When researching warranties of protective films and coatings, underlying media plays a large role. “The print media needs to have an equal or longer warranty than the protective film,” says Ritchie Daize, international account manager, Arlon, Inc. He notes that the print media and inks used must be compatible and share a warranty before introducing a third element to the mix.
Stephen Berman, chief executive, Clearstar LP, seconds the importance of underlying media warranties, as they cover some of the physical characteristics, such as adhesion and cold crack performance that cannot be improved with the use of a protective coating. Warranties offer limited coverage for protective coatings. “Proper selection of a coating tailored to the end use and performance expectation is more important,” he says.
Choosing a media and laminate solution that is warranted by the same company is strongly suggested. When different companies warranty laminates and media separately, it is difficult to determine what went wrong in the event of a failure. “Few suppliers or manufacturers offer warranties on both the print media and the laminate. This is where warranties tend to break down,” explains Jeff Leto, product manager, LexJet Corporation. “Getting either company to agree about what went wrong and to take responsibility for their particular end of the equation is next to impossible,” he warns.
Many warranties are designed to cover entire systems, which include a combination of ink, laminate, and media. “The media is critical to both the overall durability and the appearance of the graphic,” shares Jeffrey Stadelman, technical marketing manager, MACtac Graphic Products. “A vehicle wrap, for example, is a fairly complicated application. There must be synergy between the laminate, the ink, and the print media to work properly.”
Terms of Warranty
Depending on the application, a variety of elements go into determining and defining a warranty. Factors such as indoor versus outdoor use, geographical location, temperature, UV light exposure, life expectancy, as well as the desired level of protection, all affect the warranty.
Additionally, there are two common forms of protective overlaminates—films, which are broken into cast and calendered; and liquid coatings. The compatibility with underlying media as well as their expected performance could differ with each type.
“We are not comparing apples to apples when we compare a cast to a calendered film,” says Jennifer Greenquist, inks and warranties business manager, 3M Graphics Market Center. Cast films are typically thinner, more flexible, and stronger than calendered films. Since they are able to conform and adhere well to challenging contours, it can save both time and cost during installation. “You do pay for those features,” admits Greenquist. “As a result, cast films tend to have the best warranted durability.”
Film warranties cover the film itself, such as yellowing, cracking, crazing, and delamination. Image fading is covered by the warranty of the ink manufacturer in most cases. Some film warranties spell out a specific life extension for the digital print, but this is rare due to a range of variables, explains Arlon’s Daize.
“Each application is unique. The best and safest way to ensure proper wear of a particular media and film/liquid combination is to have it tested in the lab or field. Typical liquid warranties for fleet graphics range from two to five years,” says David Conrad, senior product manager, Neschen America.
Ed Pierce, product manager, lamination supplies, GBC, notes the importance of a guarantee over a warranty. “Warranties are always laden with legal requirements that are difficult to prove. What really matters is that you buy from someone you trust to stand behind the products. If your relationship is weak or the company is unlikely to accept responsibility your warranty will be of little value,” he says.
Terminology can lead to confusion. It is important that expectations are in line with what the vendor or supplier offers. Many manufacturers carry a materials warranty, which covers product quality as shipped from the factory. A performance guarantee is another warranty level, this provides assurance that the print media and laminates are tested for approved ink sets and are deemed compatible.
“A market-specific level of warranty, known as the OEM warranty, is typical for manufacturers of RVs, boats, personal recreation vehicles, etc.,” adds Paul Roba, North American technical manager, Avery Dennison. This warranty provides coverage for the previous levels of warranty in addition to some manufacturing costs associated with the graphics. Finally, a platinum warranty is still higher and covers most of the costs included in the previous levels, plus portions of removal and replacement of graphics in the field as deemed appropriate by the supplier.
The next part of the series provides a preview into how industry advancements are affecting protective films and coatings.