You might consider additionally checking out the costs for QuikPrints direct printing process - they are just down the road from us, and @jamesfreeman introduced us to them a while ago. Working with them might get you all the advanced graphics expertise you are wanting for your project
Jordan and I teach the sublimation class at Asmbly. To date, all of my experience with aluminum is on already prepared sublimation blanks.
One thing I can’t quite tell from your picture - is your item flat? Or is there a bit of a curve to it?
@stepho Hey thank you. Yes these are flat. They’re from www.sendcutsend.com They’re 2mm blanks. And direct printing is a great suggestion. Like I said I am clueless in this phase of product development. But willing to learn.
What you say about “pre-prepped” aluminum makes sense which is why I was researching this earlier. The spray product mentioned above has one advantage I’ll note which is they have a clear base for sublimation which would allow the aluminum to show through. It’s something I’d have to prep but there are other steps as well - tumbling the blanks to remove sharp edges and create the smooth surface.
I am looking at your classes on sublimation and saw the next one is 12/3/2023. I wanted to check in with you about creating a template to print a bunch of these (10?) at once. Has anyone attempted that before?
I certainly use all sorts of sublimation coatings, and your original idea certainly holds merit. From their link, I’m not seeing aluminum specifically called out as an expected substrate, but I suspect if you contact the company, they can help fill you in on whether that is an expected use case.
In the sublimation intro session, we do cover a fair number of coatings, but the ones I have experience with are for cotton, wood/porous surfaces, and hard surfaces. But the basic concept is always what they describe - create the polymer layer that the sublimation dye can chemically bond with (always a plastic).
It is part of your class fees that you will get two packages of sublimation paper to use. I’ll send an email a day or two in advance with a few links of videos to watch, and during class we will make a tote bag, so having the file for art or an image you would like to put on that bag.
Go ahead and bring your prepared pieces along, and at the end of class we can do some testing
If the parts are not fully flat, you may need a heat press pillow or silicone mat. Moderate to heavy pressure, 400 degrees for probably 65 seconds. After that the fun part is how long to wait to remove the paper. Could take anywhere from one minute to six but you may get lucky and it may work taking the paper off right away. The good thing is that you can sand off the mistake and repply the sublimation coating. Remember those parts are thicker than normal so they are going to be hotter. Don’t forget the teflon sheets or paper to protect the platen, paper on top of substrate. Another option is using the laser. Clean aluminum parts with denatured alchol until you dont see gray residue on the rag or paper you are using. Wash in soappy water, rinse, and dry. Spray Cermark coating (there is some in the laser locker but make sure you shake it very well) use Pearl 100 power, 20 speed, 600 dpi, with a high quality resolution (lines closer together). Again, be carefull when removing the parts as they may be very hot. Sublimation may be the quickest way but may not be as good as lasering.