Applications exposed to elements for a prolonged period of time should consider protective coating. Whether a graphic is displayed indoors or outdoors, it is subject to UV rays, dust, dirt, fingerprints, abrasions, and weathering. With these threats present, protection is important.
Despite continued advancements in ink durability, print service providers (PSPs) choose liquid coating as a source of protection. Certain substrates are more applicable then others. “Coatings provide the scratch and scuff protection and make it easier to keep the print clean. Their real benefit is keeping the print looking good even in the normally rated life of the inks and media,” says Ike Harris, president, Daige, Inc.
In addition to protection, liquid coatings enhance image quality depending on the desired finish, for example matte, gloss, or luster. Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation, believes this trend is catching on due to rising consumer expectations.
Fine art is a popular application for liquid coating, as the media commonly used benefits from both protection and appearance. “Inkjet papers and canvas are porous like a sponge, even after the ink has been applied. You need to protect and seal your print from moisture, atmospheric contaminants, abrasions, and even fingerprints. Coating will extend the life of your prints and add value to them,” says Tom Feikls, president, Premier Imaging Products.
Wallcoverings are another consideration. Liquid topcoats, according to Peter Spotto, director of sales, DreamScape, are the best preservation choice for this application due to the fact they are installed in relatively high-traffic areas. “Hallways, or public places—like restaurants—where there is a chance of incidental contact, are good examples. It’s natural that customers want to protect their investment and a liquid laminate is a quick and cost effective solution,” he continues.
PSPs and their customers wish to ensure the quality of the look and life of various applications, which means a consistent market for liquid coating manufacturers.
Currently on the Market
Daige offers Rollaguard coating. Available in gloss and satin finishes, it is ideal for protecting canvas, vinyl, banners, and digital wallpapers. The coating safeguards against UV rays, abrasions, and water while also allowing media to retain its flexibility. Rollaguard does not crack or peel after application and helps to enhance ink vibrancy. At $75 for a gallon, this water-based coating is an affordable alternative to film laminates. The water-based coating, in the gallon bottle, covers roughly 950 square feet of media.
DreamScape’s DreamGuard Protex3 liquid topcoat preserves its digital wallcovering material. In satin or matte finishes, this water-based non-hazardous protective topcoat is specially designed to prevent damage to wallcoverings from scratches, smudges, abrasions, and food stains. It is priced at $75 per gallon.
Drytac offers UV-curable liquid coatings and aqueous liquid coatings. The InstaCure UV-curable line is eco-friendly, producing minimal odor. Ideal for direct mail, large graphic backdrops, and packaging solutions, it features 17 varieties with finishing options such as matte, gloss, and satin as well as options for hard coating, photo, point of purchase, dry erase, and toner finishing. A gallon of InstaCure from Drytac is priced at $95 to $125, depending on the finish.
EnduraCoat aqueous liquid coating features over four varieties specifically designed to protect fleet graphics, canvas prints, signs and banners, and digitally printed wallcoverings. In finishes such as gloss and lustre, the coating provides UV protection and scratch resistance. The EnduraCoat Ultraflex gloss is ideal for wraps, outdoor graphics, and vehicle wraps with non-yellowing properties and five year durability. EnduraCoat prices per gallon range in price depending on the specific finish, starting at around $70 and going up to $130.
From LexJet Corporation, its Sunset line of liquid coaters—offered in gloss and satin—are non-yellowing, fast-drying, and water-based. Both options do not require dilution or mixing, whether applied via brush, roller, or spray. Cost per gallon is $75.
Marabu North America’s ClearShield CSX 5000 is the newest generation ClearShield product. Utilizing the latest polymer technology, this self cross-linking product is a high-performance, water-based clear liquid laminate. It exhibits excellent chemical resistance, abrasion resistance, and long-term UV protection.
Frank Shea, digital and print coatings manager, NuCoat, Inc., discusses the newest addition to the company’s barrier coating family and its benefits. “Direct Thermal Top Coat with Non-Silicone Release properties for self-wound label applications dramatically cut raw material costs and offer sustainability advantages as liners typically constitute 40 to 50 percent of waste in these applications,” he shares.
Premier Imaging’s water-based PremierArt Eco Print Shield is an environmentally friendly coating engineered for inkjet water-resistant canvas. Created using acrylic resins and cross-linking advanced polymer technology, the coating does not crack when stretched or become brittle over time. Canvas coated with Eco Print Shield is protected against moisture, humidity, atmospheric contaminants, light, abrasions, and fingerprints. This non-toxic coating is available in stain, glossy, and matte finishes and pricing based on distributor varies depending on each finish, ranging from $104 to $115 a gallon.
The company also produces PremierArt Print Shield, a lacquer-based spray that increases water-resistance on inkjet media such as fine art cotton paper and photo resin coated paper. Its low solid formula maintains the original look of a print’s surface while also eliminating pigmented ink gloss differentials. A UV blocker doubles lightfast rating and the non-yellowing formulas ensure longer lasting prints. The spray is available through distributors in cans priced at $14.99.
Liquid coating is applied via rolling or spraying. Rolling is performed by hand rolling with a paint roller or rolled through a machine. Spraying is performed with either an aerosol can or a spray gun. The above mentioned companies offer a variety of products and suggestions for applying liquid coatings.
Daige offers the EZ Glide to apply Rollaguard coating. This non-electric applicator applies a precision coating that is consistently smooth and even. It is ideal for coating wide format inkjet prints. Priced between $450 and $795, these tabletop applicators fit nicely into a sign shop or service bureau.
DreamScape’s DreamGuard Protex3 liquid topcoat can be applied to wallcoverings before or after installation with either a liquid laminator or a low nap paint roller. Dry time is approximately 45 minutes.
Drytac provides application machines for both its UV-curable and aqueous liquid coatings. The VersaCoater UV series is available in a variety of models with prices ranging from $1,506 to $7,200. These machines are designed to produce the best quality application while also maintaining a smaller machine footprint. The UV roll coater machines offer a user-friendly experience with easy-to-use controls and automated cleaning and shutdown process.
The company’s Smart Coater, priced at $16,995 for the 1.6- and 2.2-meter models and specialized pricing for the 3.2-meter model, flash dries ink as well as applies aqueous-based coating to vinyl, non-porous textiles, wet-strength wall covering, canvas, and other flexible substrates.
Marabu’s ClearShield line of liquid coatings is applied in a number of methods, including brush, roller, spray, and automated machines. The company recommends its StarLam 1600R 64-inch roll-to-roll laminator as one such option.
Meyer rods, gravure, knife over roll, and blades are utilized to apply NuCoat liquid coatings.
While Premier Imaging’s PremierArt Print Shield is available in a ready to spray can or liquid bulk for spray guns, Eco Print Shield can be applied by either hand rolling using a high-density foam roller with a paint tray or by spray method.
The Staying Power of Liquid Coating
Liquid coating remains a contender for providing graphics with a strong defense against discoloration, scratches, dust, grime, and direct contact. In the second part of this series Alan S. Maltz Gallery and its use of liquid coatings is profiled.