Wallcovering media underwent many developments throughout the last ten years. Original products, still widely in use today, require wallpaper pastes to be applied directly to the media prior to installation, similar to traditional wallpaper. This type of media can be printed on digitally, but the application process takes an extended amount of time due to the limited repositioning of the media once the glue is adhered. Many print service providers (PSPs) outsource installation, which becomes costly.
New products offer more than just ease of installation, but also reusability and repositionability come hand in hand. PSPs are now able to devote their time and money into creating these expansive works of art.
"Most recently, the evolution of wallcoverings led to a convenient adhesive-backed media providing a peel-and-stick option for users. This textured, easy-to-install material hides wall imperfections and provides a softer look," explains Peter Spotto, manager, worldwide sales, DreamScape.
Adhesive-backed media leaves less room for error, as many feature repositionability. Chemicals in the adhesives also limit cosmetic mishaps. "Substrates and adhesives evolved from a heavy board stock with double-sided tape as the attachment medium to thin, flexible films equipped with self-adhesive that creates minimal wall damage," claims Chuck Bules, technical service manager, Arlon Inc.
Changes in the make-up of the adhesives provide options for users. Walls no longer need to be stripped of paint prior to the application of a graphic, suggests Lance Hutt, global product manager, Avery Graphics.
"Additionally, consumers are presented with a wider range of material choices including vinyl, paper, and fabrics," adds David Grant, VP of marketing, Oracal USA.
Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama Inc. agrees. "The variety of substrates and adhesive offerings has increased immensely."
Textures are also evolving, enhancements including embossments "provide more options for the aesthetic appeal of the final application," shares Jaime Giannantonio, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
Curling is virtually diminished with the advent of fabric-based adhesive-backed wallcovering media. Originally, explains John D. Peterman, executive VP, Big Systems, LLC, the combination of vinyl and solvent ink resulted in edge curling and other adhesion problems. "Printed graphics could not be contour cut to the edge of the image and no one wanted wall graphics with a white perimeter surrounding the printed image."
Justin Jansing, graphics design manager, Speedpro Imaging, based in Indianapolis, IN offers his insight on the successful evolution of wallcoverings. "Digitally printed wallcoverings played a larger part in advertising as more creative minds entered the industry. As equipment and materials advanced in accessibility, graphic artists and interior designers integrated themselves into this ever-expanding business. When you combine creativity with improved technology and materials it becomes an endless stream of revenue."
Improvement All Around
Printer and ink improvements coincide with media advancements. Speed and heightened resolution pave the way for high-quality output viewed up-close and at a distance.
"The changes in printing technologies, including durable inkjet inks and significantly improved image quality, make digitally printed wallcoverings much more appealing even at close viewing," remarks Jeffrey Stadelman, technical marketing manager, MACtac Graphic Products.
UV-curable printing in particular effects wallcoverings. Traditionally, UV-curable inks were used for rigid prints, because of the cracking that ensued when media was bent. "The introduction of UV-curable roll-to-roll printers and hybrids, with more flexible inks, extend the printer base for wallcoverings. Some UV-curable machines also possess greater ink adhesion, which reduces the possibility of scuffing and abrasions in the printed surface," says Spotto.
"UV printing significantly reduces the incidence of edge curling. Some consumers may also prefer the lower gloss level associated with UV inks for interior applications," shares Grant.
That isn’t to say that wallcoverings should only be printed with UV-curable inks. Grant believes many use aqueous ink to reduce curing time, however this requires a more expensive coated media. All types of solvent inks are applicable with wallcoverings, however he suggests allowing media to outgas sufficiently before installation, or edge curling occurs.
"A majority of wallcoverings are printed with solvent inks because they have the ability to embed into uncoated vinyl, offer great flexibility, and allow for liquid lamination. Aqueous inks are also used for wallcoverings in areas such as Asia, where fire and environmental concerns are paramount," says John Coyne, sales manager, Lintec of America.
Join the Revolution
Wallcovering media has come a long way, but not without the help of ink and hardware advancements. Technology continues to push PSPs to take on more offerings and provide a wider breadth of services to their clients. Media vendors have certainly made it easier for those once on the fence about wallcoverings to hop over.
Next week read about various media products on the market from the top vendors in the wallcovering media space.
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Essential Efficiency.