Self-adhesive Vinyl Types Explained

There are many different types of self-adhesive vinyl available for the production of large format graphics. Here we are going to explain the differences between the main types.

Calendared vinyls:

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

Different calendared types:

Monomeric:  Monomeric film is an entry level vinyl.  This film uses plasticisers with short molecule size.  The shorter molecule chains make this vinyl less conformable (less Stretchy) and in time a monomeric can become brittle. Suitable for application to flat surfaces only.  This vinyl will not conform to curves.  Over time a monomeric will shrink slighly which can be seen when applied to a sign panel.  Over time a white line around the signage panel will be visible.

Monomeric adhesives: Generally on these low cost films the adhesive will be water based, a few and more expensive monomeric films will use a solvent adhesive.  A water based solvent can cause problems which trying to remove the vinyl once applied.  Over a period of months the water based glue breaks down and when you start to peel the vinyl from say a vehicle most of the glue will be left behind on the vehicle. This means a lot of elbow grease and chemicals will need to be used to break down the glue and remove it from the surface which can be difficult and time consuming.

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

Polymeric:  Featuring more high quality plasticisers and large molecule chains this vinyl, a polymeric, will tackle slight contours and curves so is slightly conformable to shapes.  A good polymeric film should have over 50% less shrinkage than a monomeric film.   If applied properly 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 nearly all solvent based.  This means that the glue has a longer life expectancy and even if a polymeric has been applied to a vehicle for over 5 years, using a little heat the vinyl should remove leaving no glue or residue,

Standard external life expectancy is between 5-8 years.

Cast vinyls for use on vehicle wraps:

Cast vinyls are mostly used for producing vehicle wraps or when a premium film is needed.
Cast or ‘casting’ refers to the manufacturing process.  Cast films are highly stable and conformable and can stretch upto 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.  A cast vinyl is generally more more shiny and glossy compared to its calendared underdogs.

The liquified plastic resin is sprayed onto a high quality silicon coated backing paper.  Rather than being pulled and stretched through rollers the cast is then left to settle on the paper and form naturally.  This is why when you hold a piece of cast vinyl up to a light there is a slight randomness to the texture and thickness which can be seem under close examination.   The lack of mechanical or thermal force used to create a cast film means that the film has no memory.  This means that when pushing into a deep recess the vinyl should stay.  Once the vinyl is in the recess we then ‘bake’ or ‘superheat’ the vinyl setting the memory on the vehicle.

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

Standard external life expectancy is normally 8-10+ years.