By Cassandra Balentine
Windows are an integral part of any building—commercial or residential. They also serve as a canvas for marketers and interior designers. To dress these windows, many media products are available. We often address the use of adhesive-backed solutions. However, non-adhesive options—commonly referred to as “cling” media—present another choice to print service providers (PSPs).
Depending on an application’s intended lifespan and installation restrictions, traditional cling and related non-adhesive substrates present advantages, such as easy application and removal, no adhesive residue to contend with, and reuse capabilities.
Variations in substrate properties affect how the media will adhere to a window. Alan Dworman, president, Catalina Graphic Films, defines traditional cling media as a highly plasticized, self-clinging flexible vinyl film requiring no adhesive. “It applies quickly to most smooth, polished surfaces and is easily removed.”
Sam Covello, product manager, product branding business team, FLEXcon, explains that traditional cling vinyl film is not actually a static-charged film. “The use of plasticizers in the formulation of the film provide a soft and flexible substrate that allows it to stick to the glass surface like a flat suction cup.”
Moving away from the traditional definition, other products on the market comprise of non-PVC materials, such as polypropylene and polyester. Various media properties, such as micro-perforation or suction technology offer a non-adhesive alternative to PVC-based traditional cling media.
Material Make Up
Non-adhesive window substrates apply to designated surfaces without the need for adhesive. However, the material make up varies between one product to the next, offering differences in terms of application, adherence, and performance.
Achilles USA, Inc., Catalina, FLEXcon, and Roland DGA Corporation offer products that fall under the traditional definition of static cling described above.
Several other media providers feature cling materials that they consider non-traditional, due to chemical composition and adhesion methods.
ATP Adhesive Systems offers ATP OPEN AIR micro-perforated vinyl films. Marcel Medved, business development director – Americas, ATP, suggests that these films “outperform traditional static cling, as they are applied dry, bubble free, and prevent edge curl.”
Clear Focus Imaging, Inc. provides its EasyCling product. Made of clear polyester, Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus, says it contains no plasticizers.
ClingZ, Inc. features a non-adhesive product that is statically charged. Liz Delp, VP, sales and marketing, ClingZ, notes that ClingZ is a polypropylene film that clings on the printed or unprinted side of windows and other surfaces.
Drytac Corporation sells its ViziPrint Impress line of non-adhesive window films, which use suction technology to bond to most smooth surfaces. ViziPrint Impress is a polyester film.
Jaimie Mask, product line manager, LexJet Corporation, says its PVC-Free Cling is not a traditional static cling product, as it adheres using micro-adhesion suction technology. It is a printable opaque polypropylene that Mask says is dimensionally stable so that it will not shrink, curl, or wrinkle over time.
Newlife Magnetics LLC offers a non-adhesive window film that differs from traditional cling. “Traditional cling materials either rely on static electricity, a layer of light adhesive, or some combination of these two technologies that cause the printed substrate to cling to the application surface and hold the printed substrate in position,” explains Darrell Adams, VP, Newlife. “Our Cling-King product line uses a technology where microscopic suction cups cause the printed substrate to cling to the application surface and hold it in position.”
Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Pro-Graphics Network LLC, describes its new GlassADhere product as a solution that is not static, cling, or adhesive. It features a micro-suction technology for adhering to glass. “The technology is made up of a silicone-based coating of suction cups that engages the glass when applied,” he explains.
Plastiprint Sales Company offers PlastiCling PVC-Free Cling Film with a co-polymer cling coating formula. Matt Meyer, marketing coordinator, Plastiprint, says that its cling film does not have the tackiness an adhesive film does.
Ritrama Inc. features its Crystal Cling, which consists of a 2- or 4-mil optically clear polyester. The product uses unique polymer technology that allows the film to cling to glass and other smooth substrates. “This technology mimics static cling and can be applied in temperatures as low as 32 degrees as well as being wet applied for instant optical clarity,” states Robert Rundle, Viscom marketing manager, Ritrama.
Sihl USA notes that its ClearSOL WetCling Film 125 (3550) features “enhanced cling,” which uses natural surface tension combined with non-residue, water-enhanced cling adhesion characteristics. “This creates a more reliable graphic image with greater staying power,” says Bruce Walker, apps tech, Sihl.
Non-adhesive window media serves a range of applications. It is ideal for settings such as restaurants, pharmaceuticals, retail, entertainment and event marketing, hospitality, office environments, point of purchase, and trade show displays. Possibilities include everything from car decals to large graphics that take over a retail window.
