Welding is a relatively simple and easy to understand process, right? Use heat to join two pieces of metal. Whether you’re repairing something or creating something. While the process can easily be explained in as little as a few words, history has given us a many different methods to join metal, and diligent innovators have continually expanded on how technology can consistently bring us more with flame, electric arcs, and laser lights.When you think about welding, chances are you picture sparks flying – reflected in the welder’s dark visor. However, the history of welding stretches back farther than you may think. The earliest recorded historical evidence of welding can be traced back to the middle ages, in the bronze age. These early weldments tended to be golden boxes. Elsewhere, the Egyptians were also pioneering the art of welding – much like they did for many other metal fabricating processes. For instance, many of the Egyptian tools discovered by archaeologists were welded. In any case, the process of welding for these ancient people didn’t take place because of flame and electricity wasn’t invented yet, but blacksmiths achieved a similar result with heat, hammer, and anvil. Soon, welding by brute force, flame, and steel would be replaced by a more scientific approach.With the industrial revolution and the turn of the 19th century, welding experienced major technological advancement in the form of an open acetylene flame. This allowed for a much higher degree of precision for small and intricate metal tools. In 1800, Humphrey Davy – a British chemist and inventor – also developed a battery operated tool that created an electric arc, this proved invaluable when it came to easily welding metals. With all of this innovation, the industrial world had access to multiple welding methods, which would continually be improved upon.By the time World Wars 1 and 2 ended, welding made a major impact on the war effort and continued to become much more prominent. In fact, during WWII, President Roosevelt even wrote to Winston Churchill to boast about the advancements America had made in the field of welding, allowing the U.S. Navy to produce ships faster than ever before. Thankfully, those advanced processes came at an invaluable time, where the need for automatic (and more effective) welding made a remarkable distance when it came to precision and quality. For years afterwards – and the present day – inventors consistently built upon the arc welder and other welding tools, gradually contributing to what would become the modern-day equivalent of welding tools that provide businesses with welding services everywhere, every day, around the clock.Welding played a major role in bringing the manufacturing and fabrication world to where it is today, and actively influences the way products come together everywhere. For example, in the 60’s General Motors installed the world’s first industrial robot, which was capable of automatically performing spot welds, step-by-step, with commands stored on a magnetic drum. In 1969, Russian Cosmonauts used welding in space, leading to future technological advancements that have made welding crucial in the construction and repair of the international space station. Back on earth, you interact with welded products every day, and it’s been determined that more than 50% of fabrications in the U.S. require welding. Some of these include bridges, ships, computers, oil rigs, farm equipment, medical devices, cell phones, and more. When you think of it, it’s pretty clear that welding helps us accomplish a lot– it helps us get where we’re going, and it helps us stay healthy, fed, safe, and in touch with those we love.
Question: Is it possible to print dye sublimation inks onto darker substrates or fabrics?Answer: You can do it, but it probably won’t look that great. The short answer would be, “why?” The longer answer follows.Even double-sided fabric banner materials printed using dye sublimation barely pass the viewing test because there is just enough black block out visible to make the material appear slightly grayish-white.Make no mistake about this… it is going to affect the color of your print. A bright red may now show up as a slightly less bright red, and a yellow will also be affected slightly toward a duller yellow as well.If the print is a photographic print, and it covers the entire background of the banner, it will not likely show up much because the eye will adjust to the print. If there is a lot of white showing, most people will not pick up the slight diminution of the coloring on the print, but an astute observer might.If you were to use a red or blue material, though, you might be able to sublimate a black image onto a colored material, but it might be difficult to find the material to create this bi-chromatic style of print from any printable fabric distributor.This would, of course, beg the question as to why you would even want to start with red when you could just as easily sublimate print a bi-chromatic image on a white fabric anyway.Question: What exactly is dye sublimation printing?Answer: Even though I’ve answered similar questions in previous posts, I enjoy explaining dye sublimation printing on fabrics and cloth and other substrates because the science of dye sub printing is fascinating to me. I have no idea how someone came up with the idea of printing dye on a treated paper, marrying it to a piece of fabric, rolling it between heated rollers at high pressure to create a gaseous explosion which gets sealed into the polymeric cellular structure of polyester fabrics and other polymeric treated surfaces. Who thinks up these things!?If you didn’t’ quite get that last paragraph, let me describe it in a little more detail, one process at a time.Printing: Dye sublimate printing uses a CMYO inkset. This is similar to CMYK, but instead of Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black, it uses Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Overprint. The overprint ends up black through some chemical process that I haven’t yet figured out, but obviously, someone has because it works.This dye/ink is printed onto a special paper known simply as dye sublimation transfer paper. This part of the process is similar to digital inkjet printing and is pretty recognizable in this century as a standard style of printing.Transferring the Print to Fabric: The next step involves “marrying” the paper to the substrate, which in this case will be a piece of polyester fabric for use on a trade show display. Although any polymer-based fabric will work, the favorite material that has emerged is polyester. Polyester fabric can be anything from a sheer material to a satin to a knit and more.The paper and the fabric are then placed onto the pressure unit, which has rollers that heat to around 400ºF in this instance (there are other flat units as well as units that are used for not flat items). They are then fed through the heated rollers at a slow rate of speed.As the paper and the cloth go into the rollers, the heat and pressure create a gaseous “explosion” and the dye is converted to a colored gas (whatever color the dye was), and the polymers expand to open like a flower in the sun, and the gas pours into these open pores, and just as quickly, as the material cools, the polymeric pores close again, but now with continuous color tones that have created a photographic reproduction of the print that was in the computer, then printed to the transfer paper, and now is permanently bonded to the fabric. Or rather has become a part of the fabric.This amazing print process has created a revolution in graphics that didn’t exist before dye sublimation, and even though dye sublimation has been around for quite some time, it made its way into the display industry with the advent of digital printers, and is becoming more popular by the year now, it seems.