By Elizabeth Quirk
Digitally printed floor graphics are found in a number of places and utilized fairly frequently. They are used for marketing or to communicate information to consumers in a unique manner. Because they are displayed across large surface areas, these graphics easily catch the eyes of people walking by and convey a message or generate a call to action.
Print service providers (PSPs) need to conduct their due diligence when this type of application is requested. Anti-slip properties are necessary to ensure no harm comes to those walking over the graphic. ASTM D2047 and R9-R13 testing and certifications require graphics used in commercial or retail settings to be anti-slip/skid.
When selecting floor graphic media, shops should consider both durability and safety features. According to Holly Coleman, market development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions, anti-slip properties are provided by an overlaminate that covers the base film of the floor media. Together, the base film and overlaminate create a complete construction that securely adheres to the floor and provides slip resistance.
“At 3M, we conduct thorough testing to evaluate whether the anti-slip properties of an overlaminate provide enough friction suitable for pedestrian floor applications,” points out Coleman.
The primary property of floor graphics media, according to Dennis Brunnett, technical service specialist, product branding business team, FLEXcon, is its coefficient of friction (COF). COF is the ratio between the force necessary to move one surface, horizontally, over another and the pressure between the two surfaces; basically, how slippery it is. This is how anti-slip and slip-resistance are referred to in the floor graphic market.
When looking to offer floor graphics to a customer, a PSP should always have safety in mind. Having anti-slip properties is the best way to avoid harm. Floor graphic media must generate a sufficient amount of friction to be considered slip resistant. Various precautions ensure that base media and laminates meet this requirement.
“Avery Dennison recommends certified floor graphic overlaminates, which provide a better walking surface on top of a printed film,” suggests David Timmerman, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Mactac Distributor Products’ floor graphics have always been designed to be made in two parts; the print media and the laminating film. Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, Mactac, explains that the laminating films feature surface treatments to render the finished floor graphic slip resistant according to the latest specifications acceptable to current building codes and floor safety experts.
Craig Campbell, graphic products market manager, Orafol Americas Inc., says having a raised texture in a film or laminate is the most typical way to provide protection against slips and falls—heavier traffic loads require more texture in the film.
“When deciding on a particular manufacturer’s film, you first need to understand the requirements of the location where the graphics will be applied. Certain building or municipal codes may require the film used to meet specific qualifications/certifications such as ASTM D2047 that determines criteria for how much friction the material must possess,” explains Campbell.
Proper installation is the key to keeping a floor graphic from becoming a tripping hazard. According to Brunnett, edge lift is the primary cause of tripping hazards from floor graphics, so avoiding it makes for safer conditions. Some aspects that minimize edge lift include a clean floor to install on, rounded corners, and proper lamination tension. If tension is not balanced between the base film and overlaminate when laminated together, curl can be introduced into the product and cause the film to lift.
Heather McCusker, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics, mentions that typically the laminate used for floor graphics is 5- to 6-mil thick to help with the rigidity of the floor graphic and the film will feature a slight texture for slip resistance. A base material with appropriate adhesive is essential as well.
“At Canon Solutions America (CSA), we recommend a few different media for floor graphics applications. Use a 4- or 6-mil adhesive vinyl and then a textured laminate that gives an anti-slip rating,” states Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, CSA.
Stadelman argues that the design of the floor graphic with print media, and the laminate, need to maintain a minimal edge profile in order to prevent falls or trips by pedestrian traffic. “Mactac stays in the 5- to 12-mil range for the completed graphic; anything higher than that can create an edge that can become a tripping hazard,” he cautions.
Overall Life Expectancies
Life expectancy for floor graphics is dependent on a lot of variables including, but not limited to, the quality of the print and laminating media, the amount of traffic the floor graphic will experience, interior versus exterior floor graphics, and how well the floor graphic is maintained over time.
“When designing the floor graphic, PSPs should be prepared to ask the client a few questions to make sure to get the proper product and therefore value for the job,” explains Stadelman.
PSPs need to determine how long the graphic will be in place, whether it is temporary or long term. Other considerations include if the graphics will be near an entry door area that may collect dirt, moisture, or debris. These are all factors that contribute to the life expectancy of the floor graphic.
According to Timmerman, floor graphics experience shorter life expectancy than many other applications. Floor graphics are typically durable up to six months with the recommended overlaminate, whether cast or calendered vinyl are used. For flat floor graphics, calendered films are less expensive than cast films and can hold up to the wear and tear of foot traffic up to six months.
Coleman argues that many floor graphic media are engineered to expire after varying spans, depending on the intended messaging scope.
