How Fabric Graphics Changed the Tradeshow World!
Dye-sublimation fabric graphics took the tradeshow world by storm in the early part of this decade. Before that, the only real way to print on fabric was to silk screen. Dye sublimation printing changed everything. It offered a higher quality, lower cost graphic, which could easily be mounted on aluminum extrusions, such as ClassicMODUL. Suddenly, aluminum extrusion systems, which had been step-children in the exhibit industry, were transformed from ugly duckling rentals into an hybrid exhibit swans. Bid, bold, and colorful exhibits with tension fabric graphics became the norm from 10′ x 10′ portable displays, like Perfect 10, to 20′ x 20′ islands, like Visionary Designs. It was the classic chicken and egg scenario. Dye-sublimation fabrics made hybrid exhibits possible and hybrid exhibits made fabric graphics wildly popular.
Dye sublimation, also known as dye-sub, is an interesting process. Initially, a print-on-paper is produced in a mirror image. This image is one you don’t want to judge too quickly because the paper print looks awful. The colors are terribly dull and not crisp or sharp at all. Once it is on paper, it is then run through the sublimation press. The sublimation press takes the paper print and runs it through rollers very close to the transfer fabric. The paper along with the fabric passes at a very slow speed and a very hot temperature. As they pass close to one another, the “solid” ink instantly skips from liquid into a gas and literally impregnates or dyes the fabric. The vivid color jumps to life like the old Clorox commercial and the print now resembles Lambda printing on cloth.