While non-adhesive window substrates are often known for indoor use, outdoor applications are appropriate for some products. Manufacturers suggest following guidelines specific to each individual media selection for the best performance.
“Static cling can be used for both interior and exterior applications. If it is used for interior, then you would use clear vinyl and reverse print the image so that it can be read from the outside. Each retail store or restaurant has their own opinion on whether they prefer the material mounted inside or outside,” says Dworman.
Adams notes that Cling-King materials have been undergoing testing for more than two years in an outdoor environment and still remain vibrant, flexible, and reusable.
A variety of non-adhesive window offerings, such as solutions from ATP, Catalina, Clear Focus, LexJet, NewLife, Pro-Graphics Network, Ritrama, and Roland can be used in both indoor and outdoor applications.
Installation Tips and Tricks
In terms of installation, wet and dry methods are applicable and outlined by each substrate vendor. This is done with or without the use of water, depending on media type and size of the graphic.
Catalina offers basic application instructions for traditional static cling, including its Hi-Stet portfolio. “Spray the window with water and then remove the material from the liner. Apply the printed material to the designated area and begin to squeegee out the water, starting at the center of the cling,” explains Dworman.
FLEXcon’s cling vinyl window graphics can be applied via two methods—dry or wet. Covello suggests application surface temperature be as close to room temperature as possible and that the surface be clean and smooth.
“The dry method of applying may be used for small decals up to 100 square inches. However, in general, the wet method is recommended for larger decals. A rubber roller is also advised to smooth out the cling vinyl and help remove trapped air bubbles. If a squeegee is used, be careful not to scratch or leave undesirable impressions on the vinyl surface,” he cautions.
Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland, describes an ideal installation process for traditional static cling. “First, make sure the application surface is clean. It is also important to ensure that the unprinted side of the static cling is the side that’s applied to the surface—this is more critical when using clear static cling and doing a second-surface application. Static cling is typically applied by hand with light pressure. The material should easily adhere to the glass. If there are any air bubbles, press those out by hand or with a squeegee.”
In terms of skilled installers, Dworman notes that professional installers as well as employees at end customer sites perform these installs. “This is why it is very important to have detailed instructions; we never know who is handling the installation.”
Covello suggests it is the end users that are conducting smaller decal installation, which include applications such as interior auto windows for school and association decals, parking stickers, and oil change decals. “Larger graphics can be more difficult for a novice to install,” says Covello.
Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac, suggests that wet installations are typically handled by PSPs. “Dry installations with easy-to-install films can be performed by end users,” he adds.
As with any application, durability and performance are top concerns for print providers. Cling applications are generally destined to only stay up for a few months. “In a clean, indoor environment, it’s possible for traditional static cling to stay in place for a year or more. The nature of static cling graphics, however, is that they’re used for short-term promotions so they generally aren’t required to stay affixed for long periods,” says Hunter.
Since many print methods work with cling media, it is important to test the inks to ensure compatibility. Top coatings are sometimes necessary to achieve success.
Scott Bollinger, business development manager, Achilles, notes that in most cases, its static cling does not need to be top coated, but it does require top coating for some applications. Depending on the environment, the media is rated to stay in place for several months to several years. The expected shelf life for non-printed media is six months.
ATP OPEN AIR can be printed with latex, solvent, or eco-solvent inks. It is rated to stay in place for up to two years, however Medved admits that normal usage falls between one and six months. Unprinted, the media is expected to last two years.
Dworman says every type of printing method uses Catalina Hi-Stat static cling. The recommended indoor/outdoor durability is up to a two year period. The shelf life for unprinted static cling is six months, for printed static cling, it can be stored for an extended period and then reused.
Clear Focus EasyCling is treated for use with UV digital, UV screen, latex, and screenprint, but is not recommended for solvent and eco-solvent inks. Its outdoor durability is two years. Its non-printed shelf life is two years when stored at 73 degrees Fahrenheit at 50 percent relative humidity.
ClingZ offers products for a variety of print processes. The offset print process does have recommended inks for compatibility. ClingZ for wide format and HP Indigo do not. Delp says that the substrate is rated for three to six months and features a one year, non-printed shelf life when stored properly.
Drytac’s ViziPrint Impress Clear UV is UV printable. ViziPrint Impress Clear SEL is compatible with solvent, latex, and UV. ViziPrint Impress White SEL is eco-solvent, latex, and UV printable. Unprinted, ViziPrint Impress lasts up to 12 months on the shelf.
