By Cassandra Balentine
Specialty media enables print service providers (PSPs) to provide unique offerings to clientele. Window graphics are an example, with options including non-perforated and perforated, typically applied with adhesive; and cling options that utilize properties such as static, suction, and similar technologies to hold to a window surface without the need for adhesive.
Depending on the pattern, perforated media enables a level of privacy and sunblock, as well as visibility through graphics. Non-perforated, adhesive-backed options provide textured and block out effects to super clear options that highlight the graphic against the glass. Finally, cling material is available in white and clear, easily applied and removed, and often considered reusable.
Window products, whether perforated or unperforated adhesive-backed materials or cling and cling-like options, are specifically designed to stand up to harsh weather conditions without leaving a residue upon de-installation.
From promotions and décor to privacy, the potential for window applications ranges from vehicle and architectural uses to building wraps and retail display windows.
It may seem obvious, but it is important that window-specific media is used on window applications as they are formulated to provide ease of installation and removal as well as prevent failures including yellowing, brittleness, and cracking.
Beyond that, other considerations need to be met to prevent failure. During production, Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus, Imaging, Inc., cautions that for both perforated and non-perforated options, adhesive failure can occur if the heat settings used to dry the inks exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines.
In addition, the use of an incompatible overlaminating film can make it difficult to see through the holes in perforated window media. “For vehicle graphics in particular, it’s essential that PSPs choose an overlaminate designed for use with perforated window graphics in order to maintain visibility,” recommends Bellah.
Installation is a challenge that can affect a window media’s success. “PSPs should pay particular attention to the instructions and recommendations of their media providers,” cautions Jim Halloran, VP, sales and marketing, Lintec of America, Inc.
“Using the wrong installation fluid is the most common mistake. Thankfully it is easy to fix,” he adds.
While glass provides an appealing, flat or slightly curved surface for installation, it is also fragile. Cindy Richards, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, explains that windows can shatter from the increased stress and heat of a film that isn’t designed for window applications. “External windows should have perforated graphics for full coverage. Solid graphics are designed for partial coverage of windows,” she adds.
In addition, surface treatment prior to installation can make a difference. Bellah points out that for adhesive-backed window media, if a solvent-based cleaner is used to clean the mounting surface prior to or after installation, the solvent in the cleaner can breakdown the film adhesive.
“It’s easy to clean a window, except in the corners and along the edges, where it is essential that the glass surface and surrounding areas that might come into contact with the adhesive on the back of the perforated window film are clean,” shares Rob Stone, operations director, Contra Vision.
When proper media is not chosen brittleness, discoloration, and adhesive failure can occur.
Brian Cheshire, sales manager, Xcel Products, Inc., suggests that material can become brittle and crack or flake if a non-window specific material is used in a window application. In addition, adhesive may fade prematurely, clear materials may turn yellow, and graphics may be difficult to remove.
“Failures do occur when the wrong product is used for the wrong application,” agrees Gary York, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics. “For instance, an optically clear adhesive-backed product made from PET is designed for indoor use. If put outdoors it can turn yellow and become brittle with prolonged UV exposure,” he explains. “Conversely, a calendared PVC clear product, which is installed for long-term interior use, will shrink over time and become a noticeable eyesore.”
Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama, adds that shrinkage and cracking due to lower grade film use presents graphic failure. “With the addition of heat-absorbing colors printed on the film, its life can be drastically reduced.”
“The longer the graphic sits in the sun exposure—especially vinyl and polypropylene—the more the product becomes brittle,” warns Jaimie Mask, product specialist, LexJet Corporation. “Take into account how much sun exposure the graphic will be exposed to, this will help determine the best case scenario on what product to use in that sort of environment.”
In addition to issues like cracking, peeling, and adhesive failure for applicable media, perforations that allow for two-way viewing may not be possible on alternative media types, points out Kylie Schleicher, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
Aside from media failure, Judy A. Heft, product manager, wide format consumables, Nazdar SourceOne, suggests that a more serious result of using unsuitable films could be legal and safety issues concerning window view obstruction, whether on a building or vehicle. “Requirements vary by state and locale, so be sure to check local laws and ordinances,” she adds.
Once the product’s useful life is up and it’s time to come down, window media options are generally designed for easy removal, however challenges can occur.
“Most glass features good adhesion, but you can only use a moderate amount of heat during removal without breaking the glass,” explains Lisa Orts, marketing communications, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Stephanie Kline, product/operations manager, banner and cut graphics, Arlon Graphics, LLC, warns that if a window-specific product is not used for a window application, the biggest issue is in removal.
For more permanent applications, Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Pro-Graphics Network, LLC, suggests that removal may require a significant time investment to clear off the glass.
“Time and money is wasted in processing poor quality films with inconsistent printing results. Difficulty when laminating, extra time for installation, and removal can be a nightmare,” adds Stan Holt, business development manager North America, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
When selecting a window-specific media, the first step is choosing a product with the right lifespan to ensure performance.
