Another player is Xcel Products Inc., a manufacturer, converter, and distributor of substrates that sells its own brand of substrates and also distributes other manufacturers’ products. Its best selling product is Xcel Digital XPS Styrene, reports sales manager Brian Cheshire. “It has a high surface tension, it’s digital grade and PVC-free,” he says. “And, as a converter, we can do custom sizes. Styrene is an indoor product used in retail signage, POP and POS.”
Its other product is Xcel Rigid Vinyl, offered in gloss and matte, and in 10, 15, and 20 mil. “Vinyl can be used indoors or outdoors,” Cheshire says. “We do a really high grade vinyl. The surface and white point are consistent. You can use it in pump toppers, and you still see it in some of the point of purchase or point of sales applications, such as shelf danglers.”
Que Media, Inc. offers a PVC rigid board that features double- or single-side adhesive. “The adhesive starts off as a medium tack for application, and then moves into a high-tack permanent adhesive after 24 hours,” reports director of marketing E. Tyler Reich. “The cool thing about our board is that you can still print roll-to-roll and adhere the print to the board.
“We have found that running prints and then running them through our standard 42-inch lamination machines works excellently. This way, you can have a nice print on glossy photo paper, for example, and adhere it to a rigid sheet. Graphic quality is outstanding using this method.”
The Selection Process
Manufacturers were unanimous that it does make a big difference which rigid substrates PSPs select.
“Does it really matter? Absolutely,” says Vycom’s Art. “Direct printing to Celtec and other substrates eliminates the mounting and laminating steps necessary when printing to paper, providing cost and labor savings and offering a better performing product. Today’s rigid substrates are allowing PSPs to offer innovative products for today’s and tomorrow’s retailer needs.”
Among the many factors PSPs must consider when choosing a rigid substrate are the following, he says. The first is atmosphere, such as weather, sunlight, indoor or outdoor uses, and chemical exposure. Next is the application, whether it is temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent, for instance. Then there is cost and budget, as well as the ink selection and color consideration of substrate and final graphic. Finally, there’s the question of how the end product will be produced. Will it be die-cut, routed, cut, or formed, for instance?
Choosing a rigid substrate is just as complex a task as choosing any other substrate, according to Friedman.
“Because UV printers have the ability to print on anything, a myth has been propagated that it doesn’t matter what you pick,” he says.
“But it does matter. What will make the most sense in speed and quality of print? What makes the most sense in ease of application and transport? Is paper the right choice? Is film the right choice? Or is canvas the right choice in durability, curl, and whiteness?”
Londergan believes that the biggest issue is price, followed by availability. PSPs must ask if they can obtain an ample quantity “because the industry turns on a dime,” he says. “Quality and workability, the post-printing issues, are big considerations. If you’re making it into a shape, it should be easy to work with.”
Cheshire is another observer who says the industry has come a long way since the days when it appeared not to matter what substrate was chosen. “Five years ago, when the UV flatbed printers were much slower and quality wasn’t as high, you could print on anything,” he says. “Today, the speed has picked up greatly and the quality has been improved in UV flatbed. So the styrene offers high quality, prints better, runs at a higher speed and can have reduced static.”
Which rigid substrate is chosen will depend on the application and the type of printer, he adds. In any application where consistency from job to job is essential, a higher-end product is preferable. But if the main consideration is dollars and cents, and print quality and consistency are not as important, PSPs will probably be better off opting for a less expensive product, he adds.
Several factors must be taken into consideration when choosing the right product for an application, says Encore Products’ junior product manager Candace Martin. One consideration is where the final piece will be displayed, whether indoor or outdoor, and what environmental elements it must withstand.