By Katrina Ceruolo
Media and ink advancements add durability and increased color gamut to digitally printed output, however, the use of liquid coating and film laminates are occasionally utilized for protection and longevity. The installation process also benefits from added flexibility and thickness, making graphics easier to install.
Liquid coatings and film overlaminates are each ideally suited for specific applications. A number of factors play into this, including cost. The application process—hot or cold lamination—determines pricing as there is a range of hardware available from film to liquid laminators.
Additionally, certain coatings and films can only be used with specific ink sets. The adhesiveness of an ink on a certain substrate may bond better or worse depending on the coupled protective film or coating. This article discusses the solutions that overcome these compatibility issues, in addition to a general overview of available products.
When deciding between liquid coating and film laminates, consider the application and the desired lifespan of the output. Working within a common denominator of durability is essential to success and managing clients’ expectations.
“When selecting the right graphic protection for your application, remember that the component in your graphic—ink, film, or overlaminate—with the lowest durability influences the graphic’s performance life. For example, applying a lower cost overlaminate on a premium film may work for a short-term graphics,” recommends Mark Elvester, technical service specialist, 3M Commercial Graphics.
A benefit of liquid coating is the hard surface that it creates, which makes images resistant to scratching and other abrasive destruction during transportation and installation. Adversely, clean up of liquid coating can be time consuming and the lay down during application is slightly slower than film to ensure proper adhesion.
“Liquid coating pros are that it is more conformable, there are a variety of application methods, there is a low cost of entry—unless it is UV-curable, it can be a lower price than its film equivalent, there is process flexibility, and small batch customization is possible,” shares Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation.
An advantage to using film laminates are the range of finishes available, such as matte to high gloss. Extremely clear finishes add dimensions to the visual nature of images. Other benefits include degrees of weather, fading, and skid resistance and available graffiti protection, making it easy to find the right grade for any output.
“The positives to film technology are that it adds rigidity to cast film, can be conformable, has limited cleanup, and economic and eco-friendly options such as polyester and polypropylene are available. The cons are that it can be more expensive and require trimming, which could lead to more waste,” continues Goodman.
Although it depends on what is right for an application, some feel the benefits of film laminates outweigh those of liquid coating.
“Film lamination provides more readily available choices in film finish and final application. There are various textures, gloss levels, and performance enhancements such as graffiti resistance and UV inhabitors, for example,” explains Ronit McGuthrie, product manager, SEAL.
Apply and Conquer
Each protective method comes with different application types. Print service providers (PSPs) administer liquid coating either with roll coaters, screenprint presses, or spray coating devices. Film laminates offer hot and cold application. User preference varies.
Pressure-sensitive films do not often require heat for their application process. The heat can, at times, change the integrity of an output’s shape.
“Arlon’s protective films are all pressure sensitive, which means that heat is not necessary when applying to printed substrates. Using heat can cause the laminate to stretch a little during the application, causing edge curl later as it cools and tries to shrink back to its original size,” explains Ritchie Daize, automotive business development manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
Heat-based lamination includes a larger upfront investment cost and considerable warm-up time. However, there are output challenges that heat relieves.
“With modern adhesive technology, hot laminating is not usually needed unless printing with UV inkjet inks. The inkjet printing creates a very light texture on the finished graphic that can allow air to be trapped under the adhesive of the overlaminate. This may give the finished graphic an appearance we call silvering. Using a hot roll laminator helps alleviate this problem,” advises Elvester.
While offering a few complications, heat application provides a positive application process and output presentation.
Manufacturers continue to improve ink sets. Advancements lead to the creation of protective products that collaborate with these updates.
3M partners with printer and ink manufacturers to ensure inks work as expected. “In this way we guarantee that a manufacturer using the combinations of components we recommend will produce graphics that we stand behind,” remarks Elvester.
As new ink sets arrive on the market, utilizing compatible protective coverings may increase PSPs’ revenues as well. “It is important to have laminators and protective films and mounting adhesives that complement these technologies. Finishing adds a revenue stream for PSPs, differentiates them from their competition, and allows them to add application capabilities that they would not be able to produce without a laminator,” advises McGuthrie.
Here is a roundup of protective products on the market today.
3M’s Scotchcal Luster Overlaminate 8524 is specially designed for textured surfaces. It can be applied on outdoor walls and columns and on applications for automotive, consumer goods, general industrial, medical, military and government, packaging, and specialty vehicles. It is ideal for die cutting and features good initial tack and adhesive clarity.
Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc. (AGL) offers its AGL Cover-Rite V2, a step-saving laminate with built in polyester premask. The premask assists in preventing issues like image curl, necking, elongation, and image distortion while also protecting the image from stretching during the installation process. Available from 38 to 60 inches, the pressure-sensitive cast overlaminate is compatible with either cold or hot laminators and aqueous, eco-solvent, solvent, latex, or UV inks.
Arlon’s Series 3220 Overlaminate is a premium cast overlaminate pressure-sensitive film available in six finishes including gloss, luster, and satin. The two-millimeter cast vinyl film is designed to protect and prolong the life of printed images, extending the life of graphics up to two years and providing an outdoor durability of up to seven years. It is ideal for long-term signage, kiosks, point of purchase (POP) displays, and fleet and vehicle operations.
Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions’ two popular products with graphic providers and installers are its DOL 1300 and 1000 series of overlaminates. The DOL 1300 series of 1.3-mil cast overlaminates offer four year durability and are available in gloss, luster, or matte finish. The thinness of the film allows for more conformability while installing. The DOL 1000 series of 2.1-mil cast overlaminates are also offered in three finish options of gloss, luster, and matte.
Bordeaux Digital PrintInk provides a variety of UV-curable coatings for wide format printing and UV liquid coatings for digital press and document finishing. For wide format production, Bordeaux offers its Clear Wide FG and Clear Wide FM, two 100 percent solid UV-curable clear coatings. They protect against chemicals, scratches, and abrasions and are ideal for indoor use and short-term outdoor use where durability is required. The coatings also add value to graphics on plastics and other flexible semi-rigid and rigid substrates as well as vinyl or wallcovering applications with bends and curves.
DreamScape’s DreamGuard Protex 3 Topcoat is available in matte and satin finishes. The water-based clear liquid laminate offers abrasion and scruff resistance. Formulated as a post-installation solution, it can be applied with or without a laminator. An installer can paint the liquid onto a wall with a paint roller if need be. Coverage per gallon is estimated to be 1,000 square feet but can vary depending on application method and texture of surface. DreamGuard Protex 3 is formulated especially for DreamScape wallcovering products, but can be applied to any vinyl surface.
Drytac’s Emerytex overlaminate line includes Interlam Pro Emerytex, Protac Emerytex, MediaShield Emerytex, and WeatherShield Emerytex. These pebble-textured laminates are non-glare and scuff-resistant PVC vinyl laminating film coated with pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive. They are ideal for graphics that require extended handling and high-traffic such as trade shows, POP displays, and signage. WeatherShield Emerytex is durable and weather proof with minimal output shrinkage and odor due to its crosslinking solvent acrylic adhesive fortified with UV stabilizers and absorbers. Emerytex is available in widths up to 61 inches and is approximately 38 to 60 cents per square foot.
Exopack Advanced Coatings under its Museo Fine Art portfolio offers Museo Enhance, a water-based clear coat solution for giclée canvas applications. It is formulated for water-resistant canvas and used with pigmented inks. It can be applied with most application techniques including automated equipment. The coating is packaged in both quarts and gallons.
GBC provides a range of laminates. Its Arctic Anti-Graffiti film is a UV resistant, stain, flame, heat, and chemical resistant pressure-sensitive film. The Arctic Anti-Graffiti film extends the life of outdoor signage for an estimate of seven years and graffiti is easily removed with traditional household cleaners. It is available in 38- or 54-inch widths and 150-foot long rolls and is priced at 84 cents per square foot. The company’s other popular laminate line is its Arctic Light series in gloss and matte. These films are economical protective substrates made of PVC with gloss or matte non-reflective finishes. The pressure-sensitive mediums are ideal for indoor applications and are available in varying widths from 38 to 61 inches and 150 feet long for 24 cents per square feet.
LexJet Corporation offers Elite Textured Coex Laminate in five, ten, and 15 millimeters. Made from polycarbonate, the film is easy to trim and handle. Using PreLume technology, images printed on the white film are brighter and whiter and its optical reflection technology offsets yellow and gray color shifts that may occur. The PreLume technology also extends the life of an image and keeps it from yellowing over time. Widths for the Elite Textured Coex Laminate range from 38 to 51 inches for the five- and ten-millimeter versions and 38 to 61 inches for the 15-millimeter version. Pricing also varies from $1.12 to $1.17 per square foot for the five-millimeter version, $1.49 to $1.50 per square foot for the ten-millimeter version, and $1.94 to $2.27 for the 15-millimeter version. This laminate should be applied with a cold lamination method and is compatible with aqueous, latex, UV-curable, solvent, and low solvent inks.
MACtac Distributor Products has a variety of laminate products under its PERMACOLOR portfolio. Recently, it introduced the PERMACOLOR HORIZon XL1000 overlaminate. Designed for complex vehicle and fleet wraps, it is a thin polyurethane film—1.5 mil—featuring a permanent adhesive coating that contributes to the conformability that leads to ease of installation. It is guaranteed to last five to seven years on vertical surfaces and two to three years on horizontal surfaces.
Marabu North America announced its newest liquid coating product in October 2013. ClearShield Wall Armor offers a Type II certified solution for wallcoverings in commercial environments. It is compatible with latex, eco-solvent, and UV ink. ClearShield Wall Armor provides all of the protection necessary for Type II certification, including stain resistance, scratch resistance, adhesion, and fire retardancy.
SEAL’s most popular film laminate is its Print Shield Standard UV, an affordable, pressure-sensitive, premium grade vinyl film ideal for indoor applications and UV inhibitors for outdoor applications. It is available in widths of 38 to 79 inches in 150 to 400 feet rolls. All SEAL Print Shield films are pressure sensitive and can be used with a cold or heat assist laminator. SEAL Print Shield laminates are cooperative with most ink types.
Even with continuing advancements in ink sets, protective products like liquid coating and film laminates remain contenders for providing graphics with a strong defense against discoloration, UV rays, weathering, abrasion, and other damaging factors while also adding output durability and value. With varying methods, many will find the right protection for their digitally printed output.
Mar2014, Digital Output