There are three popular types of dye sublimation ink: solvent-based ink, oil-based ink and water-based ink.
The transfer applications for each of these ink types are roughly the same, using coated transfer paper to
release the ink effectively. The main difference with these inks is the medium in which they are carried.
Water-based ink is the most common formulation of ink for dye sublimation and by far the most eco-friendly.
With green printing growing in popularity, water-based ink offers outstanding attributes. Printers that print with
water-based ink range from in-home consumer converted printers to grand-format industrial inkjet printers. Solvent-based and oil-based units are primarily seen in the grand-format space.
Historically, oil-based and solvent-based inks were used because of difficulties with water-based inks,
availability of water-based compatible print heads and a compatible transfer paper. As paper gets wider
(10 feet or 3 meters) it can become unstable during print, in terms of wrinkles (or cockles), which can cause
print artifacts or head strikes. Additionally, when the first grand-format dye sublimation printers were designed, there were not many print head choices that were able to run
water-based inks. Responding to demand, paper manufacturers have created papers that run smoothly
through a printer, even with high ink loads at industrial level print speeds. Also, there are many more print head
choices that are aqueous compatible.
Coatings vary depending on the manufacturer and ink. Different papers all have their own characteristics to
hold and release inks. Clay coated paper seems to work best with water-based inks.
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