UV-LED vs Sublimation Printing

 UV Printing Vs Sublimation
UV (Ultra-Violet) printing is a digital inkjet printing technology similar to sublimation. In the same way as sublimation printing, you can design the graphics without any color limitations. But remember, sublimation Ink will only work on 100% polyester fabrics or hard items like mugs that are coated with a durable clear polyester coating. On the other hand, UV-LED Printing can directly print on almost any material without coating or primer.

One major difference between UV-LED Printing and sublimation is that once the image is printed, the UV-LED light will soon cure it, therefore, the finished product can be used immediately. Whereas in sublimation, the transfer process of the image is complex, and maybe exhausting. Besides heat pressing is needed to cure the inks.

For Sublimation, printing on clear or dark substrates/backgrounds can be quite a challenge. On the contrary, UV-LED printers makes this process easy with its CMYK ink set along with a white and clear ink. The white ink component allows you to print a base coat of white ink underneath the color image. This is needed when you may be printing to a clear or a dark material. The clear ink component in UV Printer allows you to print a clear coat over your graphic; It gives a glossy appearance and more durability.

Sublimation is a single layer printing process. But UV printer can perform multilayer printing at the same time. The layered printing can produce raised images, texts and 3D effects. This creates textured finish that can be developed in several applications, such as printing a duplicate textured oil painting. Furthermore, it can be helpful in creating ADA signage along with printed ADA-compliant Braille signage.

Other advantages to consider with UV-LED Printing such as printing speed. These printers can perform much faster compared to sublimation process.

UV printing can be used to print on a wide variety of substrates of all colors, textures, shapes and sizes. It can also print on cylindrical or rounded objects like bottles. UV printing isn’t a replacement for sublimation or any other process, but a smart quick alternative to perform almost any job.

Choosing the right paper for sublimation

right sublimation paper

How to choose the correct sublimation paper weight?

There are four factors that you have to consider for choosing the right sublimation transfer paper.

1.INK LIMIT / CAPACITY

This is a very basic factor. The higher the ink limit (wet), the heavier gram the paper should be in order to accept the moisture from the ink without any problems like curling and warping of the paper.

2.HEAVY INK PATTERNS

This explains the printing of an artwork that has a very complex design that has a mixed heavy and light ink loading. You can face this in low gram papers, curling will occur and also shifting after pressing. To eliminate this the best solution is a 110gsm or more that accept heavy ink and also light inks.

3.ROLL TO ROLL OR ROLL TO SHEET

Calendar press loves low gsm papers. But on heavy ink, consider factor #1.

4.PRINT SPEED

This is the equation:
Fast printing = lightweight paper
Slow printing = thick paper

According to the humidity of the working environment

Low humidity: In the humidity under 45% , It’s better to choose 80gsm . Because when in a low humidity , the paper will shrink, and the print side is hunch-up. During the printing , the paper absorb ink , the “hunch-up” will be more obviously. 100g and 120g paper are harder than 80g , so the “hunch-up” will damage the print-head . 80gsm is more softer , it could relief the “hunch-up” and protect your print-head from damage .

High humidity: In the humidity above 70% . It’s better to choose 110-120 gsm . Because the paper is very easy to become damp in a high humidity , it will become softer and stiffness is weak at the same time . If you use low weight paper, it will be very hard to print smoothly because of the stiffness and hardness go down . At this time , 110-120 gsm is your best choice

Humidity and affect on sublimation

Humidity and affect on Sublimation

The presence of moisture in either the substrate or the transfer paper results in an adverse effect on the sublimation process. They can lead to issues like color shifting (losing colors accuracy), bleeding of the image, and uneven transfer of solid filled areas of a design.

Sublimation paper can retain an enormous amount of moisture. To minimize the effects of humidity, always keep your transfer paper sealed in a plastic bag in a dry place. If possible, store your sublimation paper in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

If you suspect the transfer paper is exposed to humidity and have excess moisture, you have a couple of options. One is to set the paper on your heat press without closing it for a few seconds to warm them. The heat radiating from the press should help in evaporating the moisture.

If you’ve already printed a transfer you can place the printed transfer 2″ to 3″ below the heat platen for 30 – 40 seconds to eliminate the excess moisture. This may results in the transfer like missed color or fuzzy looking details.

However, an environment that is too dry isn’t any good either as it can cause print head nozzle loss issues.

