The Differentiator: Specialty Media Helps Print to Stand Out

Wanting to look unique is the goal of many a teenagers in identity crisis, be it with skinny jeans, big baggy jeans, vibrant tattoos and hair color, or extreme body piercings. Pardon the pun, but when it comes to trying to be distinctive, some wide-format print firms are, well, no different. Often it’s more the printed surface than the ink that keeps end products looking good, especially in the wide-format print sector.

Some of these newer, differentiating products were on display at Graph Expo and at the SGIA Expo where they could be touched and seen, including flatbed printing on wooden panels. Comprised of 100-percent recycled fiber manufactured into a high-density fiberboard, one example is FiberMate media from 3A Composites, which is available in a 3.2 millimeter thickness and 49x97-inch sheets.

In late September, LexJet introduced 11-mil blockout media—Blockout PolyGloss and Blockout Water-Resistant Polypropylene—designed for multiple large-format applications. The new lay-flat polypropylene inkjet printable materials feature a gray back coat for additional opacity. They can be used as a cost-effective alternative to the typical polyester inkjet materials for trade show and in-store point-of-purchase (POP) graphics as well as long-term indoor banners and short-term outdoor banners, said LexJet.

“We already offer a fantastic water-resistant polypropylene, but our customers were looking for something more opaque,” says Jeff Leto, LexJet product manager. “The great thing about the new blockout polypropylene materials is that they’re economical and you can use them for practically any type of display graphics applications.”

The water-resistant materials have a bright-white, inkjet-receptive coating that yields additional color and contrast. Blockout PolyGloss is compatible with aqueous inkjet printers, and Blockout Water-Resistant Polypropylene is compatible with aqueous and latex inkjet printers. Both materials are available in 24-, 36-, 42-, 50-, and 60-inch rolls.

Meanwhile, Tex Visions offers unique products such as the Display Cube, a three-dimensional display wrapped in fabric and made of foam dense enough for sitting yet light enough for stacking. (See sidebar on page 21 for more textile printing developments.)

Another differentiator making its debut at SGIA 2012 is the new direct-print version of Innova Art’s patented JetMaster Display System. Designed specifically for flatbed devices, these specially coated blanks are printed and then immediately folded into dimensional signage, décor gallery wraps, or point-of- purchase (POP) displays. No tools or messy adhesives are required, explained the developer.

This summer Ultraflex Systems introduced Bali Hai, the newest embossment in its Wallscapes line. Featuring a fine, granular texture formulated without cadmium and lead compounds, it can enhance the look of any print or design and also helps to prevent glare without compromising image quality. Bali Hai also passes the requirements of CCCW-408-D for mold/mildew/bacterial resistance.

Wallscapes are high-quality, durable, flexible materials for use as wall coverings or upscale banner applications for eco-solvent, solvent, latex, UV, and screen printing. They can be installed using most commercial types of adhesives or can be sewn or grommeted for use in untraditional, canvas-like applications. General applications for Bali Hai include museums and showrooms, murals, office lobbies and conference rooms, residential, retail store and display walls, school and daycare venues, and tradeshow exhibits. In addition to Bali Hai, Ultraflex stocks three other Wallscapes embossments: Suede, Stardust, and Matte; all are available in standard 54-inch width on 75-foot or 300-foot long rolls.

DreamScape also offers digitally printable wall-covering media for solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable and latex inks. It is a certified commercial grade wall covering available in 15 textures and optically tuned for digital printing. Also, WallWrap adhesive-backed textured wall covering and Terralon, PVC-free wall covering are available. New in 2012 are Silver Flash and Gold Flash chrome finish wallcoverings, which allow designers, artists, and printers to create a modern, high-end look in brilliant colors.


Green is Special, Too

Within its SGIA exhibit, xpedx showed substrates from Catalina, Clear Focus, Gilman Bros., Inteplast, MACtac, Ultraflex, United Industries, and 3M. In its own booth, 3M Commercial Graphics premiered the next generation of “green,” high-performance wrap films that contain no polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Envision Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 and 3M Envision Gloss Wrap Overlaminate 8548G.

