Dye sublimation is a printing technology that renders high resolution images on to the surfaces of duplicated or pre-recorded CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays by using thermal and electrostatic application to stamp ink onto the disc's surface. This printing method is also known as a type of thermal re-transfer.
In order for discs to receive proper use of dye sublimation, they must be manufactured with a thermal coating that can withstand the high temperature and pressure of the print head. Both at-home consumer disc printers and professional media duplication services employ dye sublimation in their printing process.
Dye sublimation uses five colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white) to reproduce CD, DVD and Blu-ray images with sharp photographic quality at up to 600 by 600 dots per inch (dpi). The surface of these printed CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays also resembles a photograph with a glossy finish.
The course of action for dye sublimation begins with a reverse image of the actual disc print being copied to a digital file and printed on a layer of clear transfer film. The transfer film is naturally charged with negative particles and is drawn through a tub of positively charged ink that recreates the file's developed reverse image.
The positive and negative particles bond on the film layer. This film is subsequently carried over to the disc's surface. The transfer applies the film layer with stringent accuracy through the use of heat and pressure. What results is a vibrantly colored, high gloss image on the disc's surface. The thermal bonding of the ink also induces a scratch-proof, water-proof, fade-resistant surface.
Professional disc printers with ink sublimation technology are manufactured by companies like Rimage and TEAC. They employ special color ribbons in CMY, CMYK or black in addition to a clear ribbon that acts as an intermediary to adhere the color particles of the former ribbon to the disc.
Due to the cost-per-unit use of multiple thermal transfer film layers or ribbons, this printing method is best suited for smaller volume short run disc orders or consumer printing projects. Many professional printing services who use this method also offer CD/DVD duplication services in addition to ink sublimation printing. However, some companies offer this printing method for quantities of up to 1200 discs or more.