By Lisa Guerriero
One of the biggest trends in printing comes from below—floor graphics. Advancements in printers, ink, substrates, and adhesives enable uniquely suited output for this application.
These digital printing developments give marketers and advertisers a fresh way to reach consumers and increase sales.
More floor graphics are being installed. It is a logical progression. “There is so much unused marketing space beneath our feet that it makes sense to start filling the empty space with something more valuable,” says E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Qué Media, Inc.
Floor graphics are popular in retail, event promotion, trade shows, entertainment venues, and office décor. They’re also moving into environments like schools, libraries, museums, and nonprofits.
Print service providers (PSPs) capitalize on this market by using materials that target the ground. Several factors should be considered when choosing a product—how floor media differs with lamination, how to match products to the client’s specifications, and how to handle surface requirements.
Floor media falls into two categories—materials that don’t require lamination after printing, and products that do.
Floor graphic media that is directly printable and does not require lamination starts at about $1.20 and continues up to about $2.80 per square foot. These standalone materials are composed of different elements, sometimes acrylic or foil.
With this kind of product, PSPs print directly to a slip-resistant surface. This makes it easier to produce, install, and remove floor graphics, which heightens usage, says Micah Causey, VP, AlumiGraphics by FloorSignage. “Typically, floor graphics were restricted to indoor or short-term applications because of material limitations and the difficulty in applying and removing,” observes Causey.
Without a laminate, these products need another way of ensuring durability. For example, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.’s slip-rated G-Floor Graphic Media is constructed with layers. “G-Floor is unique because the printer will print on the second surface or the bottom of the material. This helps with durability and longevity. Depending on which type of G-Floor is being used, there will be multiple layers of vinyl between the material people walk on and the graphic. The second surface printing helps protect the graphics from wear and tear,” notes Kylie Schleicher, marketing manager, Ultraflex.
Manufacturers create floor-specific media to withstand weather and heavy traffic. “Since most vinyl media is not designed to hold up to people walking on it; moisture from rain, spills, and mopping; these products will peel up and need to be reprinted,” points out Causey.
For floor material that requires both a base media and laminate, each separately cost between about 25 cents and $1.20 per square foot. The combined cost of media and laminate starts at about 50 cents per square foot and ranges up to about $3.
“Floor graphics have been around for a long time as a two-part product. Many people today still do it that way—vinyl with adhesive and a specially rated overlaminate for non-slipping on the top,” explains Angel Georgiou, specialist, marketing senior imaging supplies, Canon Solutions America.
For most of these products, the manufacturer designs both components specifically for floor use. “Not just any combination of print material and laminate work together for a cohesive floor graphic.
Manufacturers that provide floor graphic products design them specifically—the laminate and print material together—for that application,” says Jaimie Mask, product manager, LexJet Corporation.
For products that require lamination, vendors say the laminate is essential to protecting and prolonging the graphic. “The laminate is the most important part of the floor graphic system. It is what carries the slip-resistant certification and protects your image from scuffing, scratching, and fading,” emphasizes Jason Yard, marketing manager, MACtac Distributor Products.
“The end product needs to be slip resistant and durable,” explains Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac. “The overlaminate used must be able to aggressively adhere to the ink.”
Most digital print technologies are suitable for floor media. PSPs can use UV, latex, solvent, and eco-solvent inks to print on most products that require lamination.
For lamination-free floor products, the ink set choice is similar. However, some vendors say UV printing is the best option for their media. “UV-curable inks tend to offer the best scratch resistance, if the graphic will be in a high-pressure area,” explains Marcel Medved, business development director, Continental Grafix.
Match Media to the Job
Certain floor graphics products work best in different environments and for specific periods of time; short- and long-term, heavy traffic, indoors and outdoors—all come under consideration.
Yard suggests “determining where the floor graphic is going, what type of surface, how much foot traffic, and how long it is intended to last.”
For jobs in areas of heavy foot or vehicle traffic, PSPs may want to invest in a higher end product. “Non-slip, durable media is ideal for store entrances, sidewalks, parking lots, and textured walls,” notes Alison Zepp, VP, marketing & strategy, Jessup Manufacturing Company.
Outdoor graphics must offer a combination of staying power and removability. “The adhesive is the most important element as it has to stick to difficult surfaces, like asphalt and concrete for example, very well, and has to be easily removable after usage,” explains Karin Biel, marketing, Aslan, Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.
Heather McCusker, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics, agrees that the adhesive is one of the key factors in choosing a product for floor graphics. “You need to make sure the adhesive is going to stay down on a surface without peeling up, yet come up off of the surface without pulling up the floor.”
“Most temporary adhesives last 30 days. If you leave the graphic on longer, it may leave residue,” adds Angie Mohni, director of marketing, GBC.