Another green exhibitor was conVerd, the official substrate provider for the SGIA expo. All of the show aisle signage and meter boards were printed on conVerd Board 6mm. Incorporating 10 percent post consumer waste, it is completely recyclable and renewable, while providing a price-comparable green alternative to foam and styrene-based products. conVerd also partnered with Mutoh and Zund to deliver promotional products printed and cut out during the show. Mutoh and Zund distributed hotel door hangers, promotional boxes, and other creative pieces all made with conVerd Board 3mm. Esko and conVerd also partnered to make creative hand-out pieces that showed the ease of cutting customized shapes without crushing the corners of conVerd boards.

FLEXcon also offers sustainable alternatives for large-format graphic applications, including its WALLdeco, COUNTERdeco, WINDOWdeco, and FLEXmark floor art products. Novelty films such as SHIMMERcal and PRISMcal to high-performance adhesives like FLEXmount SELECT offer customers more options for their brand/visual application needs, the company said.

Cooley Commercial Graphics showed a number of products at the show, including CoolFlex seamless, digital printing membranes that can be used in everything from banners to billboards to building wraps. CoolFlex products include Seamless Frontlit, Black/White, and Backlit materials, which are all recyclable through the Cooley RE-Flex Recycling Program. Also on display were the lightweight, PE, PVC, and PP EnviroFlex substrates, including the new EnviroFlex PE, which is a printable polyethylene substrate that offers high-quality graphic images and durability in a lightweight, fully recyclable product. Cooley also showed the two-sided and digitally printable CoolMesh substrates for large outdoor applications requiring airflow; the Weathertyte and Weathertyte Lite advanced awning fabrics; and Cooley-Brite backlit sign and awning material.

FiberMark, too, this summer announced a portfolio of branded products for wide-format inkjet printers. Leveraging the company’s core technologies and manufacturing capabilities, “and developing new product lines created specifically for inkjet printers that use today’s durable latex, solvent (all), and UV-curable inkjet inks, FiberMark has created a portfolio of wide-format inkjet print media that is PVC-free, environmentally responsible, economical, durable, and application-specific,” said Robert Conforti, PhD, the firm’s senior vice president of new business development. FiberMark’s portfolio includes Endura-Print, latex-saturated, wet strength papers and non-wovens.


Outdoor, Indoor, and Interactive

MACtac has introduced new mounting films for all high-end applications, including its PERMACOLOR ColorTrans CT2200 and PERMACOLOR ColorPrint PP2018. For an alternative to the traditional shop windows, POP displays, and signage, MACtac also exhibited a new interactive technology that transforms ordinary surfaces into dynamic digital displays.

InteliCoat Technologies has launched several new products designed to meet the evolving needs of the wide-format digital imaging market. Its Magic brand GBL-9 is a satin backlit film for use in solvent and eco-solvent printing systems. Recommended as a front printing and viewing film where high density can be achieved, it is ideally suited for backlit signage applications in indoor and outdoor environments including tradeshow graphics, POS and POP displays, banners, and signage. GBL-9 provides maximum transmitted and reflected ink density, ensuring vivid color and high image resolution.

In early September, Drytac launched ViziPrint, an easy-to-install window film that it showed at SGIA. The clear, UV printable, self-adhesive polyester window film is easily installed on glass with a felt burnishing pad—no water or soapy concoction is required, the firm said. ViziPrint is cost effective for retail and gives a high-end look. Similar to Drytac’s WindowTac adhesive, ViziPrint uses a specially designed, embossed release liner that imparts micro grooves in the adhesive allowing for air evacuation. The proprietary adhesive is removable and repositionable, making installation simple and eliminating professional installation costs.

“ViziPrint opens up a lot of possibilities for retail window applications,” said Jerry Hill, VP of sales and marketing in North America. “It applies smoothly and imparts a high-end look unlike static cling.” ViziPrint is printable on most UV flatbed printers. For opaque window graphics, it can be printed with white inks or backed with Drytac Spectrum, a white printable vinyl with clear adhesive.

GBC exhibited new films including Arctic Light, a 3-mil PVC pressure-sensitive film for indoor signage and short-term outdoor applications, and Arctic Premium Vue-Thru, an optically clear adhesive best used for backlit displays.

In related news, in late September, Plaskolite, Inc., the largest US manufacturer of continuously processed acrylic sheet products, announced the addition of cell cast acrylic to its product line. Cell cast acrylic features a high chemical resistance, gauge and color range. It will be produced at the firm’s new plant in Malatya, Turkey.