3-D dye-sub is used to outfit Sony Vaio lids with personal prints.
In late 2006, computer-manufacturer Sony was introduced to the 3-D dye-sub capabilities of Kolorfusion International. "Sony became interested when they saw that we could print any image and that the image covered the whole laptop lid," says Steve Nagel, president of Kolorfusion. "Other technologies weren’t as durable, nor could they get around the edges like our process. Further, we could print images on demand and in any quantity."
What would become an ongoing project began in late 2006 when Kolorfusion began producing the laptop lids for the electronics giant’s Vaio computers. Today, Sony provides the graphics and Kolorfusion prints the orders weekly-orders that range from 100 to thousands-and offers a 2-day turnaround on most orders.
Using its 74-inch dGen Teleios printers and water-based dyes formulated by US Sublimation, the company images 1.5 square foot per laptop onto its proprietary Kolortex custom pre-treated media, at speeds reaching up to 500 square feet per hour. In the meantime, the laptop parts are prepared for dye-sublimation using a baked-on powder coating.
The inks are dye-sublimated onto the 3-D product using Kolor-fusion’s patented process. Basically, the printed Kolortex and the laptop lids are matched and carried through an oven on a conveyor belt system in various-sized batches. In the oven, the dyes become heated and vaporize onto the treated lids; the Kolortex is discarded after transfer. No other finishing is required. "The finished product looks as though it was painted with the image as an original piece," reports Nagel.
The challenges for this project are the customer’s high standards: "The Sony quality standard is the highest we’ve ever had to deal with," says Nagel. "This ongoing project has increased our own quality standards." Additionally, Sony requires each of its manufacturers to be a "Green Partner." For Kolorfusion and its suppliers, this mean testing and updating records to ensure that no material on the product is considered hazardous, which would include cadmium or lead.
Currently, Kolorfusion is working with Alcoa to print images onto wheel rims. "We started working with Alcoa imaging a camouflage pattern for the hunter market," says Nagel. "We worked with them over the past year and a half on using our new digital capability, which required dye development and coating development for taking digital dye sublimation outdoors."
The Client: Sony
The Players: Kolorfusion International (www.kolorfusion.com)
Tools & Supplies: dGen Teleios, US Sublimation ink, Kolortex media.