IDT teams with 3DSS to develop 1-up mobile phone printer

Simon Nias
Friday, March 1, 2013

Two firms specialising in 3D dye sublimation technology have teamed up to develop an entry-level system for personalising objects such as mobile phone cases.

IDT and 3D Sublimation Solutions (3DSS) have formed the joint venture 3D3 Systems to launch a 1-up device for personalising blank smartphone cases with digital images.

Unlike an inkjet printer, the 3D dye sublimation technology allows the image to  be printed beneath the surface of the material, giving it inherent scratch and UV resistance.

The image is first printed using water-based dye-sub inks on to IDT’s proprietary transfer film using an Epson inkjet printer. The film is then placed with the blank case in a vacuum transfer press, which uses a combination of convection heating and a vacuum pump to transfer the image to the case.

According to IDT chairman Robert Skelly, the pre-printed film, which is aligned above the blank case in the press, will soften at a certain temperature and be pulled against the case by the vacuum.

"We then raise the temperature to 150°C, which is the sublimation point for the ink at which it is drawn into the surface of the object being printed," explained Skelly.

"It will penetrate 225 microns into an uncoated polymer or 25–30 microns coated and will extend around the side and into any apertures with a very clean look, it’s not just a $3 sticker applied to the back of a case."

IDT already offers its D10 range of 4-up, 9-up and 27-up vacuum transfer presses with an install base of some 270 units in 46 countries, including 20 in the UK.

The 1-up press will incorporate the same technology and be offered as part of a package, together with an Epson 1400 inkjet printer, water-based inks from Sawgrass Technologies and IDT’s proprietary transfer film.

Pricing for the 1-up machine hasn’t been decided yet, although the 4-up bundle, including the vacuum transfer press, an Epson 4880 and PC, and a supply of inks, film and cases, costs around €30,000 (£26,000).

The cost of the film, while dependent on order volume, starts from around €165 per 16sqm roll.

According to Skelly, 3D dye sub printed smartphone cases retail from around £18 in the UK.


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