By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 2
Digitally printed wallcoverings are available in a number of media choices. Depending on the final location of the wallcovering, a print service provider (PSP) may suggest the use of a fabric-, vinyl-, film-, or paper-based substrate.
Fabric-based media is an attractive option. Not only does it provide a luxurious appearance, but it is also eco-friendly depending on the materials used in its creation. These two characteristics drive its demand for use in a wide assortment of environments from retail to home décor.
Print processes complement this, to provide a high-quality look and feel or if a sustainable request needs to be upheld the right ink set is used. Most fabric-based wallcovering media is compatible with a range of digital technology from UV to solvent or eco-solvent and latex.
In the Zone
Fabric-based wallcovering media is predominately seen in interior settings. This includes such areas as retail, home décor, trade show/exhibition, schools, healthcare facilities, corporate, restaurants, museums, hotels, libraries, banks, gyms, and sporting venues.
Matt Buckley, wide format product manager, GPA, says interior environments are mainly where this substrate is seen because the fabric and the coatings used are typically not rated for outdoor use. “They can be damaged if exposed to the elements, and their lower tack adhesives will not hold up in exterior environments.”
In any of these indoor settings, fabric-based wallcovering media enhances the area it is placed in. “Fabric wallcoverings improve visual ascetics and/or increase brand awareness. Textile wallcoverings can offer a more natural look and feel versus PVC-based counterparts,” explains Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag US.
A more natural look and feel also translates to an appearance of luxury. Heather McCusker, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics North America, suggests that environments like restaurants and museums, for example, prefer fabric-based wallcoverings for that “higher end, finished look that can create a creative and personal message as décor on the walls.”
“Generally, if an area is new or needs to be refreshed, fabric-based wallcoverings are used as décor applications to dress up an accent wall or an entire room, especially where an upscale look is desired,” agrees Jason Yard, marketing director, Mactac Distributor Products.
How You Print
While certain substrates may sometime dictate a specific ink type is used, fabric-based wallcoverings are printable with a variety of technologies. Often, the ink type used is based on what a PSP runs in its shop or if a specific quality—like “green”—must be met.
According to Jaimie Mask, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation, latex, solvent, and eco-solvent are ideal print processes for fabric-based wallcoverings. “All provide excellent durability and high-quality image reproduction.”
“Most fabric-based wallcoverings are printable with a variety of different technologies. Furthermore, fabrics are typically treated or coated with an ink-receptive primer designed for the intended technology, such as solvent, UV, latex, or others. In most cases, the print method on fabrics is not a major concern, which comes from being primarily used indoors,” explains Dennis Brunnett, technical service specialist, FLEXcon.
Clay Reierson, project manager, Xcel Products, Inc., agrees, citing that fabric wall graphics are generally coated for the most popular print methods—eco-solvent, solvent, latex, and UV-curable. Because the wall graphics are generally used for short-term indoor solutions, all these ink types are acceptable.
If a PSP is honoring a customer’s request to maintain a specific level of eco-friendliness, it may choose to print using latex or UV ink. “Latex and UV printing appear to be the current print technologies of choice. The majority of applications are targeted for indoors,” admits Mark Shaneyfelt, director of sales and marketing – print media, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.
Rachna Patel, marketing coordinator, Presto Tape, says that the ideal print process is latex because it is water-based and less harmless and odorless than say solvent. In addition it offers instant curing and scratch resistance. However, she does believe that if latex isn’t an option, UV-curable is ideal—as similar to latex, UV-curable inks feature instant curing and high scratch resistance.
“Inks that comply with Greenguard Gold are ideal for fabric-based wallcoverings. Greenguard Gold is a certification for products that feature very low chemical emissions, helping to reduce indoor air pollution, minimizing chemical exposure, and creating healthier indoor environments,” adds Gautier Peers, North America manager, Dickson Coatings.
In Good Company
The use of a fabric-based wallcovering generally means a PSP or its customer is aiming for a high-end, luxurious feel to the final graphic. This mimics traditional wallcovering as well, to really give it that décor appearance. As such, fabric-based wallcovering media is most often found in interior settings.
With the environment sheltered from traditional outdoor challenges, almost any kind of ink set can be used to print on the material. It depends on what a PSP runs in their shop or if a customer requests something specific, for example eco-friendly ink.
In part two of this Web-exclusive series, learn about fabric-based wallcovering media products available for wide format digital printing.
Nov2016, Digital Output DOFW1611