The best environment for sublimation printing is one that has at least 45% humidity and is reasonably cool. If adjustments are needed, you can purchase either a humidifier or de-humidifier.

Dye-sublimation printing – Wasatch Printer and SoftRIP Setup

Printer and SoftRIP Setup
Dye-sublimation printing, like other printing, requires that the printer being used is in optimal condition to achieve the best results. In our testing, we have found the following steps should be taken to optimize the quality of the final print.

Perform any required media feed calibrations, unidirectional/bidirectional head alignments, and other printer specific adjustments.
Configure any printer specific settings necessary for the transfer paper that is being used.

The Mirror control in the Setup – Print Unit window in SoftRIP allows all jobs processed through a specific print unit to be automatically mirrored before printing. This eliminates the need to manually mirror each image that is opened in SoftRIP for dye-sublimation printing.

Be sure to store printed transfer images in a dry, dark and dust free area if you are not immediately pressing them onto a substrate. Extended exposure to fluorescent lights may cause a color change when the images are pressed. Also dust or oils from too much handling and other contaminants can affect the transfer process.

USING WASATCH SOFTRIP FOR DYE-SUBLIMATION WITH POLYESTER COATED ALUMINUM PLATES
TECHNICAL BULLETIN
This may include setting up a media type, heater settings, head height, and other printer/media specific settings. These settings can be found in Wasatch SoftRIP by selecting Setup under the Print drop down menu; select Edit by Imaging Configuration; then select the Info button.

Perform a nozzle check/test print before sending print jobs to the printer. If there are nozzles that are not firing properly, perform any required maintenance/cleaning to correct this.

Transfer of Image onto Polyester Coated Aluminum Plates In our testing we have found that the following steps should be taken to optimize the quality of dye-sublimation to polyester coated aluminum plates.

Dye-sublimation to polyester coated aluminum plates requires additional items for the heat press compared to dye-sublimation to fabric. In our testing we use the following layering of items inside the heat press from bottom to top:

  • Nomex pad
  • Two sheets of craft paper
  • Polyester coated aluminum plate
  • Transfer paper
  • One sheet of craft paper
  • Fabric (appropriate for heat press use)

This layering can reduce any artifacts caused by steam from the sublimation ink while transferring the image. The craft paper and fabric between the transfer paper and heat platen will absorb some ink and water during the transfer
process. This ink can transfer back to the substrate if sufficient ink has been absorbed. We recommend replacing the craft paper and/or fabric as needed to avoid transferring back from the paper/fabric back to the substrate.

The transparent protective film covering the coated aluminum plate must be removed before pressing. Removing the protective film from the substrate sheet needs to be done with care, as the edge of the substrate can be damaged or
chipped.

Unlike dye-sublimation to fabric, coated aluminum plates do not always need to be pre-pressed to remove moisture from the surface of the substrate. In our testing, we have seen a subtle but noticeable shift in the color of the substrate
when the substrate was pre-pressed. Larger substrate sheets (larger than 16×20 inches) are more likely to need to be pre-pressed (to remove any moisture from manufacturing or storage) to produce the best results.

After the protective film is removed from the coated aluminum plate, remove any small particulate matter from the surface by using a lint-free cloth. Foreign material may be present beneath the protective film, which can result in the
ink not transferring to the substrate, which can produce ‘holes’ in the image. Also, the removal of the protective film can produce a static charge which may attract foreign material to the surface of the substrate.

When printing the image to the transfer paper, adding a ‘bleed’ (printing the image fractionally larger than the substrate) allows you to more accurately position the transfer paper on the substrate and significantly reduce the
chances of a white/un-transferred border occurring.

We do not recommend attempting to use an adhesive textile/thermal tack transfer paper with coated aluminum plates, as the texture of the transfer paper will be visible on the substrate. This will produce a cloudy or mottled effect
on the substrate.

To avoid ghosting/double-images, we recommend ensuring that the transfer paper is larger than the substrate that is being transferred to. This will allow the transfer paper to be secured to the substrate with heat-resistant tape. The transfer paper can either be folded around the edges of the substrate and taped to the rear of the substrate or secured at the edges of the substrate to the transfer paper. We recommend securing the transfer paper to two or three sides of the substrate.

Please note that as the coated aluminum plate is removed from the heat press, the plate is hot enough to cause potentially serious burns. We recommend the use of insulated/thermal gloves while handling the heated substrate.