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What are the different vinyl printing types?

Self-adhesive vinyl printing is a plastic film which is used to cover signs and vehicles. There are many different types of self-adhesive vinyl available for the production of large format graphics. In this blog, we look at the different types of vinyl, the uses of the different types and the pros and cons

Calendared vinyls

‘Calendared’ vinyls are produced by being ‘extruded’ and formed with heat and pressure through rollers. Calendared vinyls are less stable than cast films.  Calendared vinyl films have been formed by heat and pressure so have a ‘memory’. This memory means that if you try and mould or heat/stretch into a recess, over a short period the vinyl will shrink and try and move back to its original shape.

Different calendared types

Below we look at the two types of calendared vinyls. Monomeric and Polymeric

Monomeric vinyl printing

Monomeric film is an entry-level vinyl, lost cost film. This film uses plasticisers with short molecule size. The shorter molecule chains make this vinyl less conformable and less stretchy. In time a monomeric vinyl can become brittle. A monomeric vinyl is suitable for application to flat surfaces only. Monomeric films will not conform to curves. Over time a monomeric vinyl will show signs of shrinking which is visible a few days after application. Over time if a blue vinyl is applied to a white panel a visible grey line around the signage panel will be seen.

Monomeric adhesives: Most commonly, a monomeric adhesive is water-based. Some more expensive monomeric films will use a solvent adhesive. A solvent-based adhesive is a much better option as the glue doesn’t deteriorate over time. Water-based adhesive can cause problems when trying to remove the film at a later date. The water-based breaks down over time, and upon removal, a thin film of glue will be left behind on the vehicle. Removing the glue is difficult and time-consuming. The cost saving on the vinyl is outweighed by the time it takes to remove the glue. Its always better to use as higher quality vinyl that is fit for purpose.

Standard external life expectancy of a monomeric vinyl is between 2-4 years.

Monomeric uses

• Ideal for flat panels with a short to mid-term lifespan

• Site boards and corrugated plastic boards

• Small stickers and decals for flat application only

• 2-4 year life span

Polymeric vinyl printing

A polymeric vinyl Features more high-quality plasticisers and large molecule chain. The polymeric film will tackle slight contours and curves so it is slightly conformable to shapes. A good polymeric film has over 50% less shrinkage than a monomeric film. If appropriately applied a good quality polymeric vinyl is more stable than a monomeric film and is less likely to pull back out of recesses over time.

Polymeric adhesives: Polymeric adhesive is mostly all solvent-based. The solvent adhesive means that the glue has a longer life expectancy. 

Polymeric vinyl is easier to remove than monomeric more due to the solvent adhesive. A polymeric vinyl applied to a vehicle will remove with relative ease, even if this is after a few years.  

Polymeric uses

• Ideal for flat panels with a short to mid-term lifespan

• Site boards and corrugated plastic boards

• Small stickers and decals for flat application only

• Life expectancy is between 5-8 years.

Cast vinyl printing

Used mostly on vehicle wraps and where a premium product is essential, cast vinyl is a high-grade product. The way the cast film is manufactured and the high-grade raw materials make cast film very expensive. Cast vinyl can be upwards of 4 times more expensive than a monomeric vinyl.

 Cast or ‘casting’ refers to the manufacturing process. Cast films are highly stable and conformable and can stretch up to 50% larger than the original size. Cast films and generally softer and more malleable than a calendared vinyl and in most cases are up to 50% thinner than a calendared film. Cast vinyl is usually more shiny and glossy compared to its calendared underdogs.

How is the cast vinyl made? The liquified plastic resin is sprayed onto a high-quality silicon coated backing paper. The cast material is then left to settle on the paper and form naturally. When held up to a bright office light, you will notice that a cast has a randomness to the thickness of the film. The inconsistent thickness is due to the natural settling of the plastic mixture. The lack of mechanical or thermal force used to create a cast film means that the film has no memory. The result is a film that can cope with deep recesses and should stay in place. Once the vinyl is applied, any vinyl which covers recesses should be ‘baked’ or ‘superheated’. The process of baking the vinyl creates the forming of the vinyl. As the plastic was unformed when made by the lack of heat or pressure, the vinyl shouldn’t have any memory. Now when the vinyl is ‘baked’ the film now has had its memory set. The result means the vinyl should stay in the recess and not pop out over time.

Adhesive: Adhesives used are always solvent-based and of the highest quality.

Polymeric uses & benefits

• Ideal for deep recesses and complex curves

• High gloss appearance

• Vehicle wraps

• For use on items when only quality is important

• Life expectancy is between 8-10+ years.

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