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The Elso Dye-Sublimation Process

Our coffee mugs are not your traditional silk screen printing, but rather a dye sublimation process.  Unlike silk screen printing our dye sublimation printing has no screens or setup cost, although both screen and sublimation printing may carry an initial "layout" cost (depending on the company doing the prints). Our dye sublimation process produces photographic continuous tone. We can assemble prints from one or more photographs and/or from unlimited color art. When using photos, we can create your print from parts of each photograph.

What is "dye sublimation"?
"Dye" is just what it implies, the special inks or dye used to reproduce an image. "Sublimation" (in definition) is the process when a solid has the ability to melt or transfer from its solid state to its gaseous state bypassing the liquid state as you would see with "dry ice".
How does sublimation apply to ceramics?
Special inks need to be used that have the ability, when heated, to transform from their solid (visible) state to their gaseous state bypassing the liquid state. The sublimation process of our inks start around 350º - 375º F. The images originate on a piece of paper or transfer media that can be produced either from an offset press or a dye sublimation computer printer. The inks also need to have similar characteristics to polyester (a form a plastic). This is only half of the puzzle, the other half is that the ceramic (mug, tile, etc.) needs to be specially treated (coated) with a durable polyester glaze. The paper or transfer media containing the sublimation inks or dyes is placed on the specially treated ceramic, both heat and pressure is then applied. The inks or dyes begin to sublimate around 375º F and the polyester coating softens around 400º F making very receptive to the gases from the inks or dyes. The gases penetrate and mix with the coating on the ceramic and when cooled, the gasses return to their solid state in the polyester glaze and viola, you have a very permanent image that will last and won't chip or peal and is microwave and dishwasher safe.

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