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Durability of Polyester Poplin Fabric Banner for Parades

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Are Poplin Fabric Banners Suitable and Strong Enough for Parade Events

Question: We’re planning to purchase a banner for our high school marching band for an upcoming parade. Is a poplin fabric banner strong enough for this usage?

Answer: I’m assuming you’re using a polyester poplin material for the banner as that’s the only poplin banner material that can be printed with dye sublimation printing? Secondly, what exactly are you planning to do with this banner in the parade that might worry you about durability!?

Polyester fabrics are generally pretty durable, and for use in a parade, I can’t think of any reason or usage, rain, snow, sun, or whatever, that would hurt a polyester poplin fabric banner. The dye sub print process permanently infuses the poly fabric with color during the print process so that you can send these banners through the washer without color loss, and a rain storm would be more gentle than your average washing machine, we’d think.

In case you’re unfamiliar with dye sublimation printing of banners and displays and more, let me explain a little bit about this print process, as it is one of my favorite topics because it produces beautiful, high quality, and durable prints if good printers and inks are used.

Dye Sublimated Fabric Banner

First, in this printing process, the first clue is in the first word. Dye. Inks, per se, are not used in this type of printing, but rather, because we are printing on fabric, we use dyes. The dye set used in dye sublimation printing is slightly different than inkjet printing, and instead of the standard CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) set of ink cartridges used on a digital printing press or even screen printing, dye sub uses the dye set CMYO, which stands for Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Overprint Clear.

Rather than printing direct-to-substrate or fabric as digital printing would do (with less durable results, in our opinion), the dye sub printer first prints to a transfer paper, aptly called “transfer paper.” The image is printed in reverse on the transfer paper, and once printed, is removed from the printer and “married” to a piece of olefin based material, typically polyester. Natural fibers cannot be used in the print process due to their cellular structure and the chemistry of dye sublimation.

Once the fabric and transfer media are matched, they are run through a set of heated pressure rollers at around 400°F (about 205°C). As the material passed through the rollers, the heat causes two things to happen simultaneously. First, the pores of the polyolefin fabric expand and open. Second, the dye from the transfer paper is converted to a gaseous state and the pressure from the rollers forces it into the open cells of the poly fabric, thus infusing the color to become part of the fabric itself. Which is why rain, snow, or your washing machine won’t disturb the colors in these banners any time soon.

As the fabric cools, the pores close back up around the dye, but are now whatever color the dye was that infused them. This process is somewhat like photo printing in that the tones are continuous, unlike the dot pattern of an inkjet printer. This also is what creates the richness of color, tone, and continuity in dye sublimation printed fabric graphics that catch everyone’s eyes.

As far as durability if you want to use the material for a trampoline, we can’t speak to that, but we do know that if the material is over 150 grams per square inch, you should be able to make a hammock out of the material that would bear most people’s weight. Not that this is a preferred usage, mind you, and in fact, we would advise against such a usage unless the parade is a one of a kind event and you won’t be using the fabric again. If that is the case, do whatever you want with it, and let me know how it goes, so I can write about a new aspect of durability I’d never thought of on another post!

For dye sublimated fabric banners you can definitely have for outdoor usage like parades, go here: https://www.visigraph.com/fabric-vinyl-cloth-banners/dye-sublimation-polyester-fabric-cloth-flags-banners/

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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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