Following on from a previous post on reasons to deal directly with your printer, this post looks at one of the ways technology has made doing that so much simpler: web to print.
First, there was the post and mailing out the plans and drafts. Couriers crisscrossing cities with drawings and proofs.
Then came the fax and images sent over with a phone ring and a series of beeps and bleeps. Almost instant messaging but its usefulness limited by its small size.
From there, our industry moved on to email. PDFs sent in milliseconds across oceans from office to office. Proofs approved in a matter of minutes.
What a world we live in!
Web to print is the successor to the emailed order request.
As print evolves to make requirements easier to both ask for and fulfil, web to print is the system that forms the backbone of creating this dedicated process.
What Is Web To Print?
Web to print is the process of requesting print through an online portal set up specifically with your requirements in mind.
The portal can be totally personalised to contain your marketing or sales collateral.
From brochures to stationery, business cards to point of sale, any item that you regularly purchase can be set up and called off as needed.
Order requested and the information sent over directly to the printer.
All with the click of a mouse and in real time.
Who uses it?
From small to medium-sized businesses and enterprises right through to large corporations, if your company is buying in print, it will benefit from a web to print system.
It’s used in local government, healthcare operations, banking and insurance.
Retail stores will call off POS kits individually packed for each location.
Anywhere there is more than one location or more than one person sourcing print can benefit. It streamlines the process from searching for order books, previous purchasing history, and the ‘what was that called’ syndrome, to an easy to use software that can be custom made to limit it to all your team really needs.
It can even go further than that.
We can integrate your print requests not just to our production department but we can also build you a channel directly to the design team.
Need to amend a colour, a logo or a piece of copy? The personal link to our creatives means your updates land with the right person in real time.
Imagine that direct line straight to the printer.
There is no middleman or print agency, no to-ing and fro-ing to get urgent information. True print costs from the people carrying out your work.
What Can Be Ordered Via Web To Print?
The web to print catalogue can contain any or all the printed items your company orders.
It can be split into categories by the department or by usage.
We can even set up seasonal items that are only needed every quarter or annually.
There can be reminders that ping up when items may be getting low.
Clever notifications built on product history and intellectually worked out to ensure stock-outs are a thing of the past.
Mentioning history, a web to print browser will also show all previous orders by date, by order number, even by the person ordering.
For company’s that prefer the authorising of print before it moves to production, we can set up a queue system to a specified person or department. The order will be pushed there and, after approval, be moved over to our team to fulfil.
Oh, and all of this is available 24/7 365 days a year.
Forgot to order that important item? Log in anytime to get your request underway.
We’ve seen retail chains and restaurants benefit hugely from web to print.
As each location can have a unique layout and even a separate promotion running, being able to select individual printed assets from personalised menus makes the running of campaigns so much simpler.
Leave the handling of inventory to us. Your stores can focus on their business while we look after the rest.
Another plus point is being able to batch invoices either by time or by locations to anywhere that needs the bills.
Prefer to receive all the paperwork at month end and at head office?
Not a problem, the web to print system is completely customisable.
Running more than one location or having more than one person ordering can lead to ordering from different sources.
Colour shifts between prints, corporate branding not quite as expected. Differing paper stocks or signage substrates from manufacturer to manufacturer.
If you’ve ever had to match up collateral from two sources you’ll know the differences from printer to printer.
It’s the reason we calibrate all our machines to produce as close a colour match throughout QPS Print as we can.
By minimising the number of places your print can come from will maintain a uniformity across your brand and your message.
Finally, let’s be honest. By sourcing all from one place, it should also help when it comes to negotiating costs too.
So from large format print for exhibitions to letterheads and compliment slips for office use, if web to print is the way forward for your team, talk to ours on 01782 413789
When it comes to exhibition displays, there is a multitude of options.
Your choice will usually depend on whether you’ve got the floor space to cover or a booth to fill.
We’ve got options on filling the floor space with a Pop Up Stand or roller banner. At the end of this post, there’s info on our new exhibition display range.
This post, however, looks at ensuring your message is big and bold across that exhibition booth.
If you’re heading to the halls and you’ve rented one of the spaces that have been sectioned off, these spaces go by the name of shell schemes.
The shell scheme booths are usually all lined up alongside each other and have three sides and an open front.
Your exhibition results will depend on those three sides. Its what will carry your brand for the next three or four days.
Making The Most From A Shell Scheme
Now, there are things to take into account before you dive into which shell scheme graphics are right for you.
Think about how you want your brand to appeal to a prospective new client. How do you want to be conveyed? What first impression do you want to give?
If someone has 5 seconds to see your stand, will they know what you do and, more importantly, why they need to do business with you?
It needs to be visually attractive with shell scheme graphics to catch the eye and the attention.