Victoria Doucet, marketing communications manager, Drytac Corporation, notes that adhesive-backed window media provides a stronger bond to the substrate and typically lasts longer, making it ideal for long-term graphics.
York suggests that some perforated window products are intended for short-term use of six months or less, while others are made to last for many years and incorporate finishing laminates to increase lifespan.
Cling options are best for short-term window applications, and can often be reused if stored properly.
Dennis Brunnett, product manager – advertising, FLEXcon, suggests that while each product has a different useful life, 90 to 360 days covers most window graphics.
“Keep in mind, a quality window graphic will only last as long as the ink can hold up. Typically, the print media will outlast a digital ink,” advises Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products.
While many manufacturers offer a durability warranty for unprinted media, printed durability may depend on the ink system.
“There are different grades of media—promotional, intermediate, and premium,” states Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation. She explains that promotional media usually lasts up to one year outdoors, intermediate media five years, while premium products ten years.
Perforated, adhesive-backed media features a perforation pattern for the first surface graphic image and viewing through the second surface, which is not imaged.
Perforated patterns make a difference in what type of window environment the media is best suited for. For example, Arlon offers its perforated window film in two perforated patterns, 70/30 and 60/40.
Kline points out that the larger print area of the 70/30 perforated pattern film makes it ideal for building wraps. The 60/40 perforated pattern is a preferred option for vehicle windows.
Richards says Avery Dennison’s 65/35 perforation pattern window media provides an open area of 35 percent, which is ideal for stationary windows, providing, “the best possible image quality while still providing a one-way graphic panel.”
In addition to perforation patterns, considerations include whether the material is mounted inside or outside of the window. For example, Coveris Advanced Coatings offers its one-side viewable perforated PVC window film, which is designed to be printed on the adhesive side through its NEW VUE option. “The design is both an adhesive and an ink-receptive coating, allowing retailers to mount graphics inside the storefront,” says Tamara Pitman, product manager, Coveris.
A variety of media providers offer perforated, adhesive-backed film for windows. While there are many options, below we highlight perforated media choices on the market and their differentiating features.
3M’s perforated films feature a solid liner. “This allows the graphic manufacturer to print on UV piezoelectric inkjet printers without the worry of ink sticking to the inside of the holes and blocking the see-through properties. It also adds stiffness to the material so it will feed through the printer more consistently,” says Orts.
For optimal performance, Kline says Arlon has added UV and heat stabilizers to its material to increase outdoor durability when it is exposed to direct sunlight.
Avery Dennison’s MPI Perforated Window Series includes MPI 2728 and MPI 2528, which Richards describes as intermediate calendared films that offer opaque/block out capabilities. The latest addition to its perforated series, MPI 3729 and 3529, print across all platforms, including latex.
Clear Focus provides perforated window graphic films that feature one-way and two-way vision to accommodate a range of displays. These films offer a variety of perforation patterns with hole diameters ranging from 1.4 to two millimeters.
While not self adhering, Holt notes that Continental Graphix panoRama Film inside mount is a perforated polyester solution and that the dimensionally stable polyester allows the graphic to stay flat against the window, “for many years with only a one-inch strip of panoRama Tape at the top and bottom.”
Contra Vision Performance Translucent White enables see-through graphics to be illuminated at night using back lighting from inside the window. It is also an option for indoor settings where there is not enough light to strongly illuminate the front side of the graphics.
FLEXcon provides perforated media formulated with an adhesive to make it cleanly removable while providing long-lasting outdoor durability, claims Brunnett. In addition to different hole patterns, the company provides a clear perforated product that allows for indoor mounting.
GPA’s perforated, adhesive-backed media is available in 50/50 and 70/30 perforation patterns. The company recommends these materials be laminated with a UV inhibiting clear cast vinyl for easy application, a cleaner graphic, and easy removal.
According to Mask, LexJet perforated window vinyl products are designed to remove in large pieces and not tear during removal. She recommends overlamination for additional UV protection.
Mactac’s IMAGin WindowVIEW Perforated Window Film is white with a black adhesive side, allowing graphics to be seen on the outside and viewers to look out from the inside.
Nazdar’s ImageStar 60/40 Illusion Removable Window Print Vinyl is a digitally printable PVC film with a black back. The adhesive is a removable, clear acrylic.
Roland’s ESM-VTV2 ViewThru Vinyl with permanent adhesive offers one-way viewing on transparent surfaces.
Ultraflex offers UltraVision Window Perf 6040 UV. The perforated window media is a white gloss material with black adhesive backing. “The material has been engineered with UV inhibitors to protect graphics from sunlight,” explains Schleicher.
In addition to perforated media options, which are generally applied with a self-adhesive, adhesive-backed non-perforated options also exist. Here we highlight select unperforated window media options and their differentiating features.
3M’s unperforated/clear adhesive-backed solutions are designed for first or second surface installation and provide, “unlimited design options including special effects using white ink such as translucent, dusted, or frosted; illusion of transparency and translucency; optically clear, non-imaged areas; alternative image on reverse side by layering inks; and multiple images in a single graphic,” according to Orts.
