By Kelly Morris
Rainier Industries has been providing high-quality graphics for trade shows and exhibits since its visual merchandising expansion in 2002. In that year, we operated as Rainier Displays with one 10-foot roll-to-roll printer and one 60-inch e-stat printer. Today, we are operating three wide-format roll-to-roll Durst Rho printers, two Durst flatbed Rho printers, one VUTEk flatbed hybrid and two steadfast VUTEk FabriVu dye-sublimation printers. The FabriVu printers were acquired in 2006, which, at the time, established Rainier as the only print house in the Seattle area with 10-foot wide dye-sub capabilities.
The FabriVu super-wide printers deliver consistency and higher productivity than alternative digital printing systems. The flexible digital super-wide printer prints on a wide range of fabrics and papers, and directly onto selected polyester flags and poplin materials. It is a high-speed, eight-color printing model for brilliant image quality and prints up to 360 dpi resolution for crisp text and detailed images. For dye sublimation, the FabriVu prints on a transfer paper and is then heat transferred to a fabric using a 3-meter Klieverick Graphtec FC5100 Heat Calender.
This calender has especially been designed for the sublimation and dye fixation of prints, made by a digital printer. With the immediate transfer by heat at a temperature of approximately 200 degrees C, the printed image creates brighter colors, better draping and a softer hand. In addition to these advantages, dye-sub is more durable, water resistant, is lightweight and can be cleaned. This type of product is well suited for traveling trade shows, exhibits and displays. Another major advantage of the system is that the printed material does not require any pre or post treatment.
For pre-press, the color correction can be delicate due to the inability to see color on the paper before the transfer. On paper, the dye-sub colors are so far off that it renders press checks for color impossible and requires proofing to be a two-step process. Another challenge for the dye-sub is that the heat transfer process causes the fabrics to shrink. Depending on the fabric, it can shrink a little or a lot, and most of the time only in one direction. At Rainier, we developed a system to determine the amount of shrinkage in both directions for each material. Before a file is sent to production, we adjust for the shrinkage by distorting the art, or stretching the image in one direction. Also, a popular dye-sub material, Symmetry (a spandex type fabric), is scaled down in pre-press to compensate for the stretch.
Our dye-sub capabilities have been extremely popular with key retail customers. Pictured here are window displays for a local retailer. The whimsical illustrations were brought to life by the soft drape of the dye-sub material hung as a backdrop for similarly draping fabric worn by mannequins. Another notable use for dye-sub is flags, given that the dye-sub process allows the ink to pass through the material and is thus visible on both sides. Rainier has created large flags for venues such as the Space Needle in our hometown of Seattle.
Another superior product and additional capability, dye sub gives our clients more options for an environmental display, branding or marketing campaign.
In addition, we provide dye-sub prints on a wholesale basis to companies throughout North America.
The possibilities for dye sub are endless with a range of materials that can be infused with vibrant color, and are durable, lightweight and easy to clean.