It also needs to be uncluttered and not too busy. Your message has to be instantly recognisable with your branding purposeful and centre stage.
Designing for shell schemes, like all print and display, can be difficult if you’re unsure as to what is important.
That’s why we have a team of creatives here at QPS Print to help make your message meaningful.
Don’t go into an exhibition with confusing graphics that no customer could ever understand. Exhibiting can be expensive, don’t leave it to chance to get it right.
As well as the shell scheme designs, our expertise is in having the knowledge (and printing equipment) to make sure your shell scheme panels are produced on the right media.
Substrates for Shell Scheme Graphics
One of the simplest ways to produce shell scheme graphics is to print onto rigid substrates.
Foam PVC – check out our guide to foamex – is the perennial favourite as it is lightweight, robust and cost-effective. It prints well on our UV flatbeds and can be used imaginatively with stand-offs and routed out sections.
Its main disadvantage is that it cant be folded or rolled up so transporting can be challenging. Being PVC it is also non-recyclable so if you’re not planning on using again, think about how you’ll dispose of responsibly.
If rigid panels are required but also you need something with eco-friendly credentials, a substrate such as Dispa board may be the right choice. Display card could also be an option but be aware that it won’t be anywhere near as durable as foam PVC.
All these rigid panels are fixed to the shell scheme by Velcro. Easy to erect and just as simple to remove when the show is over.
Lightstop Graphic Panels
The next option for shell scheme graphic panels is a polyester or PVC film.
Printed on either our UV roll to roll or solvent printers, these panels have a scratch resistant film on the surface to prevent any handling mishaps.
They are lightweight, hardwearing and can be rolled up, popped in a tube or case and easily transported around.
These panels can be fitted on the shell scheme again using Velcro or, more popularly, they will have universal fixings which lock into the scheme’s columns and supports.
There are a number of systems for different shell schemes – if you need advice on making sure you’re purchasing the right ones, get in touch.
Shell Clad Systems
These systems either have the lightstop panels described above or use fabrics to create a seamless display.
The graphics are fitted to the shell scheme in a way that covers the corner and the three sides to give the booth a much more appealing and uniform look.
We can demonstrate different adaptors and how they work at our premises in Stoke-on-Trent.
A shell clad system can last many exhibitions and the graphic panels can be updated and reprinted as required. Make sure you get the right system for your business and it will serve you well for many a trade show.
This guide covers the most popular media options for shell scheme graphics. From rigid PVC to lightstop panels and soft fabrics, once you know what’s important – transportation, cost, ease of use – one of these products will fit your exhibition plans.
From there it’s then about knowing whether it’s Velcro boards for a one-off show or a shell clad system that will last for years.
Exhibition graphics manufacture from QPS Print. To talk to someone about shell scheme graphics and which system is most effective for your company, call 01782 413789 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on soft displays, have a read of our guide to fabric signage here. If something a little less than a shell scheme or pop up stand is needed, our complete info on roller banners is here.
PS – if you’re looking for pop up stand systems, roller banners or anything else to make your next exhibition stand out, email email@example.com and we’ll reply with our brand new Exhibition Brochure.
Environmentally Responsible Print & Display
After finishing off a post about Dispa board, it got us thinking about other eco-friendly signage options for print and display.
With the reduction of plastic usage all over the news, an overview of environmentally conscious media seemed like a timely article to add to the site.
As you’d expect from a digital and screen printer, we get asked to use many weird and wonderful substrates. Looking back over some of the ranges we know and have printed on gave us these options for recycled or recyclable Point of Sale products:
Not all of these substrates would be a direct non-PVC or eco-friendly swap. Each product has different plus points depending on its suitability.
Some of the reasons may be down to cost. Fluted corrugated cardboard such as e flute or b flute is incredibly cost-effective for short-term free standing display units (FSDU) for example.
Other reasons may be inherent within the product itself. We’ve found 3A Composites’ Smart-X to be very stable when used in store windows.
Of course, the main reason to use a particular product could well be because of the environmentally friendly aspect of the media.
Eco-Friendly Signage & POS
Display board is widely used for hanging signs in supermarkets – look up the next time you’re in Tesco. Short-term promotional prints that can be taken down and sent to be recycled after their offers have expired.
If a more lay-flat card is needed, a jump up in quality is the Katz board or Antecote Lite. As recyclable as standard display board but with more of a beermat type inner layer that helps keep it stable when used in warm (and cold) environments.
Shelf strips for supermarkets would have predominantly been printed on PVC but when one of the superstores wants to change over their displays, all these PVC strips have to go on to landfill (at a charge….)
By changing over to polypropylene – brand names include Priplak or Vita – and at the end of their life, all those strips can be recycled.
It can be the difference between paying thousands to dispose of your print, to actually being paid by a recycler who’ll take it away.
