In recent years manual screen printing and screen sublimation printing has slowly been replaced by digital printing. Although digital printing is more expensive per piece it allows for smaller runs that were previously cost prohibitive. Silk screen printing is often limited to simple graphics with spot colors. To screen print a complicated, multicolored graphic, 4 colors process screens are required. These screens are expensive and the end result can be less than ideal. Digital printing can print complicated, multi-colored designs and photographs quickly and easily with very good graphic reproduction. Color vibrancy can be an issue on some materials with very dark colors. Deep blacks and blues can sometimes appear slightly washed out. If you are concerned or have question about a customer order please speak with your sales representative. There are a variety of digital printing styles: direct disperse, dye sublimation, solvent and UV.
Direct Disperse deposits the ink directly onto the fabric using ink heads similar to a desktop printer. The fabric is then run through a heater to cure the inks. The heating process imbeds the ink into the fabric similar to dye sublimation. While direct disperse offers a good through on most products is can vary slightly depending on the fabric. For a full list of fabrics and their estimated bleed through see “Fabrics”. Direct Disperse can be used on a variety of fabrics such as nylon, polyester or cotton.
Dye Sublimation first prints the image onto a piece of transfer paper. The image is transferred to the fabric during the heating process. The heat not only transfers the ink but it also imbeds, or sublimates, the ink into the fabric and sets it so it won’t run or fade. Dye Sublimation can used on polyester and nylon fabric and offers a very good bleed through.
Solvent printing is used for PVC and other medias that cannot tolerate the high heat of fabric printers. The ink is deposited directly onto the material just like direct disperse printing and heated but at a much lower heat. While the ink still sublimates it is much less than dye sublimation or direct disperse. Solvent inks are quick drying, scratch resistant and have excellent outdoor durability. Products printed on the solvent printer have essentially no bleed through and should be considered a 1 sided item. If you need your graphics visible on 2 sides, speak with your sale representative about your options. Solvent printing is standard for banners material like vinyl or 9 mil poly film.
UV printing is for rigid substrates and other materials that cannot be heated. UV inks are cured with a UV light almost immediately after they land on the surface of the material, leaving no time for the inks to be absorbed and/or react with the material. UV inks are glossy, vibrant and scratch resistant. UV inks are also more flexible than solvent inks and can be applied to curved surfaces without cracking. UV printing has zero bleed through since there is no sublimation. UV printed products will appear blank on the back side. Most products can be printed on 2 sided or have a 2 ply option. Please speak with your sales representative about the options available to you. Corrugated plastic, Standard and PVC form boards are all printed on a UV printer.
Offset printing is a popular style of printing large quantities of paper products like newspapers, brochures or posters. The offset printing process consists of a series of roller that transfer the image from a printing plate to a the paper. Before printing can begin the print files must be separated into CMYK. CMYK stands for cyan (blue), magenta, yellow and key (black), essentially the (3) primary colors plus black. Each color will be printed separately and layered to create the full range of colors. Offset is a complicated process that essentially breaks down into 5 steps:
1) Make a Plate- a printing plate is made using a negative that is exposed onto a plate with a light sensitive coating; making a readable positive of image. The image area is treated with a water resistant coating and the non-image area gets a coating to attract water and repel the oil bases inks.
2)Wet the Plate- a smaller series of rollers transfer water, wetting the entire plate. The treated area of the image will repel the water while the non-image area will attract it.
3)Inking- the next roller applies the oil based ink to the plate. The wet portions of the plate repel the oily ink. The ink sticks to the water resistant image.
4)Offset- the final roller is known as the rubber blanket. This roller is pressed against the printing plate thus carrying away a reverse ink image.
5)Printing- the paper travels between the rubber blanket and a impression cylinder. The ink blanketed rubber cylinder press against the paper depositing the positive image. These steps are repeated 4 times once each in the CMKY inks.
Silk screening is a manual style of printing that uses ink blocking stencil burned into a mesh screen to transfer an image. Silk screening is done on a wide variety of materials and finished products. Silk screening is very labor intensive and has color and image size limitation but does offer bright, saturated colors. Silk screening printing has 4 basic steps: printing the film, creating the screen, printing and drying.
Screen sublimation is the second style of silk screen printing. It follows the same steps as above but instead of allowing the ink to air dry, the fabric is passed through a heat and stream process. The heat and stream process uses a large boiler to push the ink into the fabric. The fabric is then put through a few washes that remove excess ink and then cure it. After the heat and steam the ink can no longer be felt on top of the fabric. Screen sublimation inks do not crack or peel like plastisol, so it is a much better option for outdoor flags. Due to the fact the inks become part of the fabric screen sublimation flags you must always start with a white fabric, the colors printed on the front side may appear slightly lighter on the backside.
Heat Transfer is a process in which an image in printing onto a heat reactive piece of transfer paper. This paper is than placed on top of a substrate. Heat is applied to the transfer piece, usually with a very hot iron. The heat activates the paper and transfer the image to the substrate. Heat Transfer is mostly used for t shirts, sweatshirts and bags. It is not recommended for flags or other products that are exposed to sun, rain and other extreme elements.
Sticker transfer is a process in which an image is printed on a vinyl sticker that is mounted on a rigid substrate like corrugated plastic or aluminum. The sticker can also be laminated for additional strength and protection.