A lot of what we do at Awards of Excellence is sublimation. One of the ways we do this is by sublimating metal plates, stone, fabric, and other materials. Sublimating is when something solid (ink) becomes a gas without becoming a liquid first (Source).
Probably the most popular use of this process is when dry ice goes straight from ice to vapor and how they get all the water out of freeze-dried foods. For our purposes, ink is the substance in question; we print an image (using any colors) onto special paper with a sublimation printer, secure the paper against a metal plate, press the plate and paper against each other with two very hot plates, wait 60 seconds, then take the plate and paper out. When we peel the paper away from the metal plate (with gloves!), the image has been transferred onto the metal. The heat caused the solid to turn to gas, which was immediately transferred to the metal and was turned into a solid again when cooled. It's a little bit like magic, but it's purely science.
The word "sublimation" has been used since the late 1550s and comes from the Latin sublimatus, meaning "to lift up" (Source), but the process itself was first explained by Jabir ibn Hayyan (Gerber) in the 700s (Source). Gerber is known as the father of chemistry and having discovered dry ice.
Nowadays, anyone with the right press can sublimate ink onto metal, fabric, paper, etc. A lot of neat things can be made through sublimation. So, if you want a plaque, name plate, medal, or gift that is fully customizable, ask us about it. In the meantime, here are a few sublimatable items we offer at our store:
It was my second week of work. A man came into our shop--dusty work coat, roughly trimmed beard, tough bleached jeans--and walked up to the counter. My two other coworkers were hard at work, so it was up to me to help him out. I may not have known much about how to make awards yet, but I knew how to be nice to people! So, I walked up to the counter, smiled, said “Hi!” and waited.
He proceeded to tell me about a stellar employee of his, one of those who hadn’t ever missed a day of work, did overtime when needed, and labored to the best of his ability. He was also an employee who was about to retire. So with pride, yet sadness, the man in the shop explained that he wanted something to show his employee the appreciation he deserved.
He first noticed an engraved hammer attached to a plaque on our wall and thought that might be the ticket, but he wanted something bigger, grander.
I decided to give him a tour. I’m not afraid to say I was playing it off like I knew things I didn’t. Although, I did mention that I was new and might not have the expertise he was looking for. But I was determined. I showed him plaques and trophies and acrylic awards and resins while we made small talk.
But then, what did his eyes behold but a nearly two-foot-tall column trophy. This was it. The item. The largest trophy he could muster for his beloved employee. But how to customize it? What topper to embellish it with? To the catalogs we went, flipping through pages and pages of potential toppers. Unfortunately, most of what we saw were for sports. We needed something for construction.
“What about a hammer on top?” I suggested. His eyes lit up. “I think that’ll do it!” he exclaimed. So now we game-planned.
Pick out the base. Check. Choose the ornaments. Check. Buy a hammer. Check. Decide on a plate engraving. Check. Engrave the hammer. Check. Attach the hammer to the base… That was harder than we thought it would be. But, eventually, with glue, a screw, and patience, check.
The finished product:
Over three feet of delicious wood, metal, and plastic made for an appreciated employee at his time of retirement. Happy sigh. These are the stories that make my job fun.
Here, we write about important updates, projects, and discussions that are relevant to you.