The same for fluted polypropylene or Correx – check this post on Correx printing for more on this versatile all-rounder.
A product we’re seeing more of is the honeycomb type cardboard. Branded as Falcon, Dufaylite or Reboard, it’s easy to rout and cut and perfect for FSDU’s and store displays.
The two thicker substrates here – Smart-X and Stadur Easyprint are eco-friendly options for when solid foam PVC would be the go-to product.
Smart-X is 100% polystyrene. Stadur is a bit more durable with its polypropylene outer liners and a polystyrene inner layer.
Stadur is available up to 50mm so even for some heavyweight signage applications, it’s an eco-friendly signage product that will fit the bill.
Self-Adhesive PVC alternatives
That covers the rigid board options for eco-friendly signage but what about self-adhesive vinyl or banners?
Thankfully, there are a few options for non-PVC media. There’s not a vast range but most suppliers will have a polypropylene flexible banner for short-term use.
Popular brands such as Orafol have their polypropylene self-adhesive – Orajet 3174 – as do Avery in their MPI 3901 range. Non-PVC alternatives are out there, you just have to do some digging to find them.
To find out what environmentally friendly product is best suited to your application, talk to us on 01782 413789.
We’ve worked with clients right across the print and sign spectrum.
Stuck finding the most effective eco-friendly signage options or other traditional grades? We bet we’ve created something similar before.
When its comes to hospital signs and wayfinding, having the right information clear and up front is critical.
Visitors need to find their way around without issue and any difficult to understand signage is just not acceptable.
We understand that hospital signs, as with our work with museums and their specific signage requirements, need to be able to be understood quickly and with zero chance of misreading.
Crystal clear to grasp plus highly visible to spot makes for the ideal hospital signage scheme.
It’s not all about the font type or colour of vinyl though.
The creative department here at QPS Print will make sure that not only is your hospital’s signage compliant with all necessary criteria and simple to understand, we’ll also make sure it’s on the right materials for both practicality and cost-effectiveness.
There’s no point paying for outdoor substrates when your sign is for internal use only.
Equally, if your hospital wayfinding is outdoors in all weathers, you need to make sure its manufactured using materials that are going to last the distance.
Not only is the correct hospital signage vitally important, it also needs to be fitted in an unobtrusive and almost invisible way.
Within busy hospital departments, closing down areas to fit wall graphics or wayfinding signs can be impossible. Our installation team will do everything to minimise any disruption.
QPS Print’s planning and project engineers oversee the work prior to the team arriving to ensure a smooth operation is already underway even before work begins on site.
Once all the hospital signs have been fitted and work completed, the area is returned to as it was before we arrived.
You’d be right to expect our work to be of a high standard. We also value the same high standard from all members of our team whether it’s clearing up after the job or producing your print before it ships out.
These standards are reflected in the research and discussions whilst in pre-production through to the in-house manufacture and finishing here at QPS Print.
We work alongside your team to find the right products and the best way of using them to make the most from your budget and meet your requirements.
It’s through these discussions we’ve been able to offer different ways of producing site-specific and innovative hospital signs.
Focus on Innovative Hospital Signage
One of the innovations we’ve been pioneering is the use of antibacterial wallcoverings.
Wall murals look fantastic in children’s wards, but with a little design thought they can be used in many other places around the site.
We’ve used them in reception areas incorporating way finding elements along with graphics and images.
Fire-retardent, highly durable and fully customisable, printed hospital wall murals are a unique way to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
For use either on sections of walls or complete dry-wipe panels, we can apply a dry-wipe or wipe-erase laminate to any wall mounted graphics.
For staff notices or regularly updated announcements, a dry-wipe panel is a cost-effective way to get important messages out quickly, simply and cost-effectively.
As well as dry-wipe panels, there is also a wide choice of window graphics that can also be used in hospitals.
We’ve got a post that looks at the growing range of innovative ideas for printed window graphics.
There is also a growing range of recyclable materials that we can use for your hospital signage.
With the focus on minimising the use of plastics, talk to us. We’ll research eco-friendly options for your hospital signs.
Not only does the use of recyclable materials offer ecological benefits. The cost of removal when the hospital signage needs to be replaced can be significant if it includes certain plastics or metals.
Opting for products that can be either recycled or can be sent through normal waste channels can have major cost benefits.
One of the substrates we’ve been showing clients is the new Dispa board – full eco-credentials and great for internal signage. Click for our post on Dispa board and it’s unique properties.
As you can see, we’re not all about producing basic hospital signs and wayfinding (or signage for any other industry). We’re about finding the right product and application fit for your brand and message.
And we’ll make sure your project is all completed on-time and on-budget.
