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					There is a Revolution
Going On
       HERE IS A REVOLUTION     going on
        in the awards industry! Not since

                                                                                                                                                     PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL WOODS, INC.
        the Revolt of 1776 has there
been such excitement. Okay, maybe
that’s a bit of an overstatement, but
still, there is tremendous excitement as
more and more shop owners are                      By J. Stephen
turning to full-color sublimation as a
way to expand their businesses.

NEW CONVERTS                                                              resolution, the vivid colors and some very fine color correction soft-
    At a recent tradeshow, one shop owner approached a sublima-           ware, ink-jet is here to stay and hundreds of shop owners are
tion dealer and said, “I give up, I just have to buy it”. What he was     revolting against the old methods of sublimation and coming over
talking about was one of the relatively new ink-jet sublimation sys-      to the new “hybrid sublimation” systems.
tems. On the market for less than two years, the new technology has           In the early 1990’s, laser engravers began to pop up here and
made believers out of thousands of shop owners and converts out           there. Complicated, expensive and sometimes difficult to control,
of a great many former “sublimation haters”—people who have had           it was never thought at the time they would one day revolu-
so many bad experiences with sublimation, they swore they would           tionize the engraving industry—but they did. Ink-jet sublimation
never touch it again—I know, I was one of them.                           is sure to do the same thing. Shops that can’t offer full-color
    The bottom line is this: Once people see what the new wave            awards and gifts are sure to feel the bite of the competition as more
of sublimation can do, they realize that the new breed of subli-          and more customers drift off to shops with the full-color capability.
mation is an entirely new technology from what it was just a couple
of years ago. With its low entry cost, low maintenance, high              WAX TRANSFER
quality and dependable output, sublimation has come a long way                Currently, there are three classes of full-color systems being
in a very short time.                                                     offered. The most popular by far is ink-jet with its low entry cost,
    First introduced in the 1970’s, sublimation has come through          simple operation and excellent color correction capability. It is sure
a dozen or more revivals with each promising great advance-               to remain the leader for some time to come. In second place is the
ments. Some were anything but good for the industry with their            wax-transfer/sublimation system produced by the Seiko and Fargo
labor-intensive techniques and limited capabilities, but the cur-         brand printers.
rent technology is light years ahead of anything ever seen before.            Some of these printers, like the original Fargo and the Seiko 4101
Although ink-jet is not the end-all for sublimation (there are still      (now out of production), have been around for years and each car-
some things it isn’t very good at), huge strides have been taken and      ries a band of loyal followers. By the way, the Seiko 4101 has been
continue to be taken as more and more retailers buy in to the new         replaced by the “ColorPoint Specialty 820”, and the Fargo by the
product lines being offered.                                              PrimeraPro Elite. Both are much more sophisticated printers.
                                                                              The dual sublimation and wax transfer capability of these
INK JET                                                                   printers offers excellent capability to print on cotton fabric, and
    Ink-jet is still weak in the areas of printing black images on gold   although they are capable of doing most everything the ink-jet
or silver metal, and sublimation cannot yet print on cotton fabric        printers can do, they are most commonly seen in shops where lots
without using special prep sheets but other than those two limi-          of fabrics are imprinted. Both carry a fairly high entry and cost per
tations, ink-jet sublimation can work wonders. With its 720 dpi           copy price. They also limit the user to 300dpi resolution.

58                                                                                                                        July 1999 • A&E MAGAZINE

                                                                                                                                                               the sublimation market.

