On a roll: trends in flexible substrates
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By James Matthews-Paul
16 February 2011
White, matte and self-adhesive flexible media are still the most popular options
What 2010 lacked in the release of new machines it made up for in the availability of new substrates. Responding to the steadily growing maturity in the UV-curable market, manufacturers have produced media that take advantage of the general move away from solvent for certain applications – although media are still being created for those printers, too.
Fujifilm's euromedia division used Sign and Digital UK 2010 to launch WonderTack, a white satin gloss polypropylene film which can stick without the use of adhesives. The product has a clear PET cousin, WonderTack Ghost, which exhibits similar properties. This reflects a move toward reducing the difficulty in applying short- or long-term campaigns to an advertising site, either by removing the need for extra adhesives or allowing repositioning.
New products for other uses were also released by euromedia, including SmoothWall Sticky, a PVC-free fleece wallpaper which it claims is the first self-adhesive media of its type. Sporting B1 fire retardancy and weighing in at 190g, it can also be removed without residue for the first four weeks of its life, allowing for short-term graphics applications. A 150g satin matte paper for light-box applications, Lightbox Paper, was also added, claiming 'excellent' colour reproduction at a low cost for solvent-based technologies, while a new heavy satin banner option, BlockOut Super Heavy FR Genuine, was another addition. This latter product offers double-sided print capability with an opaque block-out liner and other features expected of 'premium' banners despite its low price point, according to the manufacturer.
Spandex continues to claim that it has the largest range of media on the market, and added to its ImagePerfect line with the catchily named IP 2534PA, a white semi-matte self-adhesive with, again, emphasis on versatility of application. It can be printed with either solvent or UV-curing technologies and incorporates the company's PerfectApply technology, which was specially developed to allow for easy repositioning and removal. Spandex added PerfectApply to its existing IP 2503 Plus product, a 70µ white gloss polymeric vinyl; it has also improved its formulation for colour vibrancy and outdoor durability.
Another big name in the media market, Neschen, concentrated in 2010 on its integration with ColorAlliance (CA) profiles. Standardised CA coatings, according to the manufacturers, mean that colour profiles can be made available without the input of the original manufacturer, leading to a potential time saving for the producer. Its matte PVC self-adhesive vinyl product, the 80µ printlux, conforms to this standard and is coated on the reverse side with a solvent-free acrylic adhesive; its paper liner is also PEFC and FSC certified.
Repositioning was also on Neschen's list in 2010, with a new 'dot-type adhesive' applied to its solvoprint easydot 100. Available in glossy or matte formats for either solvent or UV-curing chemistries, the new adhesive was developed to provide a smoother, more even application.
This, again, shows how the drive in development has been in saving display producers time and money. Applying wallpapers, for example, was a tricky business even as little as two years ago; approving the media's repositioning qualities or conformability could shave minutes off installation times or even allow a producer to bring this task in-house as a service, which they might not have been able to do previously. It also opens up the market to smaller print houses, start-ups or novice installers. In this vein, Madico's E-338RC is a permanent or removable optically clear mounting adhesive which can be reapplied as many times as necessary.
While white, matte and self-adhesive are still the most popular adjectives on our list of available media, it would seem that eco-friendly claims weren't too prevalent; for example, there were no recycled products of note, nor were recyclability or any media reclamation programmes pushed. A reduction of emphasis was also evident in durability, with fewer new products shouting about any durability beyond the three-year mark. This suggests a recognition of how media are used for graphic arts purposes; so long as a printed substrate can brave the elements of its future home and survive for a campaign's full length, there's likely to be little need for it to last much longer than five years.
This brief analysis, which is not exhaustive, suggests that we'll see more developments along the same lines in 2011, with the main trend remaining application friendliness. However, materials prices are likely to go up due to the rise in general manufacturing costs, and the year is but young. Keep an eye on Output for the latest developments.
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