To find out more about recycled signage for hospitals, antibacterial wallpapers or any other sign requirement, get in touch on 01782 413789 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed graphic overlays are the ideal choice for custom machine control panels.
Designed to keep information clear and easily understood, fascia panels can be produced in a number of different ways depending on their use.
At QPS Print, our wide range of print equipment (plus membrane products to use) guarantee to make sure your graphic overlays start off in great shape and stay usable for longer.
High quality and ultra durable regardless of any heavy-handed operator!
Designing Graphic Overlays
Whether its your first membrane panel project or your one hundredth, we know every requirement is different.
Thankfully, we have people who have worked on overlays for use in many industries. We’ll know how to keep the costs down and quality high.
If you need assistance in putting together the artwork and design for the panels, talk to our creative team.
Some fascia panels need to put clarity of information first and be ergonomic in use. Others need to convey the manufacturer’s brand and style.
Get in contact if you’re unsure as to how your panels need to be presented, and we’ll work with you to get it right.
Graphic Overlay Printing
Our preferred production choice is to print on the reverse of a clear or ‘frosted’ mark resistant substrate.
If your fascia panel is for information only and infrequently touched, we’d recommend a PVC film.
For a printed membrane panel that is going to be used regularly – buttons, switches, a keyboard or dials – tough polycarbonate is a more durable choice.
We print on the reverse of both of these products so the image is safe from scratching regardless of whether its polycarb or PVC.
The printed graphic is viewed through the base product making for a longer lasting, whilst still optically clear, finished panel.
Even constant use can’t make a mark on the image.
There are technical data sheets available for all the materials we can print on to and for the inks that we use.
Get in touch to discuss if your requirement is quite specific.
We can produce graphic overlays for use in temperature extremes, with increased chemical resistance or for panels that will get constant use and abuse.
Our production department will source the right material for you. Just let one of the team know the panel’s intended purpose and we’ll do the work in finding the best solution.
While production will source the right material, our design creatives can assist with making sure what goes on the product is exactly as required.
Areas that need to show LEDs or information screens are left clear.
If needed, our design department can make sure your image file has all the right info in place and ready for production.
Alternatively, for a more opaque fascia, white ink can be overprinted behind the entire membrane.
Having a complete screenprint facility as well as digital UV printers, QPS can work alongside your team to find the most cost effective solution for control panel overlays.
Does your switch panel require only spot colours? We can make up the screens using your artwork and produce by screen printing.
Need a full-colour image for your membrane keypad? Then, printing digitally using UV curable inks will create fascia overlays with impact.
Both technologies can print on the reverse of the substrate. Whether it’s screen print or digitally manufactured, your finished panels will be completely scratchproof and their instructions can’t be worn away over time.
Fascia Panel Finishing
After the panels are printed, QPS can finish the membranes ready for installation.
Need a self-adhesive coating applying? We can hand them over to our finishing department to laminate a backing film to the fascia’s reverse.
Many of the overlays we produce are shipped out with an adhesive applied. It makes for a much simpler final in-house application.
Different adhesives have different purposes.
We have adhesive films that can create a strong bond between the graphic overlay and panels that are textured or dimpled.
There are specialist adhesives that work more effectively with low surface energy substrates. Our experienced production team will guide you to an optimal end product.
Finishing doesn’t end with a self-adhesive being applied.
Fascias can be trimmed with straight or radius corners.
We have a number of platen machines that can punch out an accurate, repeatable shape over hundreds or even thousands of graphic overlays.
Our digital flatbed cutter can trim panels down to size quickly and effectively if something a little more intricate is needed.
Custom printed graphic overlays from QPS:
- Use the right material for your intended end use
- And utilise the right print technology for your end application
- Vibrant, scratch proof and super durable
- Can be produced as cost-effective prototypes or full production volumes
- Are available in virtually any size and many different thicknesses
- Can incorporate your brand, logo or any bespoke design detail
- Perfect for industries including aviation, automobile, engineering, telecom, electronics, security….and more
For information on other services QPS offer, have a read through these posts on museum wayfinding and signage, tile sample display boards and window graphic solutions.
Got a graphic overlay requirement? Talk to us on 01782 413789.
At QPS, our large format print department creates and prints window graphics for storefronts and for businesses.
As the high street becomes more competitive and it’s of major importance to stand out from the crowd, your windows are prime real estate for grabbing the attention of potential customers.
Are you making the most of yours?
This post looks at some of the innovative media available for window graphics and how to use them to make the most impact.
Types of Window Graphics
There are three main types of business window graphics:
- One-way vision window graphics
And with those three types, there are important reasons for choosing one over the other.
Clear Window Graphics
Clear is clear for two good reasons – you want to either look out through the window or you want the world outside to look in.
From the inside, clear window graphics allow light to stream in and keep the interior bright and welcoming.
