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Stick, Cling, & Paste

Digitally Printed Wallcoverings Found in All Environments

By Melissa Donovan

Cost-effectively designing and decorating a space—whether commercial or residential—with the correct materials can be challenging. Paint is an effective method. Wallpaper or wallcoverings offer many more options when it comes to pattern, texture, and design; however it is only in the last few years that it’s found its place in the décor space.


“The last time wallpaper was popular, parachute pants were all the rage. Recent growth is due to the availability of digital print technology that allows wall graphics to be custom designed and the introduction of new media that can be permanently mounted and easily moved or repositioned,” explains Julie Gederos, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.


Created from various substrates—vinyl, film, fabric, and magnets—each type has carved out its own space in this niche. Media manufacturers create durable materials with easy to apply and remove adhesive properties that open up this application to a variety of environments. With the range of options, wallcoverings are receiving attention from Web-based print service providers (PSPs) and consumers to professional architects and interior designers.


Media Breakdown

Wallcovering usage is broken into two main categories—commercial and residential. Commercial spaces primarily rely on wall media as a promotional tool; whereas residential is traditionally for décor purposes. Adhesive-backed media, traditional wallcovering material, and magnets are found in both environments depending on the different circumstances presented.


Adhesive-backed vinyl or film is ideal for short-term commercial promotions indoors and provides an easy way to apply and remove without damaging the under surface. “Many point of purchase (POP) campaigns are short term or seasonally based, so the graphics need to look good for a shorter time period, like a couple of months, versus years,” explains Joel Ross, senior marketing communications manager, Avery Dennison Graphics and Reflective Solutions.


Laura Schied, marketing manager, Renolit, explains that today’s premium calendered films are thinner, glossier, conform better, and shrink less—while still maintaining a cost effectiveness compared to other film types.


Vinyl or film is ideal for high-traffic spaces because of its ease of cleaning. “For example, a medical office or restaurant environment needs to withstand frequent cleaning, so the product must be durable and long lasting,” explains Michael Prewitt, technical development manager – inkjet media, Neschen Americas.


Type II commercial wallcovering products—typically without adhesive already on the backing—are found in long-term spaces because of the level of durability. “Printable commercial wallcoverings are generally supplied in a 54-inch and sometimes wider width. These products are heavier and designed for measurable durability to perform in environments where there is exposure to the public and periodic cleaning is necessary,” shares Peter Spotto, director of sales, DreamScape.


“This level of durability is necessary due to the high levels of traffic that can cause abrasion or other harm to surfaces. Traffic near walls can often stain or mar the wall surface, which is why it is vital that Type II wallcoverings be easily cleanable,” adds Kirill Zelin, inside sales/brand development specialist, KoroGraphics, a division of RJF International Corporation.


Fabric-based wallcoverings are used in residential environments. “They are well suited for the home, where a more aesthetically pleasing appearance is wanted and in the retail/commercial environment where a more eco-friendly option is required,” suggests Jim Tufts, business unit manager, Perception Wide Format Media.


Magnets are also popular wallcovering options, best suited to commercial space to promote products and branding messages because of easy change out capabilities. Dan Halkyard, director of marketing and product management, Visual Magnetics Ltd., advises that magnetic receptive materials used in this type of application are best for indoor environments only.


“Environment plays a huge role in determining which magnetic media to use. Vinyl laminates work well in both indoor and outdoor applications, whereas paper laminate magnetic media is suitable for indoor use only. Most vinyl laminate magnetic media performs well in adverse weather and in a range of temperatures and humidity levels,” further explains Nicole Sheridan, marketing manager, Magnum Magnetics Corporation.


Variables to Consider

The list of suitable environments for wallcoverings encompasses everything from retail, education, hospitality, healthcare, residential, and corporate to sports venues, trade shows, restaurants, and museums/historical sites.


“The current products available can be used almost anywhere. However, there are trends that favor certain materials in certain environments,” admits Jason Yard, marketing manager, MACtac Graphic Products.


