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Is direct sublimation suitable for outdoor use?

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As the demand for printable outdoor fabrics rises, expect the use of direct sublimation to increase. Used mostly on polyester-based fabrics, direct dye sublimation penetrates the fiber of the textile without the use of transfer paper.

“Sublimation works fantastic with fabrics,” says Dan Dix, national sales manager, Graphic Products Distribution, for Herculite Bantex. “The pigment is actually fixed into the material. The end results are very aesthetically pleasing.”

Direct sublimation offers other advantages. “The product becomes extremely colorfast to the point that the fabric banner is washable,” Dix says. “Many fabrics have a longer outdoor life than vinyl banners.”

Dix foresees this printing method becoming more common for outdoor fabrics, but several factors are standing in the way—at least for now. “Vinyl is less expensive than fabrics, there are fewer direct sublimation printers in the market than solvent or UV-curable printers and there are not many double-sided/opaque fabrics available,” he says, adding that such fabrics are needed to print two-sided and to prevent washing out of the image from light shining through from the back side of the banner.

Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer in east central Minnesota specializing in interior design, residential construction and architecture.

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