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Fri, Apr

The power of the media

Nessan Cleary takes a look at those substrates that can lead to new applications and new revenueopportunities.

Given that new substrates can open up a whole new world of potential applications and revenue streams many of you will consider it part of the day job to experiment with materials and make a real effort to understand the properties and value of the various different substrates available as essential know-how for producing a profitable range of work. Let’s help you with that process by looking at some of the media announced this year that are of particular note.

In terms of rigid materials, there’s a clear trend toward more sustainable substrates. This is bound to continue given that landfill tax goes up every year – it’s around £80 a tonne at the moment and set to rise in line with the Retail Price Index from April 2015.

There’s still a lot of plastic sheeting products but many of these are now recyclable. Amari Plastics, for example, has developed Green Cast, a rigid clear acrylic sheet that is manufactured from recycled acrylic materials. It can be completely recycled when the graphic is finished with, giving a closed loop solution.

Dufaylite, perhaps best known for its Ultraboard range of paper and cardboards, has developed a plastic version, Polyprop. This is made completely from polypropylene but uses the same honeycomb structure as the rest of the Ultraboard range, which gives excellent strength to weight ratio. It’s being touted as an alternative to rigid and foam PVC and is completely recyclable.

Other rigid boards have been released that address other current issues. For instance, 3A Composites launched KapaTech earlier this year, and picked up an award for it from the European Digital Press Association into the bargain. The Kapa board range comprises lightweight boards with polyurethane foam cores. There are different covers designed for specific applications. KapaTech has coated aluminium skins and is the first of these boards to gain Euroclass B certification for being difficult to ignite. It can be printed to directly and is suitable for point of sale applications as well as shop fittings or anywhere that fire safety might be an issue.

Perspex Distribution, well known for rigid plastic boards, also distributes the Multipanel range of aluminium composite boards. These are made of a polyethylene core sandwiched between aluminium outer covers, which give a very flat surface with good dimensional stability. Earlier this year Perspex added a new board – alupanel A-Lite – which has a matt white finish and a coating on the front and back to be receptive to UV-curable inks.

Print product manager Mike Summers says that it differs from other boards, in that “It has a different aluminium that means that it’s particularly easy to cut so you get a very fine edge and it’s very quick without wearing out the cutting tool.” He adds: “The ink receptive coating means that the product can be handled very quickly. UV tends to cure over 24 hours but these can be handled without fear of scratching.”

Summer says this new material is part of a general trend in the market, noting: “I think there’s been a move from foam PVC to aluminium composite in the last couple of years but they all have a place in the market.”

Perspex Distribution has also just launched a range of self-adhesive vinyls with matching overlaminates and banner graphics called Transprint Digital Media. Summers says the range is sourced from a UK supplier and is aimed at the quality end of the market. The materials are suitable for solvent, latex and UV printing and include monomeric, polymeric and cast self adhesive vinyl. They are designed to last from three to seven years. The banner materials include blockout and mesh banners suitable for one year.

A number of vendors have also launched new window cling films with properties that allow them to be used in otherwise unworkable situations. Earlier this year Lintec launched a new lightweight dry apply film called RePop. It’s a 50-micron film that is designed to replace traditional ‘cling’ PVC window film. It’s based on polyester, rather than PVC and Lintec claims that its dimensionally stable so that it won’t shrink and curl under strong sunlight. It has a paper release liner so it can be used for screen or digital print.

Andy Voss, Lintec’s managing director, says that end users can apply the films themselves: “This flexibility and efficiency provides them with enormous scope to rebrand and refresh their campaigns as often and as quickly as required with a high quality promotional glass manifestation product that really stands out. When they want to change the display, the film seamlessly peels off.”

One user is Adcal Labels, based in Wycombe, which has used it to produce small window film applications – such as ‘payment accepted’ displays in shop windows and association logos for their members’ properties. It’s managing director Michael O’Connor, says: “These applications, often ordered in small batches, are best suited to the capabilities of digital print. However in our experience some self-adhesive films, especially self-clings are often uneven and difficult to print on via digital technology. This consequently affects the application’s life span as it begins to peel or deteriorate after only a couple of months. This hampers the end-user’s capability to refresh or adjust displays.”

Printed floor graphics are becoming more common, despite various technical challenges like having to cope with considerable wear and tear. Then there’s the basic health and safety issue of the graphics having to be non-slip for obvious reasons, regardless of weather or ambient conditions.

But substrate developers continue their work apace, and we’re seeing a number of new options, including Soyang’s G-Floor - a clear PVC substrate with the image printed on the underside. There’s a choice of different finishes and an option of a solid white media, suitable for surface printing using just CMYK inks. It’s available in widths up to 3m and is suitable for use with UV curable or solvent inks.

Another notable trend is toward inks that adhere to a wider range of media, which in turn means that many cheaper materials can be used, as well as uncoated substrates such as glass and metal. This is because printer vendors are increasingly trying to adapt wide-format machines for industrial uses, but will ultimately benefit graphics users with a wider