history of dye sublimation

What is Dye Sublimation?

Sublimation simply means the transition from a solid state directly to a gaseous state without first turning into liquid. Normally substances would undergo the three stages or forms of matter which are solid to liquid to gas and vice versa. However, under special circumstances of temperature and pressure, a substance may convert straight from a solid to a gas and the process is called sublimation.

Dye sublimation, is a method of digitally transferring solid dye into gaseous form. The gaseous ink is then transferred into a medium before being printed onto fabric. The dye is heat sensitive and the whole process requires a lot of heat (around 180C to 210C) and a specialized inkjet printer.


A brief history

The invention of dye sublimation printing can be attributed to the discovery of piezoelectricity and the study of inkjet physics, both which were discovered in the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Dye sublimation printing as we know it today, was invented in 1957 by a Frenchman called Noel de Plasse who called it “transfer printing”. De Plasse had noted that at high temperatures dyes could easily sublimate and a company called Sublistatis SA was founded to commercialise this technique

Prior to the invention of the inkjet printer, dye sublimation was primarily done on paper. However new inkjet printer technology  meant that dye could apply permanent and photo-realistic designs on applied onto fabric with the use of heat.

Despite the potential of this new technology, initial popularity of these printers was slow at first as people never fully understood the technology’s potential uses.  However, in the early 1990s, this technology became very popular as the textile industry started to embrace the technology. And ever since the 1990s, dye sublimation printing has steadily grown in popularity and prominence.


Current and future trends

Dye sublimation continues to be a popular fabric printing method with promotional product companies as it can be used on a wide range of products including t-shirts, bags, uniforms, jackets, promotional clothing, caps, hats and pants etc at a very affordable price.

Analyst research (Smithers Pira) shows about seventy-five percent of the US textile is currently printed using dye sublimation printing. And usage figures from the first quarter of the year 2016 indicate an increase of about 18.4% over the same period in 2015.

This trend can be expected to continue in 2017 and beyond as innovations in both inkjet printer technology and dyes result in faster prints and better quality products. Both innovations allowing vendors to print more designs in less time and with potentially less cost.


Looking to have something printed using dye sublimation? Contact us today!