Using sublimation of dyes is a different process to printing with inks in either other digital or analogue processes. The process sublimates the dye at temperature into a gas that penetrates and permanently bonds inside the fibres of the textile. This gives a high-resolution, permanent coloration that will not peel or crack. For this reason, haute couture, and the top end of high street fashion were among the first to exploit this technology. Data shows that garments – swimwear, sportswear, haute couture, fashion, ties and scarves, and other clothing – represent a clear majority of the market value and volume in 2016. Greater use of the technology will be aided by the fashion industry itself transforming with the arrival of internet shopping and fast-fashion.
Retailers and brands are increasingly running a greater number of collections in each calendar year; and both digital and sublimation printing allows quicker turnaround and response to orders, allowing a shift to repeated short runs that minimise stock holdings and unsold leftovers.