I've been looking around at various printers to use on-site for photo printing and one of the printers I came across was the Ricoh 3110DN and while I'm normally pretty good with this stuff, something confused me about the specs as on a couple of sites it is listed as being "sublimation ready" but then goes on to discuss the gel ink system it has.

It has inks listed for it that are sublimation inks.

What does 'sublimation ready' actually mean in this context? Is this some kind of marketing guff to try to pass of an inkjet as a dye-sub or is it some weird hybrid?

  • Considering the Ricoh website and manual for this model do not mention Dye Sublimation at all, it seems just like a marketing gimmick from the non-Ricoh website you are looking at. – dpollitt Jul 11 '13 at 14:06
  • @dpollitt - that's what I thought, but I've seen it on a number of sites in sections dedicated to dye-sub printers alongside Sublijet-R ink so I'm curious to find out what's going on... – James Snell Jul 11 '13 at 14:17

Certain Ricoh GelJet Printers (the e3300N, e3110DN, e7700N, GX7000 and GX5050) have micro-piezo printheads, which make them perfect for the dye sublimation decorating market.

In this case, the dye-sub is in the sublimation inks, which are used, then the printed paper is heat pressed to a polyester or poly coated item which accepts the dye-sub ink dye.

Sawgrass Gel Sublimation Inks (SubliJet-R) have been created in cartridges that fit the specific Ricoh printers. The ink lines would not work if the OEM inks were fed into the printer, so what your ad means is that no ink is in the lines and the printers are therefore "Sublimation Ready".

  • Do you work for CondeTV or Conde? Can you disclose that? – dpollitt Jul 12 '13 at 18:58

In this context, it generally refers to printers that can accept sublimation inks (for heat transfers to tee shirts, etc) rather than to dye-sublimation printing.


Sublimation refers to moving from solid straight to gas. In a dye-sub printer, the heat transfers the ink via a gaseous state. It is possible that they are using a print head that heats the ink to sublimate it, though I would question the reliability of such a print system since inkjet print heads are not positioned at the correct distance to use sublimation techniques. Perhaps it can reposition the head for it though (that, plus the heating ability on the heads may be what sublimation ready means.) The advantage of sublimation over inkjet is that you end up with less "soak" and can apply variable amounts of ink rather than a fixed dot of a fixed color so in theory it should be more continuous tone.

I've personally heard of a sublijet though so I'm not sure how well it would work or what the limitations might be.


About dye sublimation: Both conventional chemical photo prints and modern digital color prints use the subtractive primary colors which are cyan, magenta and yellow. Cyan is red + blue, and it is the opposite or complement of red. Magenta is red + blue, the complement or opposite of green. Yellow is red + green, the complement of blue.

We must use these subtractive primaries because we view color prints on paper via an adjacent light source. Light from this lamp (or sun) plays on the paper, transverses the dye or pigment, is reflected from a white subbing layer and returns to our eye via a second passage through the dye or pigment.

The fact that the viewing light makes two transits is why we choose cyan, magenta and yellow. Cyan acts to block and therefore control how much red light our eyes receive. Likewise, yellow is the blue controller and magenta the green controller. Other colors have been tried, but nothing yet works as well as the subtractive primaries. By the way, color film, both negative and positive, also use the subtractive primary method (CYM).

The CYM system is flawed because we have never obtained the exact colors needed. Yellow is very very good, magenta is OK, but cyan leaves much to be desired. If they were very good, when they overlap, a deep black is seen. This is not the case; we only get a dark gray. To bolster the system, when paper prints are made, we add a black dye or pigment. This black keys off the tones and is called the key color. Now we have a system we call CMYK.

The problem is, the dye and pigments we must use are “fugitive” meaning they are prone to fading. One solution is to use pigments as they are hardier than dye. These can be imbedded in wax and applied to a flexible ribbon. The dye sublimation system uses CMYK pigments. A hot needle vaporizes the wax pigment. The solid wax converts to a gas skipping the liquid stage. This is sublimation. The pigment vapor diffuses into a special permeable coat on the paper. The gas cools and the pigment returns to a solid, skipping the liquid stage.

This method allows improved pigments to be used that are hardy, and the shades are very good though not perfect.

  • 1
    This is an excellent answer, just to a couple of different questions from the one posed (for example why do printers use CMYK, and a question on what Dye-Sublimation is and why we might use it.) :) – James Snell Dec 3 '15 at 21:10

Some folks here are confusing dye sublimation printing onto paper as the intended substrate.

In the posts above the mention of "Sublimation Ready" in the context of Ricoh printers using Sawgrass Gel Sublimation Inks (SubliJet-R) is about heat transfer imprinting and not to be confused with "dye sublimation" printers like some older Olympus or Sony "photo" printers where the printers were used typically during "event photography" ... some kid having their picture sitting on Santa's lap.

Those are ribbon based printers. So the post directly below me is correct but not in the correct context.

Dye sublimation has different meanings in printing technology. One can make photo novelty items like coffee mugs and such, the other is for hard copy photos on paper. These "dye sublimation" ribbon printers for paper photo printing are still around however, but not used much anymore.

  • The display order of posts is variable based on score as well as which (active - oldest - votes) option is selected by the viewer, so when you mention the "...post directly below me..." it is unclear to which post you refer. – Michael C Dec 28 '15 at 6:15

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