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Color Printers: Dye Sublimation Printing

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Dye-sublimation printers allow you to print photo-lab-quality pictures at home. It employs a printing process that uses heat to transfer dye to a medium such as a plastic card, printer paper or poster paper. Dye-sublimation printing does not exhibit the characteristics of inkjet printing such as individual dots. It presents a smoother transition between colors and detail producing a more natural looking image.

The dye sublimation process is chosen by many for its high quality photographic results. The dye sublimation printing process which is also called dye diffusion or dye sub incorporates the use of thermal transfer to transport varying total of colored dye tincture from a carrier ribbon or film to the card surface to which the dyes blends chemically.

Technology Knowledge, Information, and Resources: Technology News, Information Articles, Product Manuals, How To Guides, Brochures and Fact Sheets, Computer Glossary, and Technical EncyclopediaThe dye sub printers use a ribbon film roll that consists of a repeating sequence of yellow, magenta, cyan, black and clear panels universally referred to as CMYK. The yellow, magenta and blue panels include thermally-sensitive dyes parallel to the three basic colors used in subtractive printing. By combining different amounts of these dyes, thousands of different colors can be produced: from white which, has no dye transferred to black which, has full transfer of each of the three dyes. The black and clear panels are also used in this thermal printing process, but they function in a different way called “mass transfer” in which all of the materials are transferred once the carrier ribbon arrives at the needed transfer temperature. In this case, a plastic resin rather than a dye. The black rein panel is used to apply dense black texts and barcodes on top of the yellow, magenta, and cyan color image, and the clear panel is used to apply a protective overcoat over the entire printed image.

The thermal printing process uses a print head with hundreds of individual heater elements which, is equivalent to the resolution of 300 dots per inch. Each can be separately managed to transfer varying amounts of the yellow, magenta, and cyan dyes with all or none of the black and clear panels as the suitable panel goes by under the heater element.

The individual temperature of the elements in the case of yellow, magenta, and cyan panels causes varying amounts of dye to be vaporized and to pervade the glossy card surface where they form bonds with the plastic molecules.  This is now what we call the sublimation process. Sublimation, of course, means to heat something and vaporize it without going through the liquid phase. This is because the pigments go from solid, to gas and then back again to solid, there is little mess as compared to inkjet printing which uses the liquid state.

Because of the way the vaporized dyes pervade the card surface, a mild gradation at the edges of each pixel is created. In addition, because the color imparts and bonds with the card material, it is less susceptible to fading and deformation over time.

Gari Vinluan
Technology Correspondent

Tags: Color Printers, Printer Technology,  Dye-sublimation printers, Color Laser Printers

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