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Rigid Substrate Tips


Advice for High-Quality Output


By Amber E. Watson


Part 2 of 2


Part one of this series outlined common applications for rigid substrates. Directional signage, point of purchase (POP), and trade show exhibits are three offerings that generate a lot of business for print service providers (PSPs).


Signs are everywhere—in office complexes, schools, and parking lots. Buildings require signs to direct occupants, highlight exits, and provide other information. Strict regulations exist for safety signs in high-rise buildings. The consistent need for durable and effective sign markers makes it a solid rigid substrate print application.


On a less common but grander scale, POP and trade show exhibits and displays also benefit from printing on rigid substrate. These applications are specially created for occasions, events, products, or marketing campaigns. As consumers and organizations experience increasingly creative output achieved with rigid media, their own visions and ideas become more innovative and they expect PSPs to deliver.


With the ability to print on many types of rigid media, the possibilities are endless—and so are the challenges. It takes time and practice for PSPs to master output on various substrates, but it is worth the investment in order to wow clients and remain on the cutting edge.


Attention to Detail

When printing on rigid substrates that may vary in thickness and uniformity, attention to detail is crucial for best results. Jeffrey E. Brito, display graphics knowledge center manager, Océ North America, advises PSPs to be mindful of variable thickness, weight, and surface uniformity. “Always check the thickness of rigid media in a few spots to understand the degree of variation, and inspect material for surface uniformity. It cannot be taken for granted,” he cautions.


Candace Martin, junior product manager, EnCore Products, recommends asking the substrate manufacture for tolerance specifications and adjust the cartridge height slightly if using a flatbed printer to avoid issues.


Handle With Care

Other challenges associated with printing to rigid substrates, such as paper faced foamboard, include bowing and wrapping.  Martin advises “storing foamboard flat, being careful not to lean it on its edge or stand it vertically.  Also, store it in a controlled environment at 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and at a relative humidity between 45 to 50 percent.”


Clean material handling is important for the highest quality output free of marks, scratches, and other errors. “Whenever possible, it is best to use media with a clean-release protective liner,” says Brito.


“The surface of rigid substrates should be cleaned and free of any surface contaminates such as oil and dust particles before printing begins,” adds Brandon Wyatt, marketing manager, 3A Composites USA. On PVC and styrene-type sheets, fingerprints and scuffs will show through the ink and ruin the print.


Issues with Ink

PSPs should also remember that different inks work better on certain substrates. Adhesion of the inks to surfaces such as glass and acrylics is tricky. Use sharp blades and create multiple cuts so the ink surface is scored to help alleviate issues with ink chipping as the printed board is cut.


Some challenges depend upon whether the rigid substrate is directly printed via digital or screen. Due to the variety of equipment and continually changing ink packages available, Wyatt advises PSPs to consult with the equipment manufacturer before selecting ink and consider lay down and print speeds. Completing multiple tests and trial runs is wise before offering the service to customers.


Provide Solid Service

PSPs that want to compete in the sign, display, and exhibit print market must take the time to familiarize themselves with the nuances associated with various rigid substrates. The substrate itself should be chosen based on design and desired fabrication methods as well as location of the graphic display and its expected lifetime.


Handling the media with extreme care and taking the time to test its thickness, durability, and ink adhesion saves time and frustration in the long run. Producing quality output on the latest rigid media places a print shop on top.


Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Ideal Applications for Rigid Substrates.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Dec2011, Digital Output  DORS1211

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