing systems, such as injection or laser, do not offer images with the same quality and durability as a sublimation printer. Among its main differences, we highlight:

  • Sublimation allows specific amounts of dye to be applied to each point, whereas traditional systems always use the same volume in the printing area.
  • The injection system separates the colours into different points, while the sublimation printer allows them to be mixed.
  • This same mixture of pigments allows us to avoid the screentones that originate in traditional printers when trying to create colour dimensions.
  • Sublimation also applies a transparent coating to each already coloured dot, which protects the ink. This way, there is a more lasting impression.

To conclude, we can say that the images created by a sublimation printer offer impeccable quality and a distinctive brightness. This puts them at the level of any professional photograph or print, even if we are working with a device designed for use in the home.