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The Pros and Cons of Printing Techniques

Sublimation vs UV Printing vs Screen Printing

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is the method where pictures, graphics and text can be transferred to a wide range of items like clothes, phone cases, plastics, and acrylics through a heat transfer process.

Specialized sublimation ink must be used as it changes its state from a solid to a gas heated, without the need for the liquid phase. The inks transfer when they come into contact with plastic fibers, which permanently stains the material. 3D printing services use sublimation printing methods because no other type of printing such as uv printing or screen printing enables 3d printing.

Sublimation is a key component for selling specialty and promotional items for screen printers, award shops and advertising companies. Sublimation is suitable for consumers interested in the highest quality or goods needing customization.

For the Sublimation process to work effectively the items to be printed must be first polymer coated or already polymer based. This process allows printing on almost anything, such as ceramic mugs, glass, metal sheets, acrylic and other unsub items such as mousemats, coasters or phone cases. Sublimation printables are constantly being updated and as long as the product can be coated with polymer and pressed with water, it is highly likely to be suitable for this process.

Because of this, sublimation printing greatly becomes one of the industry’s most consistent and best printing methods.

Pros:

  • Sublimation method allows you to print full-color images onto hard surfaces with a polymer coating.
  • Screen printing can be a complicated learning process and become quite messy whereas sublimation is an easier process to master.
  • Sublimation allows the use of a full-color spectrum.
  • The cost is the same amount for printing 1 product as for printing 1000, ensuring that the consumer does not need to order minimum order amounts. This makes sublimation the ideal printing process for small business looking for promotional items or the gift design industry.
  • The consumer is able to customize fully. Sublimation printing does not require screens or specialist plates, which means it is a simple process of customizing designs with any elements that change, like individual names, team numbers.
  • It is the only process which allows for 3D printing.
  • Sublimation can be a quick process, allowing businesses to deliver the same day or in some cases the same hour of ordering.

Cons:

  • Inks can be quite expensive to purchase relative to other OEM ink printers, which are typically factored in sublimated product pricing.
  • To ensure that the sublimation process works effectively, the items to be printed must be either made of polymer fabrics or coated with polymer.
  • Perfectly white or very lightly colored printables are required. Since the pigment is colored in the sublimation printing of the material, it is not possible to use it on dark printables like black umbrellas.
  • Although it is possible to access the entire color spectrum with the sublimation process, the colors on the printers are very difficult to manage, this has been improved with the introduction of the power drivers over the years. It is important to use the highest quality sublimation printers for this reason.

UV Printing

UV printing is a form of digital printing which uses ultraviolet light to dry or cure ink.

Pros:

  • Total ink volume is used, which can significantly reduce total printing costs.
  • UV inks are eco-friendly and have both good opacity and contrast. This makes the images/designs easy to read.
  • Good light speed. UV inks are capable of capturing and reflecting light, which also helps improve readability.
  • Resistance to smear is another benefit of UV ink, as standard ink can smear and look unprofessional and unsightly.
  • A pleasant gloss: with this ink, a pleasant high gloss is both esthetically beneficial and easy to keep.
  • Maintains print consistency: the print job of the entire run can look identical without fading.

Cons:

  • UV inks don’t dry without being cured first.
  • Discharges are hard to clean up and the ink is more susceptible to spill and mess
  • The initial start-up costs are generally higher using UV inks.
  • UV does not permit 3D printing.
  • Multiple anilox rolls are required to fix colors.
  • Remember to avoid direct contact with the body. It is understood that UV inks cause irritation of the skin. Individuals may even have allergic reactions in some situations that they do not recognize until they come into contact with the said ink.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the most common printing methods and is the t-shirt printing process most commonly used. It is a process involving pressing ink onto fabric through a woven mesh stencil. The opening of the stencil creates the room with the ink moving through to create the pattern. A fill blade or squeegee pushes the ink over the wire. As the blade is pulled, the ink is pushed through the mesh, onto the desired material.

If you are going to get your t-shirts, phone cases, hats or bags with screen printing, you’d better know the following pros and cons of screen printing:

Pros:

  • Cost effective for large quantities
  • Easier to print on special garments
  • Screen printing allows for greater thickness of the ink than other techniques, which result in greater possibilities when it comes to the finish of the piece.
  • Long lasting & durable quality

Cons:

  • More money for multiple colors
  • Because of the technique of screen printing, only one color can be applied at a time. Therefore, the number of colors on a t-shirt are limited and each layer demands more time/money.
  • Screen printing does not support 3D printing and is not practical for small orders
  • Screen printing needs more prep than other techniques before going into production. This doesn’t make it suitable for “on-demand” printing, which is the creation of a garment as soon as it is ordered.
  • Relative Complexity and generally not environmentally friendly

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