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Sublimation Process Is Main Draw at Awards & Custom Gift Show
by Alysha Sideman

The Baltimore Convention Center welcomes attendees of the Awards & Custom Gift Show.

Baltimore, Maryland--June 20, 2008--From cotton shirts to poker chips, the latest trends in sublimation were showcased at the Awards & Custom Gift Show held at the Baltimore Convention Center, June 19-21, 2008. The gift show was held in conjunction with the Printwear Show and the Sign Business & Digital Graphics Show.

The Gift Show focused on the sublimation process and the equipment needed for the process-generally a computer, special software, a printer with sublimation inks and a heat press.

With a scanner and a digital camera and any digital image or clip art, a user has the flexibility to create graphics and photographs. Then, there are the imprintables: all the surfaces in which the art can be applied. The show's representation of these objects was infinite. From glossy tiles, crystals, and clothing to ceramics, poker chips, golf balls and coasters--the possibilities of the things one can transfer photos to are endless.

It seems new technologies have made this possible. Advances in desktop computer graphics, digital cameras, sublimation inks and sublimatable materials are what make the process more professional-looking than in the past.

The process of sublimation is the action by which an image printed on paper is transferred to another surface (or substrate). Unlike conventional inks, sublimation inks are converted directed from a solid to a gas under heat and pressure. This allows them to bond with the fibers of synthetic materials such as polyester. The molecules of ink revert to a solid state upon cooling, permanently staining the surfaces.

The tradeshow also covered other transfer processes such as engraving, glass etching, laser, hot stamping, pad printing and sand carving, all of which can be done with images. The show attendees included small business owners, publishing houses, photographers and retailers who were interested in new ways to make money with awards/plaques, custom gifts/souvenirs and sports, wedding and promotional products.

"Lots of wedding and sports photographers are becoming interested in this process," said a Unisub spokeswoman at the show. Unisub is a sublimation color product supplier.

"Some photographers will tie murals or other sublimation products to a marketing concept," said Linda Buettner, president of The Paper Ranch Inc., which sells software, ink, paper and printers to photographers for sublimation and provides hands-on training after purchase. "Sublimation products are wearable art and also offer options to enhance home décor or an office."

According to a 2007 PMA Review and Forecast, custom services are the fastest growing segment of the photo service industry today. An estimated 38% or more than 43 million U.S. households purchased photo books, photo greeting cards, collages, calendars, photo CDs, DVDs and other personalized photos items in 2006.

"These processes motivate them [photographers] to sell more photos," said Lupe Arzate of Photo USA Corp. "They already have the photo, so why not use it as much as they can. The more times they use a photo the more money they make."

Companies selling sublimation tools at the show included: Coastal Business Supplies, Conde Systems, Digital Art Solutions, Epilog Laser, IKONICS Imaging, Photo USA Corp, RPL Supplies Inc., Sawgrass Technologies, Imprintor Inc., Sublimation Nation, Unisub Color Product Solutions, Imprints USA, J Lee Photoland Inc. and more.