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2015-02-05 00:41:40

THE 3D DYE SUBLIMATION PROCESS

HOW DOES IT WORK?

3DDD is a method of a surface decoration of 3D or 2D objects. These objects either need to be a polymer or coated with a polymer (lacquered glass, ceramic or metal). The 3DDD process allows use of the full colour gamut that a digital printer can produce. Print resolution allows photographic quality images to be printed.

The process in general involves the following stages:

  1. Image Preparation. During this stage, an image is prepared either manually via an image manipulation software package (Adobe Photoshop or similar) or via automated web embedded script.
  2. Image Printing. Printing the prepared image onto the carrier media (specialist APET film with a unique coating) using an inkjet printer loaded with sublimation dyes. The finalised image is sent using a predefined colour profile, to the printer.
  3. Film punching and drying. Printed film is punched using TIA hole punch and placed in the TIA conditioning cabinet to allow drying and storage in optimal conditions.
  4. Image transfer. During this part, prepared - dried workpieces (substrates) are placed on nests which are located inside the vacuum tray. Pre-printed carrier film is placed onto the vacuum tray. The tray is now inserted into the 3DDD machine. The automated process begins when heat is applied to the surface of the film to start softening it. When the predetermined conditions are met, negative pressure is introduced to the tray and the carrier film is vacuum formed around the substrate(s). When the film is fully formed, more heat is applied to start the dye diffusion; the dyes travel from the surface of the carrier film into the surface of the substrate. After a pre-programmed temperature and time, the process finishes and the tray can be removed from the machine. The parts are now decorated and can be handled immediately and removed from the tray with no fear of damaging the printed images. As soon as they cool down, they are ready for packing or post-processing.

WHAT MAKES TIA UNIQUE/STAND OUT IN THE MARKET

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Other machines:

Most of the budget systems use either a simple standard convection oven with an incorporated vacuum pump, or a combination of heated platen and nests along with overhead heaters and hot air.

  • Both of these are suitable for simple products such as mobile phone covers which are predominantly flat with some shape to the edges. More complex shapes can present more of a problem for these systems.
  • Oven systems usually have far longer cycles.
  • Both systems heat the polymer right through to the core, often needing flattening jigs to cool the parts in when they leave the process.
  • Both systems result in parts and the machine reaching very high temperatures, which necessitates the use of heavy insulated gloves for the operators.

TIA machines:

  • TIA machines, on the other hand, are designed to heat as little of the core of the parts as possible whilst taking the outer surfaces to the required temperature. Polymer parts retain more of their structural integrity.
  • Our trays are designed to keep as much heat as possible inside the working area, the outside of the trays can be handled with no gloves, even after a full day’s work.
  • Our carefully designed and tested machines distribute the heat evenly over the whole tray surface allowing us to print onto a variety of shapes.
  • Our machines’ design allows us to make nesting extremely cost effectively using lightweight materials.

ALTERNATE DECORATION METHODS

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Hydrographics

The 3DDD process offers several advantages over hydrographics (aquagraphics).

With Hydrographics, you either use ‘off the shelf’ images or have a long lead time waiting for your new film to be made. In 3DDD, as the images are produced on a standard digital printer, it is easy to make one off graphics to order in minutes (personalisation), or alternatively, make all images the same (mass production).

Also, with 3DDD it is easy to register the prints in the required position on the parts, so logos, warning notes etc. can be incorporated in a single print process with the desired graphics. Positional accuracy of +/-0.5mm, or even better, can be reproduced each time. With hydrographics, registering the graphics is far more difficult.

Finally, with 3DDD, when the printed parts are removed from the machine, once cool, they are ready for use. There is no need to dry, or to overcoat in protective lacquer, and lead times can therefore be significantly reduced.

Pad (or Tampo) printing

Pad printing can become very complex when the parts’ shape is intricate or more than one or two colours are needed. 3DDD allows you to use unlimited colours and print onto almost any shape.

Personalisation is not really an option with pad printing.