Safety is a common criterion across all material types and environmental usage. Textured material is a way to improve upon this. “Having a raised texture in your film or laminate is the best way to provide this protection—heavier traffic loads require more texture in the film,” says Craig Campbell, graphic products market manager, ORAFOL Americas.
Anti-skid properties play a part in matching media to the job. Some products utilize different materials for venues with greater skid risk—for example, a foam mesh for pool graphics or a foil base to conform to uneven surfaces such as asphalt and paving bricks. These non-vinyl products typically do not require a laminate.
For products that do utilize laminate, the top coat also helps meet clients’ needs. Many vendors say it’s an ideal way to offer anti-slip properties without having to introduce any components that might affect the printability of the base material.
Qué Media uses anti-slip laminate on its permanent as well as removable adhesive substrates.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an OSHA-approved company, tested Qué Media’s laminate and granted it a UL410 anti-slip classification. “This can mean a lot to the larger corporate end user markets because many of them have strict policies in place to keep insurances down. Being UL classified puts these end users at ease,” explains Reich.
Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama, agrees that obtaining slip-resistance classification makes good business sense. “The risk of not having UL410 or a similar classification is too high of a liability if someone was to get injured and the proper product was not used,” he observes.
UL is not the only entity that classifies slip resistance, and non-laminated floor materials also receive safety certifications. For example, Jessup has several non-skid floor products, including many that are certified by the National Floor Safety Institute. Continental Grafix cites standards from ASTM International—formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM D-2047 is a common dry, non-slip classification, while the ASTM C-1028-07 certification for wet, non-slip is critical, observes Medved.
Some floor media may be mounted onto carpet. Carpet that’s directly printable is also available, though not as common. Both types are generally geared toward shorter term applications, but durability is still important. “Floor graphic media must be more resilient than sign and banner media to account for the constant weight being applied and released. It must be durable, stain resistant, and not hold a form,” explains Sharon Roland, advertising and PR manager, Fisher Textiles.
Surface and Install
Floors differ, from a concrete to a carpet, wood, or tile. Where a material is installed and the manner in which it is adhered affects the graphic’s success.
Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation, adds that different types of floor graphic facestock and adhesives are available for use in a variety of indoor and outdoor environments and because of this, “it is important to select a material that will bond well with the surface of the floor in that particular environment.”
“Aspects such as cleaning, length of service, edge-lift, proper installation, and slip resistance play crucial roles in the overall success of floor graphics; if a product fails to perform any of these requirements, the product will not only be unsuccessful, it will also be a liability,” observes Dennis Brunnett, product manager, advertising, product branding business team, FLEXcon.
For a graphic installed on a short-nap carpet, a permanent adhesive vinyl will help ensure it stays in place, says Thomas J. Driscoll, product manager, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions. For a clean and quick change out, a temporary graphic on a tile floor is better suited to vinyl with removable adhesive.
Understanding the specific destination is essential. “Knowing the application surface is crucial, especially in regards to slip resistance, which is a major concern with floor graphics media,” says Brian Cheshire, sales manager, Xcel Products, Inc.
Campbell recommends doing a sample adhesion test prior to full production, noting that “whether it is a sealed or non-sealed surface will dictate which type of adhesive your printed floor material requires.”
Biel cautions that floor material is thicker than what some PSPs are used to. This is because the material is used on challenging surfaces and must endure wear and tear. “The thickness of the media as well as the laminate is slightly higher compared to other products. The media is easier to handle, but because of the higher thickness printers have to adapt to it,” she notes.
Installation methods can affect a graphic’s quality and durability. “There are special considerations for cut-to-shape graphics including images with sharp outer points. We recommend cutting radiuses on any sharp corners after lamination, which will help prevent premature lifting of the graphic after application,” says Tammi D. Johnson, business development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Mohni suggests leaving a quarter-inch of laminate around the graphic for the best adherence between the print and intended surface. “The border will ensure that the graphic is ‘sealed’ to the floor,” she explains.
Bruce Walker, apps tech, Sihl Inc., notes that laminating beyond the perimeter of the graphic “will help keep out dirt and moisture and prevent wicking when floors are cleaned.”
There is great variety in floor materials, but that means PSPs need to be aware of specific product instructions, says Dennis Barbaro, VP, Catalina Graphic Films. “This will make the product perform optimally at its intended use,” he explains.
Floor graphics are full of potential for marketers, promoters, and retailers. “The trend for floor graphics has been a steady incline for several years now as more advertisers scramble for the consumer’s attention,” notes Campbell.
This growth translates into opportunities for print professionals. New floor materials, designed for durability and addressing safety issues, make it easier for PSPs to print effectively for the ground and floor. Media is available in a variety of prices and compatible with numerous ink sets, with products engineered for specific surfaces and environments.
Using targeted products, PSPs can deliver equally tailored results—graphics designed especially for floor use that prevent slipping while simultaneously providing high-quality, visual appeal.
May2015, Digital Output