In terms of materials, there are three general categories of sublimation paper used in wide-format sublimation printing. The tacky transfer paper is the most commonly used in the apparel arena. The tacky transfer paper has a heat activated tack that keeps the garment from having ghosting when the press opens as those sublimation inks are still active for a few moments while the ink and polyester cools down and locks into the fabric.
There also is a universal paper for hard surfaces and a thinner, lighter paper that is for high-volume, roll-to-roll printing on calendar or drum presses, such as those used in cut-and-sew operations.
Beyond costs and ROI, there are other factors to consider when making the move to wide format. For one thing, you need to look at the footprint of the equipment. These sublimation printers are fairly compact, but they still require about a 6-foot by 4-foot space. And you'll have to allow at least a 10-foot square area for the press.
Plus, don't forget to take size into account relative to getting the units through the door, as well as with respect to floor space. It's also important to be aware of the electrical requirements of wide-format equipment and the type of outlets you'll need.
Then there are environmental considerations. These are inkjet printers, and they work best and require the least maintenance if they are in a controlled environment with optimal temperature and humidity. When shopping, be sure to discuss things like this, as well as equipment features with the distributor or manufacturer.
Wide format isn't for everyone. But as its capabilities become better understood and decorators become more aware of the potential value and return they offer, it is becoming a more accessible and viable option for a greater range of apparel decorating operations.
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