3D SubliColor: Thermoforming films for perfect sublimation of images to 3D objects

Individualisation is an increasing expectation in all aspects of life and across the generations. Whether mobile phone covers, helmets, rucksack buckles, small gifts or electric kitchen accessories – the trend is turning to individualisation and industrial mass production design.  Even in interior design the demand for individualisation is growing for customised designed tabletops, cupboards and skirting boards. With 3D SubliColor Sihl have presented an innovative solution for the perfect printing of 3D objects.  

Using the Sihl 3D SubliColor technology images can be transferred to all kinds of complex three-dimensional objects, regardless of size or material, for both high production volumes as well as small runs with exclusive, customised designs to on-demand production of single pieces.     

The Sihl 3D SubliColor technology joins both the advantages of sublimation inks and thermoforming to transfer the inks precisely to a 3D object without sacrificing the details of the image

In combination with aqueous dye sublimation inks and a heated vacuum source, these films allow the perfect transfer of designs to various 3D structures, from untreated polymers and extruded plastics through to metals, glass, ceramics and other substrates treated with a polyester coating before transfer.

The new diffusion process vs. traditional processes

What are the advantages?

Screen and hand printing were the only options for many years, both methods are very time consuming and limited in productivity. Therefore, testing the papers used in dye sublimation printing of 2D objects on 3D objects started an innovative new trend but traditional dye sublimation papers limit the printed image quality due to folds and creases in the paper.

Sihl SubliColor Gadget Film 240 and SubliColor Object Film 240, are the ideal alternatives to normal dye sublimation papers for the transfer images to 3D objects, thanks to the thermoforming properties of the APET base material these products can be heated to their softening points and drawn down with the help of a vacuum heat source to form themselves perfectly around the 3D objects, fitting around all curves, details and contours of said object. 

Thanks to the low softening point of the films the air can be removed (the vacuum pressure) relatively quickly after securing the film in the frame or around the object, preventing immature sublimation taking place. Sihl’s 3D films allow perfect forming around all shapes, transferring the dye inks at a quick rate and leaving no corner, curve or nook uncovered. 

Main advantages of this technology:

  • Less space is needed with these processes as with traditional screen printing or painting 
  • Film verses paper, no creases or folds in the sublimated image

How does SubliColor 3D work?

For this process equipment required is a thermoforming printable film, a printer with special dye sublimation inks and a heat source, either IR or hot-air vacuum oventhe speciality of the Sihl films is that it works at both high and low temperatures, allowing everyday objects that previously couldn’t be designed and printed for example car keys.

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The thermoformable film is printed using a standard printer with dye sublimation inks. The printed film is secured into a frame and placed above the 3D object, then put into the preheated vacuum oven.

After a given time the softening point of the film is reached and then the vacuum is activated, drawing the air out of the chamber enabling the film to be drawn down around the object fitting perfectly around the curves and corners.

At temperatures of between 150 and 200°C the ink is transformed into a gas and transferred into the amorphous structure of the objectThe temperatures can vary depending on the heat source.


The translucent 3D SubliColor films based on an APET material, Sihl SubliColor Gadget Film 240and SubliColor Object Film 240are coated with a highly functional ink-receptive coating and offer the optimal alternative to sublimation transfer paper to transfer images to 3D objects. Allowing themselves to fit around the objects perfectly hindering and folds in the transferred image.  

Example of industrial design

Step 1

 The three-dimensional object, here an electrical vaporiser, is positioned on the tray of an vacuum oven.

Step 2

The printed SubliColor film is secured in the frame over the object and the tray is placed in the oven.

Step 3

The oven temperature allows the film to reach its softening point (around 87°C) and then the vacuum removes the air drawing the film down, fitting perfectly around every curve and edge of the object.

Step 4

At around 150°C the inks, with which the film is printed, turn into a gas and diffuse into the structure of the object.

Product overview

The Sihl 3D SubliColor films have the same inkjet coating and offer an easyinnovative solution of transferring images to complex 3D objects opening the endless possibilities to individualised designs for everyday products: 

3757 SubliColor Gadget Film 240 mattis the ideal product for printing various 3D objects. It enables individualisation through printed designs with complex 3D shapes from the backpack buckles, to helmets, surfboards, sneakers, small devices, shoes, etc. for both small and large volumes. This makes the product particularly suitable for online providers who offer personalised gadgets, but also for companies who want to upgrade their products and brands with limited designs. 

3758 SubliColor Object Film 240 mattis the perfect solution for interior design. The objects to be printed, e.g. individually printed household appliances such as coffee machines, kettles and toasters, or furniture, skirting boards, tabletops, cupboard doors, etc., are coated with a polyester coating before transfer in order to achieve a complete transfer.

SubliColor 3D Film

Film structure Transparent smooth
Thickness 240
Weight 290
Softening temperature 85 - 87°C
Elongation limit


POM-C Polycetal 150 - 170°C
PET neutral 150 - 170°C
Polycarbonat transparent 150 - 170°C
Polycarbonat white 150 - 170°C
Acrylglas XT 0,75 mm < 150°C
PEX white 150 - 170°C


Polyamid 6.6 < 150°C
ABS Grey < 150°C
Polyethylen 1000 < 150°C
PS Polystyrol < 150°C
Polyurethan 90 < 150°C
Glass > 150°C
Metal > 150°C
Wood < 150°C


  • Best colour densities at low temperatures 
  • Very homogeneous colour transfer


3D SubliColor consists of a flexible monomaterial without metallization. Therefore the product can be reused after use in typical recycling processes. 


Trichord Group owns the global patents to High Definition Micro Fusions (HDMF), the Dye Diffusion technology that allow us to decorate complex three dimensional objects, providing a robust, long lasting, high definition photographic quality finish.  The technology can be used to print onto most substrates including polymers, metals, glass and fabrics.