Remember all the publicity LifeArt received by making coffins out of a patented composite material that can be buried but is designed to burn effectively too, so you can really personalise your last journey? Well, there are plenty of other attention grabbing materials out there. Here’s a round-up of the newest.
“Stop faking authenticity, start reinventing it.” That’s the message from Johan Bonner, general manager, Squid, who believes a craving from the marketplace for environmentally friendly personalised print is starting to prompt PSPs to discover a new array of substrates that will ultimately help them develop their customer spread. He explains: “Print technology has become so good it has tricked us into almost believing plastic can be wood, granite, fabric, wool, you name it. Printing on cheaper material has proven very profitable for margins, large volumes, and mass consumption. The use of plastic, however, gets more scrutinised by the day, increasingly pushing the print industry to ‘go green’. Incredible progress has been made in inks and printing technology, but what about the substrates?
“Disruption never comes from within. The same goes for print - the print media manufacturers won’t disrupt inkjet/large-format printing - but smart newcomers looking to respond to market demands will.
“As part of a textile producer [Lampe Textiles], we’re in regular contact with designers, both high-brow and mass creators. And lately, their craving has been for authenticity and green media solutions. The world pressures us to resort to affordable, authentic solutions that are both green and sustainable. Real glass, wood, granite - but with a dash of personalisation, tailored to each home for example. If you ask me, the next disruption in inkjet printable material will be about plastic-lookalike substrates making way for new, authentic and printable materials. Repurposing green substrates will leave a smaller ecological footprint. The tailoring inkjet print can provide, will help meet the personalisation trend.”
David Hunter, sales manager at Soyang Europe is not quite so bold, but he does agree that “recyclability is an issue the whole industry needs to look at,” adding: “Customers are demanding greener solutions. PVC is getting bad PR again so we have to start looking for alternatives. Polyethylene is a greener option - and cheap - but once you put ink onto it how do you get it off to make it recyclable? And then there’s the consideration that it’s often not the most aesthetically pleasing either. So there is a big focus from substrate suppliers on developing good-looking, well-priced products that can be printed to meet the increasing demand for ‘wow’ graphics that also meet environmental demands.”
“For a long time, PVC-free materials have been seen as inferior in quality to PVC banner materials, and thus only attractive to companies that have projects where environmental aspects are the most important factors. It’s a massive credibility boost to PSPs who are actively promoting eco-friendly products, and opens up a whole new customer base of those who traditionally didn’t order banner due to its limitations on recyclability,” adds Kieran Dallow, marketing manager at Innotech,
Hunter flags up flooring as a growth area when it comes to substrates and where printable self-adhesive offerings for application onto carpets for instance is seeing an expanding range of options. “And demand is growing for higher-end projects that require five-year guarantees etc., so we’ll definitely see more products coming out that meet that criteria,” he says.
As you might expect given all the noise surrounding inkjet printable textiles, this is another area Hunter earmarks for continued media development. “The retail market in particular has really woken up to the benefits of tension fabric systems in-store. They can renew the graphics quickly, cheaply and easily, and if they’re illuminated they look really great and catch the eye.”
And that’s what most customers want after all - something attention grabbing - especially in retail. Chris Green, channel head for visual communications at Antalis UK puts it well: “Today’s consumers are seeking a stand-out shopping experience from their high street and retail centres and we are witnessing a significant shift from a focus on the transactional experience to the sensory experience. Using inkjet print techniques on innovative media and substrates can deliver standout graphics - from walls, windows, floors and ceilings - in myriad 2D and 3D applications. Advances in technology means we can create unique textured surfaces and even scented prints. Light in particular has been shown to influence shoppers and it is in this area that PSPs can really add value. Techniques such as ‘night and day printing’, creating tactile 3D images from building layers of ink and also lenticular printing can be extremely effective.”
Steve Yarbrough, Drytac product support specialist, points to another growth sector - window graphics. “The right design, installed correctly using specialised materials, can make a bold and vibrant statement. It’s a thriving market for graphics companies and designers.
So, what inkjet printable substrates have been brought to market over the last year or so that can help you make your mark?
Among the latest materials from Avery Dennison is a PVC-free wrap film designed to cover a vast range of different applications, including textured surfaces like brick and concrete. Easy Apply RS adhesive technology ensures simple air-egress, repositionability and slideability. It can be printed latex, UV and solvent/eco-solvent.
Made by Continental Grafix and available in the UK via Mayday Graphic Products, FatFloor can be used on almost every surface, and because it doesn‘t have any adhesive it is reusable. The product is highly unusual in that it can be rolled and squeezed and within 24 hours it looks flat again. The transparent material is for reverse printing (image reverse and than one layer white), helping with durability - of up to three years. The structured front gives a very good slip resistance (certificate R10). It can be laid on the ground or used with the company’s CarpetTape to stick it down.
Three products from Drytac are relatively new to market: Polar Burst, ViziPrint Illuminate, and the slightly older SpotOn Floor 200.
Polar Burst is a 3.7mil printable, ultra-reflective satin, self-adhesive PVC film, compatible with UV and latex wide-format printing. This incredibly light-reflective film features a removable grey acrylic adhesive protected by a siliconised PET release liner and is available in roll widths of up to 1270mm.
ViziPrint Illuminate is a 4 mil translucent matte PET film that uses a mechanical bond to adhere to smooth, flat surfaces. Designed for window graphics, it is reverse printable, compatible with latex and UV printing technologies, and is available in roll widths of up to 1524mm. The medium has a bright white base colour which diffuses light to create vibrant graphics with a wide colour gamut.
