Dye-Sublimation Saves Money for Susquehanna University
Brenda Mull decided to try dye-sublimation when she realized the money that could be saved personalizing shirts for the school’s various departments. What's more, because staff and students were leaving campus to have personalized mugs produced at Walmart or with online vendors, she knew there was a demand for the service.
Mull, director of General Services for Print, Mail and Delivery Services at Susquehanna University, wanted the in-plant to be a one-stop-shop for staff and students, offering competitive prices to Walmart and online vendors with added convenience and design flexibility. So in August of 2016 she added a Virtuoso SG800 sublimation printer, a heat press and a mug press from ImprintsUSA. The new service has brought attention to Print, Mail and Delivery Services, especially among groups that weren’t aware of the shop’s capabilities before.
The mug press recently came in handy for a board of trustees and senior leadership team meeting, for which Mull and her team created coffee mugs with the school’s logo on it for the board. Each mug was also personalized with a board member’s name and filled with candy, which not only brought attention to the print shop, it also brought in a lot of new business.
Making the board and senior leadership team aware of the in-plant’s services was a step in the right direction, but the team came up with a unique way to promote the variety of products that Mull knew the shop would stock. The team took a design and produced a like image on a picture frame, license plate, mug, koozie, mouse pad and luggage tag. The items are featured in a display case at the front of the in-plant so staff and students see them when they walk in. The in-plant also displayed the items at a table in the student center prior to the winter holidays to promote as gifts, Mull adds.
Although mugs, luggage tags and license plates tend to be the most popular items, the shop can also create plaques, shirts, afghan blankets, coasters, name badges, towels and koozies. Mull says the shop can even print on slate, as a welcome sign for example, though that comes with a higher ticket price. Most small orders can even be printed on demand, Mull says. For everything else, it’s same- or next-day printing, but for large orders, it usually takes two to three days.
The process is unlike other types of printing because everything must be produced with materials that are specially coated for sublimation. When the image is placed on top of the material and heat is applied, the ink turns into a gas and sinks into the material. Mull explains that the process is ultimately controlled by three variables: heat, pressure and time. Although each product takes a different amount of time, once the proper heat, pressure and time are determined, the image becomes hardened and scratch proof.
The in-plant paid approximately $5,000 for all of the equipment and some of the materials to start. However, Mull says that the shop has already produced enough revenue to cover 25% of the cost of the equipment within three short months.
“It’s definitely going to be a money maker after we pay for the initial equipment,” she says, “and then we’re probably going to upgrade right away.”
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