Type—vinyl, film, fabric, or magnet—depends on factors such as short- or long-term placement, high traffic, and if it requires protection or cleaning. “Exposure, traffic, durability, sustainability, and even acoustics can all play a part. You wouldn’t put white silk in a children’s museum,” advises Matt Devlin, VP business development North America, NatureWoven, Natural AdCampaign.


Conformability is another consideration. “Typically, conformability comes from face stock formulation; whereas adhesion and ease of removability comes from adhesive formulation; and air egress technology comes from using an embossed liner,” explains Ritchie Daize, international digital sales manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC.


Certain face stock is highly conformable at low temperatures so applicators can form the vinyl over textures without burning or overstretching. This is usually a practice for highly textured surfaces.


According to Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex Group, Inc., it is essential to question whether the material will need to be removed without damage to the wall. Many mediums prevent this from happening.


“Like traditional wallpapers, some wallcoverings require the use of a wet paste for installation. The use of thinned layers of paste or sizing enables the forming of a thin skin/film for the wallcovering to be applied to—ensuring easy removal of the wallcovering at the end of its life,” explains Ed McCarron, director of sales and marketing, InteliCoat Technologies.


Conversely, damage isn’t always a challenge. “Wallcoverings that may not need to be removed, or where damage to the substrate during removal is not a concern, may be made from almost any graphic film,” adds Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M Commercial Graphics.


Adhesion Matters

The environment and skill level of an installer affects where a medium is used. Ease of application is essential for beginners whereas an experienced installer can commit to more complex methods. Regardless of the scenario, removability is essential. Change outs should allow for an end user to easily flip between designs as tastes or promotions change.


“Different types of adhesives determine how easy a wallcovering is to install and remove and how well it sticks to surfaces,” shares Dione Metnick, product line manager, LexJet Corporation.


Adhesive possibilities include fabric-based non-adhesive vinyl, pre-pasted back, self-adhesive backed media, magnetic, and static cling. Gederos points out that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to adhesion. In Roland’s product development process it discovered not all walls are created equal. Walls in new construction homes carry a finished, uneven surface, requiring a slightly more aggressive wallcovering adhesive. However, in older, colonial style homes, walls feature a flat finish, allowing for adhesion to be less of a factor.


Jodi Haugen, national accounts manager, Ritrama, agrees. Citing that to ensure success, it is crucial to know what type of surface a wallcovering is being adhered to, such as sheet rock, metal, melamine, or plastic. If it is painted, the installer must determine paint type and when it was painted.


An experienced installer is generally required to apply fabric-based, non-adhesive vinyl as either the wall is pasted with glue prior to applying the media or glue placed on the media and then applied to the wall.


Products are available with a pre-pasted back, for example Hewlett-Packard (HP) PVC-Free wallpaper, with glue on the back activated by tap water. Other vendors offer similar do-it-yourself options with self-adhesive material that acts as a peel and stick. These products can be vinyl, film, or textile based.


Joseph M. Rooney, director of sales and marketing, McGrann Digital Imaging, explains that many products with removable adhesive are easy to install, so much so that when used in retail chains, many sales associates at a store install the graphics to eliminate unnecessary costs.


Magnetic-based wallcoverings are popular due to ease of application, fast install, and ability to quickly change out depending on shorter term promotional periods. No special tools or expertise is necessary. “The use of magnetic strip, sheeting, and magnetically receptive material for wallcoverings is most beneficial for the simplicity of installation and removal,” advises Melissa Thompson, sales manager of flexible magnetic products, Master Magnetics, Inc.


John De Leon, director of sales and marketing, Flexmag Industries, a division of Arnold Magnetic Technologies, explains that magnetic receptive material can adhere to a wall in a variety of ways. It can be mounted and then the printed magnetic sheet placed on top. Alternatively, the magnetic sheet can be mounted to the wall and the magnetic receptive sheet placed on top. Both allow for easy removal or relocation.