SpotOn Floor 200 is an embossed printable white matte PVC film for short-term, indoor floor graphics and can be easily applied to multiple flooring surfaces including floor or ceramic tiles, sealed wood or concrete, waxed vinyl etc. without the need for over-lamination.
Manufactured in Germany WowTack S CL is distributed in the UK by Folex UK and through its dealers/distributors/merchants, many of which are private label. This is a clear polyester film with highly transparent ink receiving layer and a clear removable acrylic based adhesive for use in glass decoration where the requirement is for a ‘direct print’ look - graphics can be applied dry and removed with no residue. The medium can be solvent, eco solvent, latex and UV printed. It comes in a 1370mm width and 20m length.
Guandong has added new floor graphic media to its range, including materials that can be applied to rugs and carpets. These include print&walk for short-life communications for events and promotions through to Mak Flooring which has non-slip surface (R13) making it suitable for stairs, wet pavements and humid surfaces. The materials are available in a sample folder.
Frosted Etch Silicone Adhesive Window Film is a reverse print translucent 175mic film with repositionable silicone adhesive for use with solvent, eco-solvent, latex and UV inks. It can also be used as a reverse print self-adhesive backlit film and comes in 914mm, 1067mm, 1270mm and 1524mm widths.
Innotech Digital has recently expanded its Envirotech PVC-free range of wide-format materials to include a heavy duty mesh, blockout, banner and self-adhesive vinyls.
The heavy duty mesh banner is designed for covering fences, scaffolding or used for stadium banners and events. The coated polyesters in grey-back, white-back and blue-back are suitable for wall coverings and roll-up banners due to their stay-flat properties. There is also a PVC-free coated polyester banner with fire retardant B1 rating and available in 260gsm and 300gsm weights. The Envirotech banner fabrics can be hemmed with high frequency welding when recyclability is an important factor.
KernowJet AdHere is a PVC-free, repositionable medium that will accept solvent, UV curable and latex inks. Its very slightly textured finish is scuff resistant and low reflection. It is available in white in a 1372mm width.
Also new is KernowJet Klearwipe, a long-term hard coat clear dry erase PVC-free lamination film and worth mentioning here because it allows any smooth surface to be turned into a dry-erase board when it’s applied to a print as it can be used with whiteboard, blackboard and chalkboard writing materials. It can also be used as an anti-graffiti film.
Perspex Distribution has improved its aluminium composite offering with the announcement that its brushed aluminium Alupanel is now produced with a five-year external warranty. All Alupanel products are manufactured with A5005 alloy for enhanced corrosion resistance.
Soyang Europe distributes a foil-based medium called AlumiGraphics, which comes in four different finishes for wall and floor graphics. One of the key benefits is that is can be applied using a roller (rather than a heat gun) onto heavily textured or rough surfaces. The materials are PVC-free and can be printed with solvent, eco-solvent, UV and latex ink. There’s no need to laminate
IP 2574 Reflective Film has an outstanding level of retroflection it has to be said. Manufactured by ImagePerfect, it is compatible with eco solvent, solvent, UV and latex inks and comes in 380mm and 1220mm widths on roll lengths of 10m, 25m and 50m.
Squid is a patented self-adhesive transparent textile for the decoration of windows and other glass surfaces. It was developed for the interior design market when the owner of mother company Lampe Textiles was looking for a semi-permanent privacy solution for his son’s room at university. The medium - suitable for UV printing and eco-solvent (latex due soon) - is 100% polyester, woven, antibacterial and fire-retardant (M1/B1). The solvent-free acrylic glue is two-layered so it can be used in humid surroundings. It is temperature and pressure-sensitive as well as UV resistant. It is available in five colours and comes in rolls of 1.3m x 50m.
Developed for and sold solely by William Smith, Vion Graphic Film Series is available with high tack adhesive for applying to low energy surfaces, such as emulsion painted walls, wood, polypropylene and polyethylene (plastic) walls etc.
VP5100 is a 75 micron, white, polymeric calendered film with a permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive and an outdoor durability of five years. The film can be used with latex, solvent, eco-solvent and UV inks and is available in 1524mm and 1370mm wide rolls.
VP3000 is an 80-micron, monomeric calendered film with three-year durability. It features a clear, solvent-based pressure sensitive adhesive and comes with a 140gsm double-sided PE coated liner. It too can be used with solvent, eco-solvent, UV and latex print systems, and is available in 1520mm and 1370mm wide rolls.
Printer turned supplier
Fabric printer Standfast and Barracks, part of the British furnishings group Walter Greenbank, has trademarked a direct-to-fabric Greentex pigment printed collection called Ecofast which will be formally launched at Heimtextil in January 2019.
The company - which has two Durst Alpha 190 systems running One-Step Greentex P ink - hopes the technology will enable it to open up market opportunities in areas such as contract, apparel and roller-blinds.
Standfast and Barracks produces more than 150,000 yards of printed fabric per month - until five years ago all done by conventional printing. Digital production now accounts for more than half the business revenues at the company and it expects it to reach 60% by the start of next year. Export is a focus and is in line to account for 20% of sales - half of which is to the USA - by the end of 2018.
Less than three years since a flood closed the factory for more than four months, MD Stephen Thomas, said: “Our order books are definitely growing and we are actively encouraging our customers to do more digital printing. Digital gives unlimited opportunities and colour variations with the ability to develop new application and products and continue to develop our business.”