Screen Printing - April/May 2017 - 25
you will be working with so your heat press can accommodate
them." If you anticipate doing only a small number of large pieces, you can outsource those and focus on your core products.
CUSTOM DÉCOR ON DEMAND
Gross says that the era of digital decoration is fully upon us,
pointing out that sublimation's growth is being fueled by a
new generation of consumers who have come to expect its
unique combination of features. New home buyers who grew
up with digital photography know that images can be printed
on almost any surface they choose. Instead of buying massproduced furniture, they may prefer items that reflect their
interests, experiences, or personalities. In the coming era of
mass customization, many products might not be manufactured until after an order has been received.
For example, a new venture called Cloth & Company
(clothandcompany.com) has partnered with Skyline Furniture
in Chicago to bring the "fast fashion" concept to upholstered
furniture. They are working with retail partners such as One
Kings Lane, Overstock.com, and Wayfair to offer custom
decorated upholstered beds, settees, chairs, benches, window
treatments, and decorative pillows. Each item will be manufactured and shipped within six days of receiving the order.
If furniture and fashion can be custom manufactured on
demand, so can many other home décor products. It presents
a whole new era for dye sublimation in the manufacturing of
consumer goods. Years ago, some of the first "industrial" products to be customized with inkjet dye sublimation included
snowboards, skateboards, and skis. Now, different types of
dye sublimation processes can be used by manufacturers of
floors mats, laminated surfaces, building materials, and dinnerware, and examples are beginning to abound.
In conjunction with its partner United States Dinnerware
(manufacturers of products sold under the Prolon brand name),
Avianix recently introduced FDA-approved food service products that can be decorated with AvianiTrans 3D dye sublimation
vacuum films, 3D vacuum heat presses, and hydro/aqua dye
sublimation technologies. The dinnerware is dishwasher- and
microwave-safe up to 350 degrees F. The company's blanks
include coasters, plates of various sizes and designs, platters,
and bowls, which are ready for sublimation decorating without
the need for a print-receptive polyester coating, according to
United States Dinnerware President Steve Gluck. Avianix is
working with additional molding companies globally to produce
goods that can be digitally decorated.
ATI Decorative Laminates (atilaminates.com) is promoting its
Fusion dye sublimation process for personalizing brand environments and homes. In addition to wall art, ATI is using dye sublimation printing to custom decorate divider panels, displays, and
large, multipanel murals. While ATI can also produce many of
these items with direct digital flatbed printers, ATI says dye sublimation allows the properties of the underlying metal or wood to
enhance the overall look of the image. The sublimated images are
incredibly smooth and durable, and won't scratch or peel.
Colorchrome (colorchrome.com) is an Atlanta-based
art, graphics, and signage company that began as a
commercial photo lab 34 years ago. They now offer a
wide range of large-format digital printing and photo
processing services, including dye sublimation.
As a B2B company, Colorchrome primarily produces
dye sub metal photo prints and reproductions for art
consultants and interior design firms. While most dye
sublimated panels are used as wall décor, Colorchome
has produced multipanel murals, prints for elevator
walls, and tabletops.
"We've been doing dye sublimation printing for
almost 20 years, but for the first 15 of those, it was all on
fabric for markets like P-O-P and tradeshows," explains
President John Rhodes. "We added rigid dye sublimation
as part of our push into the decorative art market, and
we've been doing a lot of great projects with it. We're
doing a really cool one right now for a new outdoor arena
in the Northeast that involves 72 pieces" - each 38 x 84
inches, he adds. Textiles remain an important part of the
business, says Rhodes, and the company can print on
everything from ultra-sheer polyester up to upholsteryweight fabrics. They started dye sub printing on rigid
substrates about 10 years ago but only did sizes up to
20 x 24 inches because of the size of their heat press.
When ChromaLuxe metal photo prints started
getting popular, ColorChrome invested in a George
Knight dual shuttle heat press that can handle 4 x 8-foot
ChomaLuxe photo panels. Their dye sublimation
department now includes two Mimaki wide-format dye
sublimation printers (a JV5-320DS and a JV300-160)
and an Epson SureColor F7200.
According to Rhodes, color matching photo panels
can be tricky because the dye sublimation process
introduces the added variables of heat and pressure:
"Once you get the process dialed in, it's fairly repeatable." Because of their roots as a photo lab, making
large photo murals isn't anything new. They make their
own color profiles and have a lot of color management
expertise in house.