Static cling is another alternative. ClingZ Inc.’s ClingZ is a statically charged film that clings to any indoor surface—from wood, brick, painted walls, stucco, or glass without adhesive. Found in retail as well as home décor the company claims it does not leave residue or damage surfaces when removed.


Other Factors

While intended environment and adhesion play a part in determining which type of media is a best fit, other factors do come into focus depending on the project.


Finish or texture is an important consideration. Depending on the surface the media is applied to, the wallcovering may need a texture to mask what is below. In addition, a special finish may be used to transform concrete to a stucco wall. “One of the key differentiators in the wall décor market is the texture and embossing on media. Some spaces will prefer a flat/natural surface; others will prefer a unique embossing or texture,” shares Asaf Lavi, decoration segment manager, large format digital printing, HP.


Dimensional textures include stone finishes, canvas and weaves, or leather. “Just the look and finish of a textured wall graphic versus a smooth plastic provides desirable and inherent value,” adheres Stan Holt, business development director, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.


Gloss and matte finishes also play a part in selection. “Store retail environments where merchandise is sold will often have bright lights so a matte or satin finish to help reduce glare is desired,” explains Mike Richardson, director sales/marketing – print media, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.


Sustainable wallcovering media is a necessity for some end users, such as corporations looking to parlay their eco-friendly message all the way through the supply chain. With shorter life expectancies of promotions a popular option, vendors look to use responsibly sourced materials.


Environments with sustainability in mind include hospitality, healthcare, and retail. Lisa Berghaus, director marketing communications, Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc., also points out that there are generally no compromises in performance, aesthetics, or economics with eco-friendly media. Coinciding with environmentally friendly methods is standards for air quality, chemical, and toxin contents as well.


“The composition of the material plays a role in its service life and application, PVC, PES, or hybrid materials. A PVC vinyl may be more durable, while a PES material may be more sustainable,” explains Jaime Sherman, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.


Companies like DHJ International conform to the latest standards, including European REACH directives to offer sustainability focused wallcovering media. “With this in mind, from a health and safety point of view, these are far better when free from phthalates, heavy metals, and other harmful substances,” shares Blaise Humphries, product development manager, Decoprint, DHJ.


The Never Ending End User

Digital wallcoverings are everywhere thanks to media advancements. Consumers purchase at retail stores or through the Web. Professional interior designers and architects rely on PSPs to print personalized projects for jobs in hospitality, corporate offices, and healthcare environments. Retail brands turn to marketing agencies and print providers to create POP applications. Even wallpaper companies look to digital print to create wallcoverings.


Online shoppers purchase and personalize their own wallcoverings through the Web, uploading high-resolution images and then choosing the size. “A developing market is pre-created or custom home décor that is ordered online and installed by the buyer. Consumers create their own graphics or download established designs. The graphics are printed and shipped to them with installation instructions,” shares Avery Dennison’s Ross.


In retail both major big box stores and even smaller one-off retailers understand the benefits of wallcoverings. According to Arlon’s Daize, they see this application as an economical way to advertise without needing to use structurally damaging hardware and expensive light boxes.


Artists are also using wallcovering media. Art reproduction houses use textured vinyl wallcovering. “The selection of textured surfaces combined with a strong woven fabric backing make wallcovering a flexible media option for art reproduction,” explains DreamScape’s Spotto.


It All Comes Back to You

There are an endless amount of end users demanding digitally printed wallcoverings. Each requires a print provider, whether Web-based or storefront, to print the finished product.


Print providers can print, design, and deliver to an end user themselves. Or print and deliver to a wallpaper company, retailer, interior designer, or architect who designed the product. They can also print and deliver to a marketing agency that created the product for a retailer. And then there is the consumer who uploads a personalized design or purchases a pre-designed graphic, another customer to print for.


This is where the possibilities grow for a PSP, the amount of customers in the wallcovering space is endless and the various marketing channels continue to expand.


Jun2013, Digital Output

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