Printers for Dye Sublimation Printing.
We have come across many views and as it turns out, many myths on which printer to use for dye sublimation printing. Dye sublimation printing is a part of a process to transfer images onto ceramic, fabric, plastic and other materials that are used to create personalised gifts.
This is a simple issue to address and the answer is, any inkjet printer that does not use heat as a means to discharge ink through the print head onto the printed surface.
The reason that no heat is required to be used in dye sublimation printing is that dye sublimation ink has inert particles in the ink that are delivered onto the transfer paper through the print head and we need these particles to remain inert until heat is applied to the ink and then the sublimation process happens. If you apply heat at the point of printing, the sublimation process in the ink will start in the print head and that is not helpful.
We want to print onto a sublimation transfer paper and then place the transfer paper onto the substrate that we want the printed image to appear on. When we are set, we apply heat from a heat press and it is at this point that we want the sublimation process to start. In some processes the ink is printed direct onto the substrate, like a T Shirt and then the T Shirt is passed under a heat press. This would be referred to as "direct to garment" (DTG) printing.
Epson print heads are perfect for dye sublimation printing owing to the use of their micro piezo print head technology that pushes ink through the print head by means of vibration with no heat involved. This is an over simplification but for the purpose of this article, it will suffice. Please bear in mind that other printer manufacturers use Epson print heads in their inkjet printer models, this would include Brother and Ricoh in their desktop range of printers.
So to elaborate a little on the answer, any Epson printer or any printer that uses and Epson micro piezo print head will work fine as a dye sublimation printer. HP and Canon printers use heat in the print process and can not be used for dye sublimation printing.
It should be noted that I have only addressed what is required in a printer for it to be able to be used with dye sublimation inks. There are other factors to be born in mind such as the number of nozzles per colour per print head which will impact on the performance and duty cycle. Some of the Epson retail printer models can be used as a dye sublimation printer but they are slow to print.