From the outside they allow the window to be part of the display behind the glass.
Walk down the high street and look at the way retailers use clear window graphics to add visual elements to the items behind them. Summer themed images on the windows and summer items and accessories behind. The same with text – sale, 20% off individual items and the products lined up behind ready to be paid for and shipped home.
For clear window graphics, we use a couple of different products.
Self-cling or static cling works well and we can produce cling window graphics by screenprinting. Screenprinting is ideal for higher volume quantities with few variations and will provide a cost saving against other forms of printing. We can also use digital printing if the requirement is for more design variations or smaller quantities. Whichever your promotion falls into, there will be a way to make it as cost effective as possible.
Polyester films are a little more expensive than self-clings (PVC) but for clarity, they look the business.
Viziprint Impress or Solvoclear are two branded polyester window films that combine optical clarity with easy-apply abilities. Both have a micro-sucker type adhesive – no glue – and the manufacturer’s claim they can be taken on and off the window dozens of times and still keep their ‘stickiness’.
We know from a recent window campaign we printed that these easy-apply window graphics films are the simplest options when the store’s management is applying them.
Its one thing for us to turn up with specialist gear and our years of experience fitting vinyl graphics, but we know they can be tricky to apply for the shop staff.
Printing White Ink On Clear Window Graphics
We can print white either behind the complete image or over selected parts. This gets rid of the usual complaints when using a clear product – that it can look too wishy-washy or the image lacks definition. By printing white, it adds punch to the areas that otherwise would have been just four colour and clear.
Want to see what we mean? Get in touch and we’ll send over some samples to show the difference.
Opaque Window Graphics
For these, we’d use a white self-adhesive vinyl – basically a sticker for the window that you can’t see through. Opaque window graphics are used primarily when the store or business premises want to keep the light out or prevent people from looking in.
Often used when a store is being redecorated or redesigned, opaque graphics are fitted to the exterior side of the windows.
The media we use for these is usually self-adhesive polymeric vinyl – it doesn’t shrink in the heat or cold and is available in bubble-free/easy-apply adhesives.
For a stronger opacity – less light passes in or show-through – we can use a grey-backed vinyl. If the inside needs lighting up by the windows, we’d stay with a white-backed vinyl.
One-Way Vision Window Graphics
The brand name here is Contravision.
Contravision have a number of products that fit different requirements but the essential function is to let people inside look out whilst keeping the interior private to the outside world.
There are versions specifically for text or hi-def graphics (Contravision HD Performance) and options for applying internally. The clever people at Contravision have an online guide.
Look through the guide and I’m sure you’ll find a Contravision product for any application that needs one-way vision graphics.
I’ll write another post delving into each version. In the meantime, if your window needs one-way, get in touch and we’ll run through the options and make sure it’s easy to understand.
When applying window graphics internally or externally, there are a few pros and cons to be aware of:
Safe from vandals or just that guy waiting for the bus. If there’s a little lift to the vinyl and someone can reach it, chances are someone will have a pull at it.
Once in place, the vinyl we apply stays down, but if it’s on the outside, people can still get at it.
There are no weather issues when fitting the window graphics inside – rain, snow, hail; none of it matters when it’s being installed in the cosy warmth of the store, cafe or office.
The potential downsides of fitting from the inside looking out are mostly down to the adhesive used and the installation.
Your printed promotion is going to be viewed through the adhesive – the print has to go on the other side from the one sticking to the window. If there are blemishes or glue-spots, they could be seen.
Same with ripples when applying – this is where bubble-free or the micro-suckers products help.
Self-cling will need the window to be sprayed with water first and the liquid squeegeed out to create the grip between cling and glass. The bigger the panel, the more fiddly it can be.
We’ve applied graphics to enough windows to know the ups and downs – talk to us for advice.
There are no issues stemming from the adhesive and from ‘seeing the image through the glue’ when applying outside.
As long as it goes down bubble and wrinkle-free, it’ll look fine. Most vinyls will stick to glass without hassle. It should also stay in place as long as needed even with weather changes. Pick the right vinyl and it’ll shrug off the heat and cold.
When applying to the outside it’s usually the full window that’s covered by the graphic. If you’re looking for sections, internally fitted could be the easier solution.
One thing to be aware of, outside is fine if the windows are at ground level (see the issue above though regarding inquisitive fingers) but anything higher and the cherry picker is coming out of the garage.
So, a bit more to window graphics than you first thought?
We’ve probably applied thousands of metres of vinyl, cling and one-way vision to windows in all our years of producing graphics.
And applied them to retail storefronts, business premises, museums, cafes and leisure facilities up and down the land.
To our knowledge, none of them so far have ever fallen off!
