By Olivia Cahoon
Print service providers (PSPs) offer window media for a range of locations including corporate, hospitality, medical, and retail. From adhesive-backed perforated and non-perforated to static cling and static cling-like options, a variety of substrates are used in window applications. PSPs search for the best media solution for the job considering durability, location, climate, and cost.
Above: LexJet, part of S-one, WR Window Graphic Film is a water-resistant white polypropylene film with a low-tack adhesive.
Adhesive-backed perforated media offers durability for interior and exterior windows in buildings, convenience stores, restaurants, vehicle graphics, and other areas that seek to enhance space while allowing customers to view through the window from inside.
Adhesive-backed perforated media is typically used for outdoor, short-term applications. The material’s perforated hole sizes determine transparency. Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation, says perforation hole sizes differ according to application and the graphic’s location. “Vehicles are typically 50/50, whereas building wraps can be 80/20,” she explains.
50/50 applications offer equal printability and visibility on the surface area while 80/20 allows 80 percent printability and 20 percent open transparency. View-through vinyl allows for seeing out but not in—providing security and privacy. Hunter suggests using optically clear overlaminate with this media to extend the durability of the application.
Dennis Brunnett, technical service specialist, FLEXcon, agrees and says adhesive-backed perforated window films are used whenever one-way vision is desired—especially in privacy applications like conference rooms or ATMs. These films require installation above 50 degrees and typically last up to 180 days.
However, adhesive-backed perforated media can be difficult to install and generally requires a professional. PSPs may also have difficulty printing this material due to the holes.
Adhesive-backed non-perforated media is preferred for communication and decorative space enhancements. Tammi Johnson, business development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions, says adhesive-backed non-perforated films are often applied in environments where visibility is not preferred, like retail units under construction.
These films can also be printed as full opacity to mostly translucent. “Depending on the printer and RIP used, it’s possible to perform a day and night print producing the same image on either viewing side of the film,” offers Jim Halloran, VP sales and marketing, Lintec of America, Inc.
Printing to optically clear, non-perforated film allows PSPs to produce graphics that appear as if the glass was actually printed. Halloran says an additional benefit of these films is most can be removed with minimal effort and replaced at the discretion of the customer.
Alan Dworman, president, Catalina Graphic Films, Inc., believes that adhesive-backed, non-perforated media offers a lower cost than perforated media and doesn’t require professional installers. This media is typically durable for up to one year and is used with multiple printing platforms.
Clear and white products are applied in hospitality and retail markets. White products are used to create a backer for clear films, according to Darren Speizer, VP, sales and marketing, Drytac.
Adhesive-backed non-perforated media can provide an added design element for retail. Frosted films are translucent and simulate etched glass with an optically clear adhesive. René Bourgeois, key account manager, ASLAN, Schwarz GmbH & CO. KG, says decorative films etched in glass, dusted glass, and milk glass effects are ideal for creating custom durable privacy screens in offices, hospitals, and private homes.
“Etched glass is primarily used for office decoration where the film allows for partial privacy in offices while still leaving the area feeling open,” agrees Kelly Kwo, technical services manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
The longevity of adhesive-backed graphics depends on the substrate’s base. Cory Jones, associate product manager, wide format, GBC & SEAL, part of ACCO Brands, explains that self-adhesive vinyl can be monomeric or polymeric. Polymeric is durable for up to seven years outside while monomeric is durable for five years. The longevity of graphics also depends on adhesive types—permanent or removable.
Additional non-perforated media considered for window applications includes pressure-sensitive films and transparent cast PVC printing films. “Digital printing on these materials provides both customization and personalized design options,” says Johnson.
Metalized adhesive-backed vinyl is one example. “It offers an eye-catching solution for indoor and outdoor window signage. If a customer is looking for a unique material to draw consumer attention quickly they should consider metalized adhesive-backed vinyl,” shares Laura Slovensky, commercial project manager, Nekoosa.
Static cling is used for interior applications like short-term indoor and outdoor promotional materials. Depending on the décor, print providers can use clear or white vinyl for static cling media. If stored properly, the media is generally reusable.
Matt Buckley, director, business development, wide format, GPA, Specialty Substrate Solutions, believes static cling media is ideal for consumer goods, food and beverage, grocery, and automotive markets. Its applications include window advertising, point of purchase (POP), temporary signage, and freezer door clings.
E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Que Media Inc., agrees and says that most fast food restaurants use static cling because it’s easy to apply and remove. “It’s common in fast food chains because they are usually installed by management or employees who are not professional sign installers,” he explains. Static cling offers repositionability to avoid mistakes or reprints.
While static cling is a popular choice for temporary POP applications, Judy Heft, product manager, graphic consumables, Nazdar SourceOne, advises PSPs to consider the shelf life due to the high concentration of plasticizers. She advises, “these films become unsuitable for printing in as little as three months from date of manufacture. The low cost of static cling jumps significantly if waste material is considered.” The oils in old cling media can surface and affect quality and printability. Static cling media usually has a shelf life of up to six months.
Static Cling-Like Options
Static cling-like options use alternative methods to adhere to a surface. “These would give you a longer term of usage but have similar qualities as a static cling product,” says Shaun Jaycox, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation. For high climate and traffic areas, he suggests considering a laminate for additional protection.
Static cling-like options incorporate very low-tack adhesives that mimic easy installation and removal properties of static cling. “This construction is a bit more robust than static cling and therefore can be used in more environments and for larger coverage areas,” shares Ed McCarron, wide format applications manager, Dietzgen Corporation. He believes the adhesion is barely noticeable while securing to the glass.
