By Elizabeth Quirk
Magnetic signage is used in a number of ways, whether it’s in retail, restaurants, or on vehicles. Since the market responds positively to new and innovative trends, the debut of thinner, lighter materials are a popular feature of magnetic signage.
As with most product developments, there’s an ongoing evolution towards being the most cost efficient, while providing ease of use and functionality. In some applications, there are distinct advantages to using thinner, more high-energy magnetic products in place of thicker traditional magnetic materials. Thinner magnets are often easier to print on a large variety of inkjet printers, they’re also lighter in weight. This allows for less lifting for operators, less stress on machines, and lower freight costs.
Above: Adams Magnetic Product uses a higher energy ferrite powder that is stronger than the standard powder historically used in flexible magnet sheeting.
Magnetic media is printed directly while magnetized, or printed on then magnetized. Alternatively, magnetic-receptive media works as part of an overall magnetic display system, in which a magnetic base is installed and magnetic-receptive graphics are printed and attached to the magnet. Although magnetic-receptive sheeting is not a magnet, it adheres to the base material like a magnet to metal.
Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc., argues first and foremost that magnetic-receptive media solves issues with existing solutions. “This type of product is a replacement for self-adhesive vinyl, which requires a professional installer, installation fees, and de-installation fees whenever a graphic needs to be changed. With magnetic-receptive media, there are usually no installation fees since the graphics can be installed by store employees wherever the end product is used,” she explains.
“Magnetic-receptive materials are six times lighter than standard magnet sheeting and come in wider widths than any magnet,” explains Joe Deetz, CEO, Visual Magnetics LP.
Driving Trends with Benefits
Thinner magnetic materials for either magnetic-receptive or magnetic media are poised to greatly improve business opportunities and profitability for commercial printers, sign shops, and other businesses.
Stephen S. McLevey, customer service and product manager, Flexmag Industries, Inc., a division of Arnold Magnetic Technologies, states that traditional magnetic signage material is a 30-mil standard energy magnet, plus a 4-mil vinyl, which makes the thickness a total of 34-mil.
According to Clay Reierson, director of operations, Xcel Products, Inc., a trend is traditional 20-mil magnet users reaching for 15-mil magnet more often. The company has even had requests for ten- to 12-mil products.
A main driving force behind thinner magnetic materials is related to today’s large format printing technology. Darrell Adams, VP – North America, Newlife Magnetics LLC, points out that ten-foot wide printers are ideal for seamless graphics, but ten-foot rolls of traditional magnetic media are too heavy to manage.
With magnetic sheeting, strength has always been determined by the thickness of the magnet—the thicker the magnet the heavier it is. By reducing the thickness from 30- to 15-mil, the total weight can be cut almost in half, making the thinner material much easier to load and feed into a wide format printer. It is also easier to install when used as signage.
Reducing the weight of material so that it can be made into a wider sheet is a contributing factor to this trend. Mike Gertz, marketing manager, Master Magnetics, Inc., argues that utilizing high-energy manufacturing technology to make magnetic sheeting thinner, while maintaining or exceeding the strength of regular-strength sheeting—and at a comparable cost—has many benefits including being easier to work with, to print, and costs less to ship. With a lighter weight, thinner magnetic material reduces freight costs and the likelihood of damage during transit.
Thinner magnetic materials present options when it comes to type of printers used. They are considered easier to print to because they don’t require as much of a gap between printhead and substrate. With regard to printer compatibility, Shane Colvin, director, business development, Magnum Magnetics Corporation, says it is really a tossup amongst the more popular ink systems.
“For instance, UV printers have no issue running thick material so thinner isn’t better in this case, however in the case of some of the new latex machines thickness is a huge concern. Not to mention when a high level of heat is applied in the print process very specific types of magnet may need to be utilized,” continues Colvin.
Price is another contributing factor. Because magnetic materials can be expensive, having less material makes it easier on your bank account. There are also options to create high-energy versions as well, as to not sacrifice the performance of the magnet.
Similar, but Different
Despite how thin today’s magnets are, they can provide the same or similar strength as a denser alternative. This all has to do with the manufacturing process.
In order for the magnetic strength of thinner materials to match traditional magnetics, Alice Martin, director of marketing, Adams Magnetic Products, explains three methods. The first is to increase the thickness, since magnetic strength is a ratio of total magnet material mass. Another option is to orient the magnet material particles so that most or all the magnetic domains within the material are oriented in the same direction—this is referred to as anisotropic or high-energy magnetic material. The third option is to use raw materials that produce a greater number of magnetic flux lines.
The manner in which each vendor manufactures and achieves strength in its material differs. Adams Magnetic Products uses a higher energy ferrite powder that is stronger than the standard powder historically used in flexible magnet sheet. “The higher energy powder is more expensive, but we can use less of it,” admits Martin.
According to McLevey, the high-energy or anisotropic powder has a well-defined crystalline structure compared to standard energy or isotropic powder, therefore providing a similar magnetic output or strength with a thinner magnet.
Newlife Magnetics recently introduced a new patented magnetic material that uses two holding technologies to increase the holding force. “Micro-suction technology combined with a magnetic holding force results in a thin, light magnet material with strong holding capabilities,” shares Adams.
The difference in the cost per square foot is similar to that of the magnetic force. Basically, you get what you pay for. This makes the pricing dependent on several factors.
Colvin states that it’s not a one-to-one comparison in the magnetic world. “For example, since Magnum Magnetics creates various thicknesses and cut sheet dimensions it really depends on every project,” he adds.
Adams argues the standard 30-mil printable magnet sells at $0.75 to $1.00 per square foot. Whereas 20-mil printable magnet made from anisotropic/high-energy materials may have ten percent more holding force than a 30-mil standard material but costs about the same.
“The benefits indirectly related to cost are a 30 percent reduction in weight per square foot making it easier to manage in printing and installation, and reducing the shipping cost by around 30 percent to printer and the end user,” explains Adams.
Thin is In
Overall, there are some distinct advantages to using thinner, lighter magnetic materials. This includes a reduction in weight so that the eventual graphic is easier to handle on and off the printer, reducing shipping costs, and minimal lifting for the end user or installer. The need to produce the most cost efficient, innovative, and productive products is a continuous driver of thinner, lighter magnetic materials.
Jul2018, Digital Output