If you’re looking for more advice and help with window graphics or a print partner who’ll get your premises noticed, call us on 01782 413789 or contact email@example.com
Still looking for signage ideas and print inspiration?
We’ve got posts on museum signage and wayfinding, roller banners and exhibition displays and textiles for soft signage.
Should keep you going while you drink your tea!
Foamex – A Substrates 101 Guide To Foam PVC Boards & Printing
Your business’s sign is one of the most visible communications of your brand. Which is why you need the right material to serve as the base for your message.
Foam PVC or foamex is an incredibly versatile substrate for both indoor and outdoor signage. In this third instalment of our Substrates 101 guides, we’re diving deep into foam PVC and seeing where it fits in modern signage and whether it is the go-to product for your next project.
Looking to invest in new signs for your business or just landed here for a better grounding in print substrates? Read on for our complete guide to Foam PVC boards and printing.
What is Foamex?
Also called solid foam PVC or foamed PVC, Foamex is the brand name for a solid construction of fully rigid plastic.
Popular brands we’ve used include Foamalite, Foamalux and Forex. Just as with Correx, the Foamex brand just got lucky when its name became the generic term!
Not to be confused with foam-x (which is a soft-centred board)—Foamex actually isn’t foam-like at all. It is a hard, durable, and smooth substrate.
This high-quality material is easy to cut, bend, drill, glue, and print on. Foamex board is a popular option for business signs, display panels, exhibitions, banners, and other indoor and outdoor materials. You can see why it’s a favourite for graphic designers.
PVC foam board is a cheaper alternative to something like aluminium composite or Dibond and can be easily cut (in thinner gauges) to custom dimensions, and will still look crisp after several years.
It’s also a great alternative to plywood, thanks to its weather-resistant coating and the relative ease it can be mounted in place.
Many graphic designers prefer Foamex over other substrates because of how effective it is to print attractive graphics onto it, its lightweight make-up, and its economic costs.
Characteristics of Foam PVC
- Thickness: Foamex is available in a variety of thicknesses, depending on your signage needs. The most popular thicknesses for Foamex printing are 3mm and 5mm because these options can easily but cut to custom shapes and sizes. As an example, this material is sometimes used to create 3D block lettering for signs.
Foamex is also available in thicker options, including 10mm and 19mm, but it can be harder to cut the board at this thickness and the board is heavy when it comes to lifting and fixing in place. Trust me, 19mm foam PVC lifting is a 2 person job.
For cutting and routing, 19mm Foamex usually has to be cut using a laser. We use our computer cutting table to shape foamex panels.
Foam PVC in 3mm or even 5mm is fairly thin but don’t let the thickness fool you—Foamex is pretty dense and durable. It is susceptible to dinks on the edges but there aren’t many substrates in signage that don’t mark if not handled carefully.
- Colour/Printing: If your project needs a smooth, colourful sign, Foamex boards might be the perfect solution. It’s available in a range of colours, including white, black, red, yellow, green and blue – the coloured sheets work well with vinyl lettering applied.
In addition, this material works exceptionally well when digital printing. Intricate designs can easily be printed onto Foamex board, and if printed self-adhesive vinyl is mounted to it instead of direct flatbed printing, the corners can be wrapped so that the design bleeds seamlessly off of the surface.
- Weight: One of the greatest advantages of Foamex, is its light weight. This makes for an easy installation process, using basic screws, hooks, velcro, or other adhesives.
However, just because this material is lightweight, doesn’t mean it’s fragile. In fact, one of the reasons many choose Foamex board over other materials is because of its outstanding durability. Which leads us to our next characteristic.
- Lifespan: The typical lifespan for a Foamex sign is 5 years+, with indoor signs lasting, of course, much longer than outdoor ones.
The smooth exterior of Foamex has a weather-resistant coating, making it appropriate for both outdoor and indoor use. However, because it is made of plastic, this type of substrate will eventually begin to warp/bend with the heat.
Some lower density boards can also become brittle over time and even shatter especially in the heat or the cold. Ask for a mid-density foam sheet to be safe especially if being used outside. We can guide you with the best foam PVC for your application.
A last thing to bear in mind is that foam PVC (link all PVC products) is non-recyclable.
We’re starting to see foamed polypropylene entering the UK market. This does have recyclable properties but until we see the costs and print test on our machines, we’ll save our opinions for a future post.
PVC Foam Board Uses
PVC foam board can be used in a wide range of projects, including both indoor and outdoor use. Thinner Foamex is often routed into shapes and designs including 3D lettering – we’ve used for museum signage and for exhibition panels.
Thicker Foamex, on the other hand, is slightly more reinforced, making it a great option for outdoor signs.
From business signs to advertisements, posters, banners, display panels, and more, this substrate can meet a wide range of visual communication needs.
