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Woven media is more difficult to print on than paper or metal because the surface is not as smooth. Dye sublimation, because of its durability is suitable as a technique to adorn materials that are worn, or used in ways that is subject to abrasion. Our belts, fobs (key chains), lanyards and suspenders are produced using dye-sublimation.
Here’s how the technique works:
Sublimation, for those who don’t know the word, is a change from solid state to vapor skipping the intermediary liquid state; much like vaporizing dry ice. This requires an application of high energy in the form of heat.
Water-based sublimation dyes are substances that are deposited on paper. The paper then is pressed against the webbing under high temperature (approx. 400F, 40 psi for 60-90 seconds) to transfer the image. The temperature is high enough that the dye on the paper matrix vaporizes and embeds into the fabric--much like a tattoo. It becomes an integral part of the webbing and it will not wash or wear off.
Dye sublimation revolutionized aspects of printing and is one of the main techniques for non-paper print. Others include Direct to Garment, UV printing and screen printing (formerly known as silk screen printing).