Boathouse has passion for sublimation (digital printing). We invested in sublimation very early in order to provide lighter, faster & better team uniforms and performance gear. In addition, sublimation allows us to expand our custom ability dramatically, essentially allowing unlimited design and color. It's a great process used to create vibrant, full color, all-over prints and unlike screenprinting, the numbers and graphics will never wear off! Since the color remains strong after extensive washing it’s the ideal process for sportswear and school clothing that’s going to get beat up and dirty. But what exactly is sublimation, how is it done, and why does Boathouse have such passion for it?
What is Sublimation?
Sublimation by definition the phase transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase without passing through the intermediate liquid phase. Sublimation printing is a type of digital printing technique that utilizes this process with ink and synthetic fibers. It’s been around for many decades, but became available to the digital print level only 10-12 years ago.
Boathouse – One Of The First In The USA
Boathouse was one of the very first team apparel manufacturers to adopt sublimation in the states. We’re proud to say that our sublimation is done right here in our Philadelphia, USA factory. We purchased our first Mimaki sublimation printer in 2006 (now we have many) and invested in Monti-Antonio (aka the “Ferrari” of presses) in 2008. In fact, we were so ahead of the curve that we had no one to learn from and had to figure it out ourselves. Lots of errors those first years.
Step 1 – Artwork And Graphic Design
Digital art is created by one of our in-house graphic designers who will then spec out and scale each design to fit every pattern piece and size in your order. The art is created in Adobe illustrator as a Vector art for clean, crisp lines and color, and sent to the customer as a ‘flat’ for approval. *The artwork pictured above is for a custom Revolution Reversible Lacrosse Jersey design.
Step 2 – Printing
Sublimation inks and paper are volatile and can degrade unless the exact level of light, humidity, and temperature are maintained. Because of this, our printers are kept in a closed room with environmental controls. In there, your full-scale prints are printed out on special transfer paper. Once full size prints of each and every item in the order has been printed, they’re rolled up and travel to our sublimation press room where it will be applied to the fabric.
Step 3 – The Sublimation Press
Sublimation presses are large rolling heat presses. Unlike the print room, which is cool and dark, these presses are a fierce 416 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut fabric pieces are placed on each part of the art and sent through this heat press where a combination of heat, pressure, and time are calibrated to create the desired results. The solidified ink becomes a gas and is absorbed in the synthetic fibers of the material. A few seconds later it comes out the other end where the paper is recycled and the fabric is let with a beautiful vibrant print! Since sublimation works at a molecular level, the final print retains the same look and feel of the fabric it is applied to and will never crack or peel.
Step 4 – Sew & Ship
Once we have the sublimated fabric with our customer's unique design, we send the fabric to sewing, where its handcrafted by our 200+ Philly locals. When complete, the finished garment is then shipped to the happy customer.