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A Look at Dye-Sub Printing for Garments

(August 2012) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2012

This article describes effective and profitable ways to integrate a large-format dye-sub printer into your garment-decorating operation.

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By Syd Northup

Understanding the printers, RIP software, bulk ink systems, color management, and heat press technologies can seem a bit overwhelming when you’re new to dye-sublimation printing. By breaking down these system components piece by piece, printers can get a detailed screenshot on how a sublimation garment system works. A matrix of the square-foot-cost relationship to the return on the investment also provides bottom line costs and profits. The first question is what does one need to know to become successful day in and day out with this printing technology?

While running my inkjet print shop in 2006, I decided on investing in a couple of 44 in. wide-format Epson 9880 printers, a Roland SP540, and a George Knight 42 x 64 dual shuttle heat press. The larger printers and heat press allowed us to print up to 3XL custom all-over T-shirts as well as providing full-sized production runs. The core of my sublimation business was providing runs of 20 x 20 in. or less sized sublimation prints, also referred to as front or back hits, along with all-over sublimation garments to a wholesale/reseller base. These two types of sublimation printing techniques should be something all screen print shops should consider bringing in-house to escape from turning away smaller job runs and add the ability to produce fully sublimated T-shirts with the all-over graphics process.

While running an in-house sublimation operation, it always comes down to how many jobs are on the sublimation printers and to keep them running. For some garment screen printers, a market for sublimation may not be in place, but opening up your clientele base with sublimation technology can allow for some very rapid growth. We must also not forget the higher profits, less time to produce a garment and the endless amounts of other products that you can also be introduced to customers that are sublimatable—koozies, mouse pads, banners, flags, hardwood panels, etc.


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