FLEXcon suggests converters conduct a thorough test with equipment and inks before proceeding with production due to variations in ink chemistry. Covello says cling vinyl applications typically stay in place for less than six months. However, applications for parking decals and permits stay in place for a year and college and alumni decals last even longer. The expected shelf life of cling vinyl films is two to six months unprinted.
LexJet PVC-Free Cling is compatible with solvent, low solvent, and UV-curable inks. It is generally rated to stay in place for one year. The shelf life for PVC-Free Cling is more than a year when stored in a controlled environment.
Pro-Graphics Network’s GlassADhere is compatible with UV, latex, and solvent inks. The material is rated to last up to one year. The shelf expectancy of non-printed media is one year.
Plastiprint offers its PlastiCling PVC-Free Cling Film, which is suitable for screen, UV-curable, latex, lithographic, water-based, and UV flexographic print technologies. Meyer notes that the substrate is rated to stay in place six to 12 months, but can stay up much longer if the surface and film are kept clean. Unprinted media has a shelf life expectancy of two years.
Newlife’s Cling-King products are compatible with most ink sets, including UV, solvent, and latex. The shelf life of non-printed Cling-King exceeds two years.
Ritrama’s Crystal Cling is compatible with UV inkjet, general screenprinting, and UV offset inks. It removes cleanly under normal conditions within two years. Rundle says Crystal Cling has a longer shelf life than traditional static cling, featuring a two year shelf life and two year outdoor durability.
Roland’s ESM-WSC White Static Cling and ESM-CSC Clear Static Cling products typically stay in place for three to six months once printed on, as previously stated, the application can last longer in the right setting. Unprinted, the expected shelf life of Roland’s static cling media is up to six months.
Sihl’s ClearSOL WetCling Film 125 (3550) is not compatible with water-based inks but is well suited for eco-solvent and latex. Walker suggests two to three months as the target length for the application to stay up, however, “depending on conditions they can last much longer.”
Unprinted, its expected shelf life is one year or more. “However, due to repetitive handing of media and dirt, we prefer graphic professionals use the media within a year,” says Walker.
Xcel Products, Inc.’s static cling differs from standard products, according to Brian Cheshire, sales manager, Xcel, because the company laminates it fresh. “That means rather than stock master rolls, we custom manufacture our product at the time the order comes in. This eliminates a lot of the mottling and ink adhesion issues found on product that is stocked in master and finished rolls.”
Xcel’s product is ideal for eco-solvent, solvent, latex, UV, and screen inks. Cheshire says it is typically installed for three to six months, and some applications have been installed for a year. However, it really depends on the environment and exposure to UV.
Bollinger suggests static cling be stored in rolled form with low heat and humidity. He adds that the shelf life of non-printed media is six months in a rolled form.
“Once the static cling material has been printed on, the end user can store it by placing the graphic back onto the original liner supplied by the PSP. This will help keep contaminants off the application side and maintain the graphic’s ability to cling,” suggests Hunter.
For printed static cling that does not adhere well after storage, Dworman recommends wetting with warm water to help rejuvenate the material.
Pros and Cons
The advantages of cling media over adhesive competitors include ease of install and removal. Due to the range of offerings, each media presents its own challenges, which should be tested based on the application and recommendations offered by the manufacturer or dealer.
Covello points out that heavier gauge cling vinyl is easier for a novice installer to handle when compared with adhesive media. Also, he notes that it typically carries a lower material cost than other adhesive media options.
“There is no adhesive to deal with when applying,” comments Dworman. “When properly installed, the superior clarity that static cling offers over adhesive media make the graphic seamlessly appear as part of the window,” he adds.
“Compared to adhesive media, static cling is much easier to reposition,” says Hunter. “Static cling is also reusable, making it great for short-term applications.”
Environmental benefits also apply to cling media. “Many adhesives are solvent-based and therefore not the best choice for environmentally conscious interior environments,” says Walker.
Challenges do arise. Stan Holt, business development manager, North America, Continental Grafix, notes that static cling vinyl’s plasticizers and short shelf life can affect printability.
Dworman admits that due to fact that static cling is a much softer film by nature; it can be a little more difficult to apply than pressure-sensitive vinyl.
Depending on the artwork, visibility could also be a concern when compared against perforated, pressure-sensitive adhesive window films, where one-way visibility is retained, comments Bellah.
Traditional static cling and similar non-adhesive window media provide PSPs with options for both indoor and outdoor marketing, décor, and wayfinding graphics. However, it is important to be diligent in researching options for an application. Traditional static cling, and solutions that have taken their own spin on the technology, present factors to consider in order to provide the best results.
Feb2015, Digital Output