By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
The latest media options enable print service providers (PSPs) to offer graphics for walls, floors, and windows. Based on location, these graphics are vulnerable to a number of factors that can affect quality and durability including abrasives, UV light, precipitation, dirt, dust, pedestrian traffic, and handling.
To ensure output lives up to its expectations, overlaminates enhance a graphic’s ability to withstand these factors, protecting both the substrate and ink in regard to UV resistance, durability, and visibility. They are also used to add desired visual and textural effects.
Depending on the particular job, the importance of an overlaminate varies. For example, the need to laminate a short-term indoor wall graphic isn’t as critical as ensuring a floor graphic has proper anti-slip protection. The length of time a graphic will be displayed, the amount of sun it will be exposed to, and the level of vulnerability to human traffic and handling are factors to consider when selecting the best substrate combination.
It is important to understand what is required of an overlaminate. “Thickness, composition, clarity, rigidity, flexibility, dimensional stability, and many other performance characteristics make overlaminate selection rather important, especially when trying to meet a price point or understand tradeoffs,” says Dennis Brunnett, product manager, advertising, FLEXcon.
Using the correct overlaminate can increase the life of a graphic by up to 50 percent suggests Jenny Faber, product management assistant, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
Graphics located in a high-traffic areas require added protection against normal wear and tear or even intentional damage. “The type of durability required depends on the amount of human interaction the graphic is exposed to and also its intended life span. Graphics exposed to a high volume of human interaction and those with a long lifecycle will require greater durability than short-term projects or those displayed in low-traffic areas,” offers Brian Biegel, marketing communications specialist, D&K Group, Inc.
In addition to protection from human traffic and handling, overlaminates are used to protect against ink fade and finish consistency.
Heather McCusker, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics, suggests that everyday laminate is low cost and has UV inhibitors to protect prints from being scratched and prolong the life of the inks. “Even when graphics are indoors, if they are near a window where they receive excessive sunlight, over time prints will fade,” she cautions.
Tamara Pitman, product manager, and Kristina Devine, senior marketing and pricing specialist, Coveris Advanced Coatings, add that choosing the right sheen for an application can be crucial in regards to visibility.
A range of laminates are available for different applications and purposes.
“The choice of overlaminate can affect the aesthetic appeal of the graphic or enhance the environment where the graphic appears, which can contribute to the desired customer experience, whether to reinforce the quality of the brand, take notice of the message, or enjoy the space they are in,” says Alan Miller, tech service manager, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Here, we highlight considerations for high-traffic applications, walls, windows, and floors.
Because there are many types of walls, there are also a range of wall graphic media and laminate options.
Miller suggests using overlaminates for walls that are thin, running from about 2 to 4 mil. He says they come in a variety of finishes and have a relatively smooth texture.
Biegel says wall graphics can use nearly any type of laminating film depending on the desired look and the amount of protection required for the application.
“Typically for a wall you would use a matte or luster to avoid a glare from a gloss laminate,” recommends McCusker.
Biegel adds that matte or textured finishes may help hide fingerprints and smudges on a wall exposed to human interaction.
Tyler Reich, director of product development, Qué Media, Inc., notes that walls don’t require much for proper lamination and protection. “Any PSA laminate will do just fine indoors,” he offers.
Matt Buckley, wide format product manager, GPA, says most common wall graphics are not laminated since they are often interior applications with more protection from the elements and are commonly designed for short-term use. “They typically require less durability or feature a textured surface for a visual effect that would be diminished with a laminate,” he says. “Laminates for wall graphics are most often used to change the appearance of a graphic.”
Marty Davis, director, wide format and graphics, Mac Papers, says laminates for windows vary based on where the substrate is used. “Thicknesses range from 1.2 to 6 mil. “Users will want to make sure the finish matches the graphics, whether it be a gloss, matte, or satin. Also, the higher gloss the longer the product will stay clean. Other things to consider are UV protection, whether a product requires flexibility, and if it should be optically clear, or just clear.” He says these products don’t typically come with textures but the finish can add a slight one.
Molly Waters, technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, explains that whether used on a cast vinyl or perforated calendared film, overlaminates help prevent UV damage to window graphics.
Craig Campbell, graphic products market manager, Orafol Americas, shares that adding a laminate to a graphic placed on a window is very much dependent on the type of print media used. “If you are creating a one-way vision graphic using perforated digital media, then you should choose an optically clear laminate.” He explains that it has to be a gloss finish, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see through it. “However, if you are not producing a one-way graphic, then you should choose the laminate similar to how you would for a wall graphic in regards to the finish.”
For floor graphics, overlaminates are critical to provide anti-slip properties. Overlaminates should match the underlying media and be UL approved for slip resistance.
“Floor applications require a thicker, textured film for greater slip resistance,” says Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation. He says a 5-mil, scuff-resistant pebble texture overlaminate is common.
Davis explains that the thickness of floor products range from 1.7 to 6 mil. “They typically come with liner and have a life span of three months to a year for outdoor use and up to three years for indoor use.”
Jason Yard, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products, points out that slip resistance is generally achieved with a textured laminate that is third-party tested and approved.
No matter the final environment, a few considerations always play a role when selecting an overlaminate.
Brunnett recommends overlaminating with like materials to the underlying media. “For example, if overlaminating a vinyl, a vinyl overlaminate should be used. If overlaminating polyester, a polyester laminate should be used.” He explains that this practice helps the two separate products to work together as they will expand and contract similarly and reduce the likelihood of graphics falling off.
Advancements in printing technologies, ink, and media allow PSPs to be more creative than ever. However, it is essential that environmental factors are considered to determine whether or not extra protection is necessary.
“No matter what your application, it is important to search out the correct overlaminate for the substrate; otherwise you run the risk of safety issues caused by improper choices of overlaminates,” concludes Miller.
In part two of this Web-exclusive series we highlight available overlaminate products.
Jun2016, Digital Output DOOL1606