By Lisa Guerriero
Part 1 of 2
Custom-printed tents and awnings enable a company to promote its brand and stand out in a crowd. Media vendors develop materials for retail stores, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, residential developments, and country clubs.
Optimized for digital printing, these materials are durable and withstand weather, structurally stable to prevent sagging and tearing, and designed for vibrant and lasting color.
Print providers utilize substrates that are strong yet flexible—including polyester, acrylic, PVC, and vinyl-polyester composites—for tents and awnings. Coatings further enhance printability and protection.
Part one of this series focuses on optimizing tent and awning substrates for digital printing to ensure the longevity of the print and enhance the image. In part two, we highlight products designed for wide format printing.
Durability and Printability
Coatings and fabric type play a factor in enhancing durability and printability. Manufacturers choose tightly woven materials to sustain exposure to the elements and apply a coating or treatment prior to market. Multiple treatments may be used to extend the life of the graphic and improve printability. Other solutions improve image quality for backlit, frontlit, or blockout applications.
Coatings vary depending on the application type and permanence, but water repellence or resistance are almost universally required. “Water resistance is the most important characteristic for these applications. Ideally water droplets will bead up and roll off of specific tent fabrics versus soaking through them completely,” explains Sharon Roland, advertising and PR manager, Fisher Textiles.
Pre-treating also protects the material in other ways. Fire resistance is often necessary for commercial applications, particularly for indoor tents and awnings connected to a building. Additionally, coatings guard against dirt and dust and allow the material to be cleaned without damaging the graphic.
“Mold and mildew resistance is required, especially in outdoor applications,” adds Bryan Rose, VP/GM, new business development, Cooley Group.
In some cases, a finish on both sides enhances overall durability while a final topcoat promotes ink adhesion and longevity. “To guarantee a perfect-print look, one side will be finished with a printing lacquer,” explains Elisabeth Eiböc, marketing, SUN-TEX, Sattler.
Print providers may apply a clear topcoat to protect the graphic itself. The post-printing coat primarily prevents fading from sun exposure, though it also enhances protection from abrasions. Vendors typically recommend top coats for applications that must last several years or more.
“Many wide format printers will add a UV clear coat on top of the printed image to improve UV resistance and durability. The same can be said for those products used in awning applications,” notes Steve Fredrickson, national sales manager, Serge Ferrari North America.
Acrylic coating is typically used to provide ink compatibility and adhesion. Canopies, tents, awnings, and sun shades are taken down or retracted frequently or seasonally, so ink adhesion is important to prevent flaking or cracking.
“The key element here is acrylic lacquering, which is typically applied at the manufacturing level. This provides an effective surface area for the inks, of many varieties, to bond to the material,” says Josh Propp, product development manager, Value Vinyls.
Whether polyester, acrylic, PVC, or a vinyl-polyester composite, manufacturers use stable, tightly constructed material. The media’s strength helps ensure it is resilient to rain and wind. It also provides a balance of tension and flexibility needed for tent and awning shapes—as many applications must be held taut, rolled, folded, or retracted.
Graphics for tent and awning applications must be visible in varying lighting, both day and night. The image should be vibrant and lasting. Textured media, enhanced by the coating, ensures colors are bold as well as durable.
“Fabric that is optimized for digital printing features some form of micro surface texture that allows for a controlled dot gain that will produce a high-resolution image,” notes Craig Zola, VP, marketing and distribution, Herculite.
Longevity is important for most wide format graphics, but tent and awning media have unique durability requirements. Optimized for the outdoors, digitally printable products resist weather, mold, and in some cases fire thanks to coatings. Special treatments to the media also enhance printability. The media’s construction promotes tensile strength while still ensuring flexibility for framed or stretched applications.
In the next part in this series, we look at tent and awning materials available for digital printing focusing on ink compatibility, special features, and target applications.
Sep2015, Digital Output DOTW1509