Victoria Doucet, marketing manager, Drytac Corporation, suggests the media be extremely durable to withstand various human factors, such as different shoe types or weights that walk over the graphic. The possibility of standing water on or near the graphic should also be considered. The materials used and how the graphic is made can contribute to greater longevity.
“Many floor graphics are made of smooth, printable vinyl with a textured slip-resistant overlaminate, which ensures the printed graphic is more heavily protected against surface damage from moisture or scuffs,” explains Doucet.
Properly installing floor graphics is important because if done incorrectly, it can hinder the overall appearance of the graphics as well as impede the walking plane. 3M recommends that before any application, the surface should be stripped of wax, cleaned, and degreased to promote adhesion.
“If installing a multi-panel graphic, each panel should be printed to allow a half-inch of overlap with the previous panel. The last step of every installation should be to re-squeegee all the edges to prevent them from curling up,” suggests Coleman.
McCusker provides other recommendations that lead to a successful install. For example, the floor temperature should range from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. She also suggests that the floor finish—concrete sealer, coating, or paint—be firmly attached to the subfloor. Lastly, the completed graphic should not be polished or scrubbed for at least 12 hours after install.
Certification: Hard or Easy?
Trying to keep up with industry standards and building codes when it comes to slip resistance is challenging but necessary to minimize safety concerns. Testing should be completed to verify the slip resistance of floor graphics media.
According to Al Carlson, director, product management, Jessup Manufacturing Company, the established norm in the U.S. is ASTM D2047, a static COF test method. It establishes values on dry surfaces of not less than .5 as the minimum value. R9-R13 is a rating system based on Pendulum Testing. The ratings vary from R9 being very poor where slip injuries are certain to occur, to R13 being the best, especially on slopes.
“Similar to this, there are tests to certify laminates for slip resistance. These tests are performed by the UL, a global independent safety science company that will test and certify with a UL stamp of approval for safety,” adds Timmerman.
Manufacturers choose which tests they want their products to undergo. For example, at Qué Media Inc. UL is the primary test facility for the company’s anti-slip laminates. “From our experience we have found that most end users know and understand UL as a leader in product classification and validation. Our factory goes through audits with UL to make sure that we use the same process, same formulation, and same chemicals every time. These audits take place every four to six months, which means that the customers can rest assured that we did not receive some sort of anti-slip classification and then instantly change the formula to cut production times or cost,” explains Tyler Reich, director of product development, Qué Media.
“When we send the product to UL, we must send the complete product for the testing. It is usually done within two weeks after the product is submitted. Many people think, that the more textured the overlaminate is, the more slip resistant the material is. This is not the case at all. Sometimes, textured surfaces do not pass the test, where as a smooth polished surface easily passes,” advises Alan Dworman, president, Catalina Graphic Films.
Doucet expresses two major issues related to the current testing standards—consistency and the ability to provide data that indicates the danger associated with the floor surfaces on which people walk.
“For instance, some standards only test a dry surface, but at some point during the life of the graphic, it will become wet and a person will walk across it. Manufacturers of floor graphic media are responsible for sending their materials to a reputable test facility, which can recommend the most appropriate test standard to use,” she says.
It is relatively easy to get a product qualified as long as one understands the test procedure and employs the technology required to make a product safe. Marcel Medved, business development director, Continental Grafix USA, Inc., explains it is a pass/fail system, meaning a minimum standard for safety is set. The R9-R13 rating system adds an extra dimension to non-slip certifications.
Stadelman explains that once a product at Mactac is developed and produced in a production setting, it is then submitted for phase one testing to get the initial reading for the dynamic COF. Phase two, the certification step, is required where it’s tested according to ANSI/NFSI B101.1, which tests the static COF over time. “In other words, how long in normal use with proper care will the product maintain its traction properties,” he adds.
Besides preventing people from falling and harming themselves, anti-slip properties also protect the graphic. McCusker argues that the rigidity of the laminate helps keep the floor graphic down, stops it from curling, and minimizes damage from scuffs or marks.
Coleman mentions that another benefit of slip-resistant media is that it provides assurance for businesses that floor graphics will not interfere with their pedestrian traffic, and allows them to expand their wayfinding and messaging opportunities with new applications.
On the Ground
Floor graphic applications are unique and come with their own set of challenges. Proper substrates need to be used to prevent slipping. This includes the correct base media as well as laminate when applicable. Material thickness and texture are two features that affect anti-slip/anti-skid properties. When the right media is used, a floor graphic is sure to do its job.
Apr2017, Digital Output