Sublimation in Less than Perfect Conditions

thermometer2In an ideal world,  should there be such a thing,  our sublimation printers would be in clean rooms with perfect temperature,  perfect humidity, and not a speck of dust or lint anywhere near them.   In the real world, however,  nothing could be further from the truth.   Most sublimation printers probably share a shop with other machines.  They’re most likely to exposed to some temperature and humidity changes.   It’s also likely they’ve seen their share of thread lint or dust.  Sometimes they may sit unused for days,  if orders are slow.   That’s just the way it is.

Since the vast majority of us can’t afford a clean room,   it’s simply good business to know what conditions are optimum for a sublimation system to perform its best,  and then to try and replicate those conditions as closely as possible.   If you’re looking for the best possible performance for your machine,  here are some things to keep in mind.

Humidity – Humidity matters when it comes to ink and also when it comes to paper.  If the air in your shop is too humid,  your paper can absorb water from the air and won’t work its best.   I wrote a post about this particular problem a while back.   Ink can also be impacted by humidity.   Sawgrass recommends,  for optimum ink performance,  that your shop have a humidity level above 35%.

Temperature – Temperature is another variable that can impact how well your sublimation system works.   Sublimation ink works best at between 59 and 77 degrees.    Sudden drops in temperature can impact the ink which is, after all, a liquid.

Sunlight – Most humans love to bask in the sunlight,  but we know that too much sunlight can do us more harm than good.    It’s much the same with sublimation paper and sublimation ink.   Too much exposure to direct sunlight can cause both the ink and paper to fail.    If your shop gets a lot of sunlight,  make sure your ink and paper are stored in a space that is protected.

Lint and Dust – If you have an embroidery shop,  thread lint is a fact of life.   Debris from old ink,  dust and other random particles probably swirl through the air of your shop every day,  and can settle on all your machines.   Make sure to protect your sublimation printer from debris in the air,  and to run head cleanings to help ensure the heads stay clear.

Get Started with Sublimation: Target Market

Note:  This post marks the beginning of a new series “Get Started with Sublimation” which will be co-authored by our sublimation expert, Tom Chambers.  In this series we will lead you through the steps you need to take to set up your own sublimation shop and will give you tips that will help ensure you get the right equipment and supplies for your needs.   Our first post in this series will deal with determining what customers comprise your target market.

Typically, people who consider sublimation fall into two main categories, those who know what their target market is and have a good idea what they want to sell, and those who don’t have that information at hand.  Those who do know exactly what their market is and what they plan to offer to that market have only to answer some basic fundamental questions about equipment and they are off and running.  Business owners who are not as clear about what they want to do, what products they might like to offer, or what their local market will accept, can follow the same methods, but might have to incorporate a larger degree of flexibility, and a little guesswork to boot.

Clearly it pays to have a firm idea of what your target market is and who makes up that market before you start stocking and equipping your sublimation shop.  For some people the temptation may be to say that the target market is “everyone”, but that rarely holds true for any business or product.  Even if you do have a product with universal appeal, there are probably some segments of the marketplace that will find that product more appealing than other segments will.  The trick is to find the segments that want what you have to sell, and target your products and marketing directly to those people.

So, when it comes to sublimation, how do you figure out what to sell and to whom you should sell it?  Here are a few questions that can help you you make that determination.

Question  1:  Where are you going to sell? – Are you going to have a brick and mortar store in the town where you live?  Do you want to sell your product through a series of web sites?  Are you interested in taking your equipment on the road and selling at shows and events?  Each of these scenarios could have an effect on who your target market will be as well as on what products you’ll be likely to sell.

Question 2:  Who will buy your product? – If you’re looking to start a brick and mortar store, investigate the demographics of the surrounding area.   Also look at what sort of traffic gets generated in your town, tourists, for instance, may have interest in souvenir products that would not interest the local population.  If you want to go to flea markets or track meets or horse shows, ask the producers of the show if they can supply you with demographic information for those who attend.   If you want to sell online, do some research to determine what sort of people buy online and what and where they buy most frequently.    Doing the research may take some time and work, but it will be invaluable when it comes to deciding what products you’ll sell.  Knowing your audience will help make sure that you don’t end up trying to sell air conditioners to Eskimos.

Question 3:  What do you want to sell? – Now that you know how you’re going to put your product before the customer, and who that customer is, you’re ready to figure out what you want to sell.   Determining your product mix really comes down to using the knowledge you gained from answering the first two questions.  If, for instance,  most of your sales will be made when you travel to horse shows, you probably don’t want to offer a lot of fragile or easily breakable items.   If the demographics of the area surrounding your business are mostly young, single surfers, you probably don’t want to sell a lot of baby items.  In order to make a profit, you have to sell things that people want to buy.  That sounds like a very simple idea, but it’s one that new business owners often overlook.

Once you’ve answered the three questions above, and determined your target market and what you’ll be selling to that market,  you’re ready to start equipping your shop.    To do sublimation, you’ll need six basic components:

  1. A supported sublimation printer
  2. Sublimation ink
  3. Sublimation paper
  4. A computer containing some kind of graphics software, and either an ICC color profile, or specific sublimation printer driver
  5. Sublimation blank items to print and sell
  6. A heat press

In the next post in the “Get Started with Sublimation” series, we’ll talk about selecting your sublimation printer, which is where building your sublimation shop starts.