Another benefit, according to Larry Delesio, business development manager, wide format materials, DAF Products Inc., is that for mounting directly to the inside of windows no other mounting films or tape is required.
Companies like Ritrama offer static cling-like options. Optically clear graphics don’t build adhesion and are suggested for wet application. Ultra-removable PVC clear films are also offered as static cling-like options with little adhesion but are easily removed with no residue.
Some static cling-like media uses proprietary technology to adhere to the surface. For example, micro-jell applications allow for easy installation and removal without shrinking or curling from temperature or climate change, explains Mark Feibig, VP of sales, GlassApeel, Infinity Media Company.
Similarly, micro-suction technology is used to avoid adhesive synthetic papers. Bill Hewitt, marketing manager, Yupo Corporation, says tiny suction cups form on one side to grip any flat, smooth surface.
“This material can be removed and reused many times. It can also be used on other solid non-porous surfaces where air cannot pass through,” cites Darrel Adams, VP, America, Newlife Magnetics LLC.
Selection of the best material for a window application is based on the environment. This includes durability, distribution methods, finishing requirements, length of time, removability ease, sun exposure, and temperature. PSPs must work closely with customers to understand the application and the project’s goals.
“It’s also important to identify if the desired media is used either as a communication vehicle or as a design aesthetic to enhance an environment,” suggests Johnson.
Gary York, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics, recommends PSPs be aware of the different grades of PVC and PET products. He advises PSPs to become familiar with the specifications of each to select the right material for the job. Some are longer lasting while others are better for scuff resistance, shrinking, and opaqueness.
PSPs should also consider pattern types for each application—patterns yield different results based on printable surface and transparency. Jason Maricle, product manager, Concept Perforated Window Film, General Formulations, explains that the first number in a pattern represents the amount of printable surface area and the second number represents the open area for transparency, which determines visibility.
He offers, “a 50/50 pattern offers equal percentages of printable surface area and open area for visibility. The 50 percent transparency offers maximum see-through visibility however, image vibrancy is reduced due to less printable surface area.”
Efficient window applications not only rely on media type but the installation process as well. Hunter warns that applying any media to a dirty window can result in adhesion problems, therefore it’s important to make sure the glass surface is clean prior to application.
She also suggests PSPs be conscious of the direction the graphic is facing. “It’s important to consider how much exposure to direct sunlight it will receive. Depending upon the placement of the graphic and how long it will be displayed, you may want to consider using an overlaminate to extend the print’s life,” advises Hunter.
Josh Zaller, product manager, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, warns PSPs to not apply graphics to exterior windows if the glass surface temperature is below 50 degrees because pressure-sensitive adhesives don’t stick well to cold surface substrates. Using opaque films on external windows to block sunlight may result in glass breakage from elevated surface temperature.
Marcel Medved, business development director, Continental Grafix, believes that exterior-mount materials offer the best color vibrancy. However, he cautions that exterior materials require skilled installation and are subjected to vandalism. While interior-mount graphics are easier to install, color hues can be affected by glares or tinting.
“Usually, more expensive products are easy to install and cheaper materials are more difficult,” shares Clay Reierson, director of operations, Xcel Products, Inc. Understanding the situation, like graphic and program size, can help determine the best solution for the job. He says PSPs shouldn’t hire professional installers for larger quantities spread out over the country. Instead, he advises PSPs to invest in an air release product that provides a quality look even by novice installers.
Window media is extending beyond building windows to buses, trains, and subway wraps—offering brands and marketers more promotional area. “In Detroit, we’ve seen automobile manufacturers incorporate building wraps into the launch of new vehicles and advertising campaigns centered on the Super Bowl,” explains Zaller.
In fact, Johnson believes windows are the most underutilized space in a commercial environment. “With more transparent building designs, we are starting to see individuals acknowledge the benefits of putting their glass surfaces to work,” she offers. Customers now utilize varied and creative concepts by combining advertising campaigns, architectural guidelines, and brands.
Eric Bartosz, director of business development, Contra Vision, notices see-through window graphics being used more than ever. They offer the potential to transform glass into promotional materials while maintaining the window’s primary function.
Illuminated windows have also begun to appear in retail window spaces. Rebecca Fuhrman, digital market development manager, Tekra, a division of EIS, Inc., says that as a result of illuminated windows, more materials are appearing with proper translucidity, which allows materials to be lit from the front or back without creating hot spots or glares.
“Designers want a broader palate for design as well as durability. Trending now is full-scale colored art for glass designs, with the added advantage of using natural ambient or LED lighting on the glass designs, accomplishing translucent or purely optically transparent color effects,” agrees Richard Purdum, president, Solar Graphics Inc.
Other window media trends include the growth in popularity of static cling-like products. According Josh Cormany, media division manager, Gans Digital, these types of materials offer a bubble-free installation area for permanent adhesive vinyl installation. They act similarly to magnetic wall applications, except the permanent adhesive vinyl becomes a removable, static cling-like material.
“Recent trends are toward easier application products. Static cling-like materials offer excellent performance and an ease of application not seen with many traditional window products,” adds Ted Isbell, graphics specialist, Piedmont Plastics.
From office buildings and hospitals to restaurants, buses, and retail, every piece of glass is an opportunity for advertising and décor. A variety of media options are available for window graphics including adhesive-backed perforated and non-perforated and static cling and static cling-like options. Before choosing media, PSPs should consider the graphic’s durability needs, environment, and printing methods.
Nov2017, Digital Output