How To Convert A Printer To Sublimation

Sublimation is a process that enables a standard inkjet printer to print on fabrics, T-shirts, metal, tiles, mugs, and mobile phones that can’t be fed into the printer.

The printing method uses specific inks, sublimation paper, and a heat press to attach the printed image.

Unfortunately, not every printer is set up for sublimation, and neither can they be converted to do sublimation printing. It comes down to the printing technology the printer uses.

However, there’s no need to panic! We’ve got you covered. This article will get you through everything you need, from the best brands of printers to convert to how to do the conversion process.

A. Items for Good Sublimation

Sublimation only works on surfaces with a higher percentage of polyester (50 percent or more polyester content).

An enormous number of products, including photographic prints, mugs, mousepads, tops, water bottles, etc., are polyester-friendly.

Many of today’s sports clothing fabrics have 100% of polyester content which is good for sublimation.

Pre-treated aluminum can also be sublimated onto. That is how you get aluminum photo panels.

B. Converting a Printer to Sublimation: A Brand-by-Brand Guide

There are many leading printer manufacturers in the market. The top-dogs are Epson, HP, Brother, and Canon. You probably have a printer from one of these brands, and you want to convert that to sublimation.

Now, you have to assess whether your printer can be converted to sublimation. It all comes to the point of the printing technology the printer uses.

Printers use either thermal (heat) or Piezo (pressure) technology for printing on papers. It is only possible to turn printers that use the Piezo technology to sublimation.

So, can your printer be converted? We’ll now give a general overview by brand.

A.  Hewlett Packard (HP)

HP home or office printers cannot be converted to sublimation printing. That’s because the thermal inkjet method is more common to HP printers.

These HP printers are only able to print using non-sublimation ink because of this.

HP does make some industrial-grade printers that can do sublimation. But those are very expensive and for those with a large commercial enterprise.

B. Brother

The vast majority of Brother Printers utilize Piezo printing technology.

However, the trouble with Brother using Brother printers is finding a Brother ink cartridge with sublimation ink. They aren’t being made.

Sublimation prints should be crisp and vivid, but without a replaceable cartridge, you are unable to set up an ink profile. Therefore you end up with less than stellar sublimation. In many cases, the colors will not come out as you expect, and the designs can be off.

While you can use a Brother printer for a one-off project, when sublimation is more of a hobby, we don’t recommend trying for any kind of professional work.

You will receive very inconsistent quality.

C. Canon

Canon printers cannot be used for sublimation. This is because they use thermal printing technology.

Canon does make a ‘sublimation’ range of printers. But these are not for putting sublimation ink onto transfer sheets. Rather, they are used for printing photos using clear film.

D. Epson

Epson printers are all utilizing Piezo technology. Thus they are ideal machines to convert to sublimation printers.

WARNING: Epson is neither selling nor marketing their printers as sublimation printers. Therefore, converting them is at your own risk and will likely void your warranty. You will also not get any help from the excellent Epson tech support.

Purchasing and running an Epson printer comes with a reasonable cost, and even entry-level printers can be converted to sublimation printers.

Suitable Epson Printers

You can use the following Epson printers:

A. Work-Force Printers

WF-3520, WF-3540, WF-3620, WF-3640, WF-7110, WF-7010, WF-7520, WF-7510, WF-7620, WF-7610, WF-7720, WF-7710, WF-2750, WF-7210

B. Eco-Tank Printers

ET2650, ET2720, ET4700, ET2750, ET15000.

All of these printers are set up for regular ink. You must buy sublimation dye ink to use them for sublimation.

Converting An Epson Printer To Sublimation

A. Epson Desktop Printer

It is strongly recommended that you run a cleaning cycle directly before installing these sublimation inks.

1. Print a nozzle check before starting the conversion phase to ensure the print head is functioning to 100%.

IMPORTANT: Don’t try to convert the printer if it is failing to print properly or to your satisfaction.

2. Remove all the regular ink cartridges you have been using.

3. Fill a fresh set of empty cartridges with sublimation ink.

4. Install your newly filled cartridges.

5. Complete 5 Printhead Cleanings to ensure old ink is removed from the system.

6. Do another nozzle check. If this shows the pattern to be satisfactorily restored, then the printer is ready to use. If the patter is unsatisfactory, wait 24 hours and do another set of Printhead Cleanings.

B. Epson EcoTank Printer

IMPORTANT: Only attempt to convert an EcoTank printer if it is new and has never been filled with a non-sublimation ink.

All EcoTank models can be filled with sublimation ink the same way that you add your regular ink. However, once converted, you should only ever use this printer for sublimation. Refilling it to use with any other ink will require you to purchase another printer.

1. Epson Large-Format Printer (new)

Do not add the regular Epson ink cartridges to your new large-format printer. Instead, install sublimation ink cartridges.

If you find a slot for photo black and a slot for matte black, use the matte black slot. You can use the photo black slot for a cleaning cartridge or purge fluid.

2. Epson Large-Format Printer (used)

Used large-format printers must have all the old non-sublimation ink cleared from the system. Do this before starting the conversion process.

1. Print a nozzle check before starting the conversion phase to ensure the print head is functioning to 100%.

IMPORTANT: Don’t try to convert the printer if it is failing to print properly or to your satisfaction.

2. Check there is a spare maintenance tank or maintenance tank resetter. Do not continue if there is not one.

3. Remove all old ink cartridges.

4. Install a fresh set of cleaning cartridges to clean the system out.

5. Once cleaned, take your fresh, refillable ink cartridges.

6. Fill these with sublimation ink.

7. Install the cartridges with fresh ink.

8. Print another nozzle check to ensure the print head is functioning to 100%.

REMEMBER: If you find a slot for photo black and a slot for matte black, use the matte black slot. You can use the photo black slot for a cleaning cartridge or purge fluid.

E. Post Conversion

Remember, these printers have been converted away from the intended use. Help the printer get the best results by using high-quality transfer papers and inks.

Don’t forget; there is lots of software to help you with your sublimation designs. Make the best use of these to help you get the color management you desire.

Final Word

Both Brother and Epson use the Piezo print heads needed for sublimation. However, Epson is really the only choice you should make if you want to convert a home printer.

This is because they use Piezo print technology, and several ink manufacturers have developed inks with excellent color profiles specifically for Epson printers.

Just remember that since these printers aren’t marketed as sublimation printers, their warranties will be invalidated.

Good luck with the sublimation!

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