Whether you’re an experienced sign maker or just starting out, choosing the right materials is crucial. In any application, labour inevitably accounts for the bulk of your production costs. By selecting the best possible materials for the job, you can improve quality, enhance productivity and minimise wastage whilst maximizing your profitability. To help assist you in choosing which signage and digital products to use we have compiled a list of the different types of products and what types of projects they are best suited for.
At first sight, there is little to distinguish between the three types of vinyl available today: cast, polymeric calendered and monomeric calendered films. However, the difference between them is obvious after they have been applied for any length of time. The film that looks as good as the day it was applied is manufactured using a process known as casting and is described as a cast film.
Cast films: A Premium Solution
A cast film is a premium grade vinyl that starts life as a liquid, which is then allowed to spread out to an extremely thin layer. Cast films have no memory and are stable, so shrinkage is barely perceptible. Because the films are thinner and softer, they are easier to cut, weed and apply. The films conform over substrate irregularities such as rivets and textures, making them the preferred option for the most extreme exterior applications – especially vehicle wraps. Cast films are also often used for interior or less challenging applications when special or PANTONE® colours are required. Key features of cast films include:
- Long term durability
- Highly conformable
- More dimensionally stable and resistant to shrinkage
- Highly resistant to fading
- Highly resistant to chemicals
Calendered films start life as a lump of plastic that is then flattened by being passed through two pressure rollers. Though not as high quality as cast films in demanding applications, film produced by this process can nevertheless be adequate in less demanding conditions. Calendered films come in two types: polymeric and monomeric.
Polymeric Calendered Films
Polymeric calendered films have added polymers to reduce shrinkage. However, although they have developed significantly over the years, they still fall short of the stability and durability of cast films. Polymeric films fare much better in exterior applications than monomeric films but are not suitable for application over surface irregularities such as rivets and corrugations. However some polymerics can last well and even conform to some curves. For less demanding exterior work, polymeric films offer a workable alternative to cast.
Monomeric Calendered Films: Cost-Effective Option
The least expensive vinyl film is monomeric calendered. These films are not suitable for demanding exterior applications such as vehicle liveries or fascia signs. The face film of monomeric film is not as stabilised so it will be more prone to shrinkage to reveal the adhesive beneath. Dirt will adhere to this revealed adhesive and will be clearly visible as a sticky, black outline around the lettering and other elements. The sticky black outline is usually only the start of more severe degradation to come. Eventually, the vinyl face film will begin to curl up and flake off like peeling paint. Monomeric films, therefore, are best suited to short-term exterior applications and interior work.
At Spandex we recognise the importance of environmentally responsible solutions. That’s why we offer a range of PVC-free films as an alternative to traditional vinyl films. Our PVC-free range offers many different materials for all sorts of applications. These films provide a great option for visual communication professionals wishing to avoid PVC while still providing great performance in terms of durability, conformability and ease of application.
Exploring Additional Film Options:
In addition to the four basic types of vinyl film described above, we also supply the following films.
Polyester films usually have a very high gloss finish. They do not stretch so are only suitable for applications to flat surfaces.
PVF films are chemically inert to the solvents found in stains and paint and are typically used as a protective measure where graffiti is likely.
Scrimmed PVC films are used for banners and stretched sign faces because of their enhanced strength. The scrim can be black to prevent “show-through” on double-sided banners.
Mirrored Films and metal vinyl are suited for adding highlights and detailed lettering. Metallised and tattoo film are the perfect tools for adding complex details to vehicle wraps.
Screenprint films can be used for long-term or short-term applications.
As with all product choices, understanding the broad types of materials will help you make the right decision but if in doubt, you can always contact Spandex and speak with one of our experts who can guide you to purchase the right signage products for every application.
View our full range of signage here.