                                                                                                                                                                   Oh yes, you better
                                                                                                                                                               believe it. There is a revo-
                                                                                                                                                               lution going on. There
                                                                                                                                                               may not be any guns or
                                                                                                                                                               war ships but it is a revo-
                                                                                                                                                               lution just the same. Those
                                                                                                                                                               who fail to see it will surely
                                                                                                                                                               lose out on countless
                                                                                                                                                               opportunities for growth
                                                                                                                                                               and diversification. Like
                                                                                                                                                               the guy who visited that
                                                                                                                                                               sublimation vendor at the
                                                                                                                                                               tradeshow, it is time to
                                                                                                                                                               take a deep breath and
                                                                                                                                                               read the writing on the
                                                                                                                                                               wall. Full-color sublima-
                                                                                                                                                               tion is here to stay, and
                                                                                                                                                               those who fail to recog-
                                                                                                                                                               nize its impact will find
                                                                                                                                                               themselves “on the out-
                                                                                                                                                               side looking in” if they
                                                                                                                                                               aren’t careful.
                                                                                                                                                                   Come on, do your
                                                                                                                                                               homework, determine
                                                                                           new sublimatable products made from a              which method is best for you, and make
                                          FULL-COLOR LASER PRINTER
                                                                                           special plastic-like material. Not only can        way for the new kid on the block—full-
                                              The newest system to enter the market
                                                                                           a number of stock-cut products be pur-             color sublimation. Don’t become a casu-
                                          is the full-color laser printer. Although a
                                                                                           chased from dealers, custom cut pieces             alty in the sublimation revolution.
                                          few have been around for some time,
                                                                                           and sheet stock up to 4 x 8 feet are also
                                          there has been a recent surge in the
                                                                                           available. Ceramic tiles, plates, cups and         J. Stephen Spence is the owner of Awards by
                                          number of companies offering machines
                                                                                           white metal continue to be improved to             Recognition Concepts in Ceredo, W.Va. In addi-
                                          with sublimation capability—some with
                                                                                           meet the demands of a really high quality          tion, Stephen offers a variety of services to assist
                                          a sublimation/wax transfer combination
                                                                                           color image.                                       those interested in starting their own company,
                                          capability. These, however, continue to
                                                                                               Fabrics, something that has drawn little       or to help established businesses to grow. He can
                                          require a significant entry price but usu-
                                                                                           attention until now, are beginning to              be contacted by e-mail at, by
                                          ally promise a lower cost per copy than
                                                                                           appear with the words “fully sublimat-             phone at (304) 453-1800, or by fax at (304)
                                          the other systems.
                                                                                           able” on the label. These specially blended        453-1900.                                        A&E
                                              Traditionally, the problem with full-
                                                                                           products will continue to be offered in
                                          color lasers has been consistency due to
                                                                                           new designs as the full-color market further
                                          variations in the transfer papers required
                                                                                           explodes. No longer do we have to be con-
                                          for sublimation. As these and other issues
                                                                                           tent with offering only T-shirts but soon,
                                          continue to be resolved, however, we may
                                                                                           there will be golf shirts with collars, athletic
                                          well see the full-color laser as a serious
                                                                                           shirts and who knows what else. Also in
                                          contender to current systems. More and
                                                                                           the near future is talk of a cotton blend T-
                                          more of these machines are making their
                                                                                           shirt made by a nationally known manu-
                                          way to the marketplace, and we are sure to
                                                                                           facturer that will take sublimation without
                                          see some major advances in the not so
                                                                                           a prep-sheet.
                                          distant future. Still, for the foreseeable
                                                                                               What does all this mean? Simply put,
                                          future, ink-jet is the king of the hill for
                                                                                           a vast number of new products to offer to
                                          most full-color applications.
                                                                                           your customers. More products mean more
                                                                                           choices, which mean more sales—it’s as
                                          NEW PRODUCTS
                                                                                           simple as that. Best yet, as color sublima-
                                              As ink-jet has come into its own, a
                                                                                           tion continues to expand, the lucrative
                                          series of new products and services have
                                                                                           new market will entice additional manu-
                                          followed and will continue to follow in its
                                                                                           facturers to spend time and money on the
                                          wake. Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic, intro-
                                                                                           development of additional products for
                                          duced just this year, offers a wide variety of

                                          A&E MAGAZINE • July 1999                                                                                                                            59

Bobbi McMullen Bobbi McMullen Product Marketing