Metal Prints – Dye Sublimation Transfer Printing

Trending, Sleek, and Striking – How will they perform over the long term?

Metal Prints, not to be confused with metallic RC inkjet or traditional RC photo papers, are trending in popularity these days. Metal prints utilize a dye sublimation process to infuse the image onto an aluminized metal plate. Sometimes the aluminum plate itself dictates the media highlight color for the image, and sometimes an additional whitening layer is added to the process, but in all cases the finished product is an image adhering directly to the metal substrate. It is visually striking in appearance, dissimilar to many conventionally produced cold mounted, heat mounted, and/or laminated paper/plastic prints on metal, and by all accounts remarkably resistant to scratching, abrasion, and various cleaning solvents.

Metal prints are also claimed to have longevity equal to or superior to traditional wet processed chromogenic color print processes like Fuji Chrystal Archive II RA-4 processed color prints that have been a mainstay for professional photographers for many years. However, in reviewing the published claims about metal print longevity, those claims of superior lightfastness performance are subject to different interpretations of the presented data. Remember, after all, the metal print process relies on dyes not pigments as the colorant forming the final image. Dye stability in inkjet systems has improved tremendously in the last few years, but there are still plenty of dye sets in use today that are quite fugitive, especially compared to the best pigmented ink sets in the market today.

This project aims to provide photographers with impartial light fade resistance test results benchmarked using the thoroughly modern Aardenburg Imaging light fade testing protocol, so that photographers will be able to make more informed choices when purchasing metal prints.

Because the metal print process requires specialized production equipment and techniques, it’s not a process photographers or the majority of digital printmakers will be able to bring in house. The project will require Aardenburg Imaging to identify key industry vendors and dye sublimation ink sets and to acquire a selection of Metal prints for testing. The printed samples will reproduce the Aardenburg standard B&W and Color print targets we routinely use to produce our light fade test reports.

The budget for this project includes the time required to identify appropriate vendors to produce the metal prints, preparing the image samples to be printed, purchasing the metal prints independently, and conducting 100 megalux hour (or more) testing on each of the samples. The funding goal is $8000. We can begin sample testing when the fund reaches $4000.

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