Foamex VS Foam-X: What’s the Difference?
One easy mistake that graphic designers and specifiers commonly make is mixing up Foamex and Foam-X.
While they sound the same (especially when asking over the phone…) , these two substrates are actually fairly different.
As stated above, Foamex is a solid and hard sheet of plastic made from PVC foam. Foam-X, on the other hand, has a soft centre of polystyrene or polyurethane and sandwiched between paper layers. This makes Foamex much more durable and suited to outdoor conditions.
There is a foam core Kapa product – Kapa-plast – that can be used for short-term outdoor promotions but it has nothing like the longevity of foam PVC and comes with a much higher cost per sheet.
Give Me a Sign—is Foamex Right for You?
Still feel like you’re looking for a sign as to which substrate to choose? QPS is here to help.
We’ve got years of experience working in the printing and signage industry. Its part of our service to match you with the best material for your needs.
If you’re still puzzled between Foamex and your Foam-X, get in touch and we’ll put you straight.
At QPS we receive enquiries and work alongside both print management companies and end users. Both often require differing info and a different approach.
As an end user, is it more efficient to work with a management company or print buyer? Or is it more economical and simpler to deal directly with a printer?
There are a few reasons why one might be better than the other.
Putting out all your print work to a managed print services company could be the best option.
If you have complex requirements and specific delivery details, a managed print services company might be able to combine all your needs and run the whole show.
There’s so many different formats of print – POS displays, leaflets, banners, exhibitions – all potentially in one campaign. Print management companies could well oversee all facets and be the bridge between you, the end user, and a number of printers all running your work.
However, if the printer has all the equipment in-house: small format and large format digital, cutting tables and flatbed printers for POS, then dealing directly with them could be simpler than having a middleman who has to relay any questions back and forth between each company.
Printers print and print buyers buy the print.
I mean, who knows the industry better? Someone who has to use the material every day or someone who buys it in and never needs to know which fabric is best for what display or why exhibition panels need to be grey backed?
I’m sure there are hugely experienced print buyers but if you need to get answers from someone with their sleeves rolled up and in the thick of it, the printer has got to be the person to go to.
Linked to this experience is the company a printer keeps.
Suppliers visit printers to discuss new products and sort out issues with existing ones. A printer will see reps from all sides of the industry and a printer who knows their onions will have an ear to the ground and know exactly which material is available for that project you’ve got in mind.
Building an ongoing relationship with the printer pays dividends when they see new products and think of your brand.
Are you all about recycled media and showing your environmental credentials?
When the supplier walks in with the latest swatch books showing eco-friendly papers or a substrate like the new Dispa board, you’re only a phone call away.
Brands develop when collaborating with people who care. As a printer is only as good as the print they produce, your brand is in good hands with a printer who looks to innovate and inspire.
The supplier/printer relationship also comes into its own when issues pop up. A supplier is always more forthcoming with a customer who spends with them. Its common sense to think things get sorted more quickly when the printer has more clout.
Similar to their material know-how, a printer will also have a deep knowledge regarding which machine or technology is the most economical or efficient for what process.
Ask a print buyer what machine has created what and chances are they wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Ask a printer which of their machines are better for rollfed media and which for solid substrates. I bet my lunch money they’ll be able to tell you which, why, the square metre cost and how long each print will take.
When it comes to lead times make sure the printer is open and transparent. You should always know where you are with your production and delivery. A printer should be able to schedule your work and plan accordingly.
No having to put in a request with a print buyer who then goes to their printer to ask for a shipping date.
Digital print heralded the ‘just-in-time’ ethos. The last thing your campaign needs is to find out you were always last in the queue.
Working directly with the printer and nudging out any middleman has got to reduce the cost, right?
There’s (at least) one less person to be paid in the loop and the fewer people adding on their couple of percent has got to mean better pricing.
I make a point of trying to buy material from the source to ensure I can be competitive.
Shouldn’t you be doing the same too?
Fabrics, textiles, synthetics – whatever you name for soft signage, printing on fabrics is well and truly here to stay.
Following on from our last post on alternatives for museum signage and wayfinding, I decided to put together this guide to help out with all things flexible, stretchable and foldable.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been producing fabric signage options for an increasing number of diverse projects. Projects where foam PVC panels, clip frames or display boards may have been the previous choice.
Some of the reasons we’ve moved over to printing on fabrics are:
- Ease of shipping – lightweight and easily folded or rolled up.
- Many new options in displays and frames
- Easy to fit in lightboxes or panels
- Simple to replace graphics – the fader systems of stitching a bead to the edge and pulling it through a channel has made the need for specialist installation pretty much redundant.
Benefits of fabric signage:
- Anti-crease – great that they can be folded up, even better when they don’t even wrinkle when unfolded. Perfect for storing away between promotions.
