Installation 101: What Does Your Pressure-sensitive Vinyl Product Say About You?

Whether you’re a seasoned installation professional or a novice, the choices you make in vinyl adhesive products can say a lot about your ability as a graphic installer. It’s important to know what adhesive products best serve the application and the installer. Not knowing a difference exists in pressure-sensitive adhesives can not only negatively affect your customers’ graphics, but it can also negatively impact your shop’s bottom line.

As customers demand more from installers, installers are demanding more from manufacturers in terms of pressure-sensitive vinyl options to fit the speed and expertise of their application business.

Know the Difference

With so many new products in the market today, finding the right one can often be an expensive and time consuming task. To achieve the ideal solution the first time, installers should keep two things in mind: the requirement of the job and their own application skill set. Vinyl adhesive products throughout the industry commonly feature similar characteristics in adhesive properties, but produce extremely different results if not installed correctly by the right installer.

Additionally, there are many products that look the same on the outside. However, it’s not just about the outside—the technology built into the adhesive is the key variable that makes a world of difference for the installer. The trick is finding one that embodies characteristics that meet all your needs, such as ease of use, versatility and the ability to reposition as needed. It’s important to note that less experienced installers should stick—no pun intended—to products that do not have an aggressive high-tack adhesive in case repositioning is needed.

And to get the sought after paint-like finish, there are a variety of bubble-free products now available with a thinner, high-performance face. A vinyl that is around 2.1-mils in thickness works well for a variety of applications, including vehicle wraps, fleet graphics, boat and transit wraps, and point-of-purchase displays. Selecting an adhesive product with bubble-free technology first and foremost offers installers ease of application. This type of product is often very forgiving, allowing beginner and intermediate installers more time to work with the vinyl, which is great for unique or difficult applications.

Professional installers looking to cover large, flat surfaces or applications with extensive rivets or corrugations like fleet vehicles require a high-tack adhesive that quickly builds to a high bond. This aggressive set-up feature is ideal for high volume, experienced installers who need fast turnaround on projects. Repositionability is reduced to approximately five minutes instead of the standard thirty minutes to one hour. This allows for faster completion of installation projects with the ability to improve customer value and business margins, while enhancing other business efficiencies.

When talking to your supplier, find out if extra polymers have been incorporated into the vinyl facestock. This property enables installers to stretch the vinyl over rivets, through corrugations and over other complex curves and surfaces—and keep it in place. A simple, yet critical, post-heating step actually resets the vinyl memory to the new shape rather than simply relaxing the vinyl. Proper post heating involves applying heat to the applied graphic until it reaches a minimum of 220°F.

Reap the Benefits

Finding the right system for your graphic does not have to be difficult. Your supplier should work with you to find just the right product for your application. When speaking with them, be sure to ask some basic questions:

  • Is the adhesive high-tack?
  • How long will the product remain repositionable?
  • Is the vinyl bubble free?
  • How well will the vinyl conform over curves and rivets?
  • What overlaminate will work best for my application?

With the many advancements in graphic technology, virtually any application by any installer can be achieved with the right material. It’s just a matter of talking to your supplier, providing detailed information about your application and asking the right questions.