Materials needed to start a sublimation mug manufacturing business can be found at any number of specialty sublimation suppliers. Sublimation is a dye transfer process for decorating mugs, clothing and other goods. The design is printed with special dye-based ink onto sublimation transfer paper. The paper is wrapped around the mug in position and inserted into a mug heat press. The press heats the dye in the ink, causing it to turn into a gas which is subsequently transferred to the mug surface.
Sublimation set-ups use standard computers but require graphic art design software and a scanner. The image must be designed, scanned or imported into the computer where it is sized and color corrected in the software. Graphic art design programs vary in complexity and price, so you'll need to research your market and assess your design skills before deciding. There is no sublimation-only software requirement, but you may acquire proprietary software along with a turn-key sublimation set-up kit from your supplier.
Sublimation printers are computer printers with special heads to accommodate sublimation ink and function exactly as a standard desktop printer. Your existing printer may be retrofitted with sublimation ink depending on the model, but it is recommended that you purchase a dedicated sublimation printer to avoid potential issues with your regular paper and photo printer needs. Sublimation printers tend to be larger than standard printers and will take paper up to 11 by 17 inches or larger for T-shirt and other large product sublimation printing you choose to do in the future.
A mug press has a cylindrical heated plate into which the mug, sublimation printer and Teflon sleeve are inserted for printing and operate on standard house current. Many entry-level units allow one mug to be printed at a time, but larger multi-head machines are available for speedier production work. A mug press is only useful for printing mugs and similarly shaped objects and is not able to print T-shirts or other common printed items.
Supplies to have on hand aside from a stock of mugs include sublimation paper, extra ink, Teflon or other brand of heat resistant material. Thermal heat tape serves to hold the paper image onto the mug without melting during the printing process, and heat pads are used to endure proper pressure is exerted on the mug to facilitate the dye transfer. Other supplies to consider are bubble wrap and mug boxes.