Avery Dennison’s SF 100 Polyester Series includes super clear film faces and adhesive to allow full window coverage. The unprinted area maintains clarity without the need to cut around the image. The gloss polyester films are designed for flat applications and other smooth surfaces.
Clear Focus’ PVSee unperforated clear adhesive-backed media product is a calendared vinyl film that can be printed using a variety of ink technologies.
Coveris offers its STICK 2 polypropylene banner with low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive and universal inkjet coating. It features an opaque surface.
Doucet points out that Drytac’s ViziPrint unperforated adhesive-backed window media option does not require professional installation or wet application. “Air egress channels in the embossed release liner allow for easy air evacuation using a felt burnishing pad,” she says.
FLEXcon’s unperforated window products feature a low-tack adhesive to make install and removal easy. The company offers opaque films for light blocking as well as super clear films for a no-decal look.
Greg Kestler, director of technical products, GPA, notes Concept unperforated clear adhesive-backed media options are available with a variety of adhesives to provide the right amount of adhesion as well as clarity and humidity resistance.
Lintec offers optically clear and textured adhesive-backed window media, manufactured with polyester. “Polyester is a stable film, which prevents shrinking and cracking in hot and cold weather environments. These characteristics make it ideal for windows. Polyester has been the film of choice in the window tinting market for decades,” says Halloran.
Mactac’s unperforated clear and translucent window films feature a dry application.
Perception Wide Format Media’s WindoFrog siliconized PET film features a clear, ink-receiving coating that allows for superior color reproduction, according to Jim Tufts, business unit manager, Perception.
Rundle says Ritrama’s cast vinyl is an excellent long-term window graphic. “Cast vinyl with color pigment throughout the film provides long-term graphics without fading or cracking,” he suggests.
Roland’s ESM-CCVP Clear Calendered Vinyl with permanent adhesive is a general purpose, adhesive-backed vinyl.
Non-adhesive backed window options include cling and cling-like media designed to stick to glass with the aid of static, suction, or similar technologies, not adhesive. The benefits of cling are best seen in short-term applications.
Elizabeth Delp, VP, sales and marketing, ClingZ Inc., notes that clings are easy to place, position, and remove and leave no residue. A variety of options are available, below are a few examples of products and differentiating features.
ATP Adhesive Systems’ Open Air micro-perforated bubble-free window cling solution is suited for short-term window applications. After application, the Open Air product is designed to leak out bubbles through micro-perforations overnight, rather than smoothed out during installation.
Clear Focus provides its EasyCling, which is not a true static cling product, but instead a clear polyester film with static cling-like properties. It is compatible with UV digital, screen, and latex inks.
ClingZ’s option—a statically changed cling media—clings on either side of the film and is available in white or clear.
Drytac’s non-adhesive window media option is ViziPrint Impress, an optically clear, printable PET window film with proprietary suction technology.
GPA’s cling offering is available in white and clear to serve a variety of window applications, whether they are interior or exterior mounted.
Nazdar’s ImageStar Low Tack Cling is ideal for glass, windows, and other glossy surfaces. However, it can also be used on matte surfaces including metal, wood, plastic, and paint.
Darrell Adams, VP, North America, Newlife Magnetics LLC, says the company’s micro-suction technology cling media, Cling-King, uses microscopic suction cups to hold the media on the glass application surface. “Newlife’s cling material is made from a printable polyester substrate with an optically clear silicone layer of microscopic suction cups on the backside,” he explains. “This new microscopic suction cup technology produces 220 pounds of holding force per square foot. These materials remain soft and flexible and completely reusable.”
Matt Buckley, marketing and technical manager, FDC Graphic Films, notes that its static cling offering is a calendared vinyl film specifically designed to provide easy positioning, repositioning, and removal.
FLEXcon’s cling solution is available in several gauges and is designed for low-cost applications.
Pro-Graphics provides its GlassADhere product, which Gierlach describes as a new technology featuring a suction released, pressure vacuum sealed install. Available in white and clear options, the product can be reused many times and removes easily with no residue.
Roland’s ESM-CSC Clear Static Cling and ESM-WSC White Static Cling media offerings are reusable if properly stored.
According to Cheshire, Xcel Products takes a unique approach to static cling. “We manufacture static cling at the time we receive the order. This provides better clarity, less mottling, and better ink adhesion,” he notes.
In addition to cling options, the company offers a full line of adhesive-backed window media, both perforated and non, and Xcel Products is a converting partner for General Formulations.
Window Media Options
Windows represent an enticing and practical medium for high-impact graphics. Whether in a retail display, covering a skyscraper, or adding a pop to an office interior, window graphics are effective.
However, it is essential that only window-specific media is used on window surfaces, as exposure to elements can lead to media failures when the right substrate is not selected for the job.
Nov2015, Digital Output