Heat transfer or sublimation printing is not a new process. However, not until recently has the technique grown rapidly. Today, heat transfer printing is used to print fabrics.
Have you ever used a pressing iron to print a novelty design on your T-shirt? If so, you have used heat transfer printing.
Modern heat transfer printing starts with a special ink and, in some cases, special paper. The design or pattern is printed on the paper usually by a gravure process. The paper can be a special thermo-printing type, film coated paper, or a ground wood, clay coated type. Use either sheet or roll stock.
The dried, printed image is placed over the cloth and heat is applied. At about 199°C the ink goes from a solid to vapor (sublimates). This causes the dyes to go into the fibers of the cloth and color them.
The modern heat transfer printing machine is capable of printing 1000 meters of cloth per hour. A skilled operator is needed to supervise and adjust the machine.