- Vibrant – using either dye sublimation or direct print the days of lacklustre wishy-washy colours are long gone.
- Washable and anti-dirt – most of the polyesters are specially treated with a dirt-repelling coating. Its all a bit like Persil but not quite.
The only downsides with soft signage can be when the stretch of the weave (or weft) can alter between products. The printer and RIP software can work out any tolerance but if either one is more or less forgiving, it can lead to problems when finishing.
And finishing is the other learning curve. You may be able to sew a button on but try stitching the zipped seams of a 3m x 2m exhibition panel with a full colour graphic and text….
Dye Sublimation For Display Printing On Fabrics
Dye sublimation is the process of either printing direct to the fabric using special textile sublimation inks and then ‘sealing’ it in using a heat press or printing the image onto a carrier paper and then applying heat to pass the print and ‘fix’ it from carrier to fabric.
Direct print is as the name suggests – by using a UV curable or latex printer, the printing of fabrics is done straight onto the media itself and there is no post-treatment to cure or fix it in place.
Types of fabrics for soft signage:
- Flag material – as you’d expect, lightweight to flutter in the wind and behave just like a….ahem, flag.
- Stretch display – for exhibition and retail graphics that are sewn like a sleeve and stretched over an aluminium frame.
- Backlit – for lightbox panels. These are proving very popular especially as some of them can be huge. Next time you’re in a department store look around and you’re certain to see these large-scale light boxes.
- Blockout – when you want to keep the light out and create a different ambience, blackout will do just that. Its also used wherever whats being the display needs hiding or the display itself has a frame that doesn’t want to be seen.
Most of these fabrics utilise polyester as the base material, especially if printed by dye sublimation.
Being a synthetic product, the weave can be knitted tighter to make the image more punchy. It enables the printing on fabrics to be capable of achieving a much higher resolution image. It can also be produced to be more receptive for the coating that ensures a uniform print layer.
If its direct print and not dye sub, you’ll also see canvas used to create framed wall graphics. Canvas is pretty resilient and still lightweight so is a great option for elevated images in a museum or retail store.
Other interesting projects we’ve seen using fabrics include canopies and corporate gazebos. There are a myriad of frame options from a number of suppliers and the list seems to be continuously growing.
It seems when it comes to soft signage, the only limits are imagination and sewing skills!
Ideas & Inspiration From QPS’ Exhibition Team
Museums are meant to be fun.
Wandering from exhibit to exhibit, inspiration around every corner.
Buttons to push, switches to flick and levers to pull. The faces of kids lighting up as they work out what goes where and how.
What’s not so much fun is when you can’t find your way around. Get to one area to find out where you wanted to go is on the other side of the museum.
Marching from area to area (and back again) in order to see everything you wanted to.
And all this with your sweet children asking you repeatedly ‘where are we going next…..?’
This is why when we’re creating museum signage and wayfinding, we think deeply about how it should all work and how it should keep the visitor flowing around the venue.
There are numerous ways to create effective and inspiring museum graphics.
Fabricated wayfinding kiosks complete with maps to keep you in the know about where you are now and where you need to go next.
Cut out letters applied to walls (and ceilings, and floors) to help with finding destinations efficiently.
Museum Signage & Wallcoverings
One wayfinding application that is proving popular is the use of printable wallcoverings.
From large wallpaper murals explaining historic timelines to printed graphics incorporating iPads and TV screens, digital wallpapers are a simple yet incredibly effective way to add more interest to a museum’s displays.
The wallpapers we use are also fully fire retardant, anti-bacterial, and easy to fit using standard decorating techniques. There’s a myriad of textured options or a silky smooth version for maximum mural impact!
Foam PVC panels with graphics attached used to be the go-to option for most museum signage. However, with the push away from plastics plus the extra expense to remove the display once the exhibition has expired, you can see why wallcoverings have become the smarter option.
Museum Floorgraphics That Create Impact
Another innovative option for museum wayfinding is the use of floor graphics.
Simple directional arrows will guide the visitor around the intended flow but with digital print offering so many more inspiring opportunities, we can help you think outside the box.
Imagine high definition images laid out across the floor and joined up with bold, colourful wall graphics. Text panels over the flooring, up the stairs and throughout the halls.
Seriously inspiring museum signage!
For a more modern approach to signage for museums, big chunky letters can be routed out and placed off the walls on pins.
These panels lend a 3D feel to an exhibit and when the accompanying displays are also set off the wall, a sense of depth helps draw in the viewer.
As we said, museums should be fun and although signage and wayfinding need to be functional, can’t we also bring a bit of fun & innovation to it too?
For more information on some of the options we regularly use for interior signage, have a read through this post on the new Dispa board and this one that delves deep into exhibition panels and roller banners.