Branded Apparel Trends Towards Dye Sub Printing
Garment Industry Leads Trend Toward Dye Sublimation Printed Textiles
Dye sublimation (or dye sub) is the digital process of converting solid, heat-sensitive dyes into a gas (bypassing the liquid stage) by using a specially-made inkjet printer. The designed brand is then placed on a transfer medium — or printed on the garment directly — which then infuses the design into the garment using a commercial heat press.
The term “sublimation” refers to the process where the dyes become a gas and are absorbed as part of the clothing. The print design has, in effect, become part of the fabric (which must be made of polyester or have a polyester coating).
The result is a garment where the design is a photo quality print, with long wearing colours that will not fade and crack (as with standard printing). The designs will last as long as the life of the fabric and carry no extra weight, an important consideration in shipping and handling.
Printed branded apparel is leading the trend towards dye sublimation printing with an estimated 75 percent of the market (US figures), according to recent research by analysts Smithers Pira. The trend towards dye sub has taken hold as users understand the technique’s reliability and the long-lasting and high-quality results. The garments look and feel better because the ink has been imprinted in the substrate of the material. This ability to create photo quality, top-to-bottom designs of the highest quality that will not fade easily and are durable is of great advantage for garment manufacturers.
Understanding the Sublimation Process
There are three types of ink used in the sublimation dyes: solvent-based, oil-based and water-based ink. While solvent and oil-based inks are more used in bigger operations, water-based in becoming more popular for its environmental credentials and is used for both large and small scale garment printing.
Dye sublimation printing heralds a new age in textile printing, just as digital printers have overhauled traditional methods in the way graphics are produced. The versatility, efficiency and photo quality of digital dye sub has given the method a boost as users prefer the style over other, more labour-intensive methods of garment printing such as screen printing.
The wider availability of digital technology has opened up the possibilities for even more growth in dye sublimation methods for branded apparel. While there are many options for transfers onto polyester or polymer-coated items, it is in the printed design garment industry where growth is most pronounced.