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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
AKA Rock & Roll-up or The QPS Guide to Roller Banners
Pop up banners, roller banners, roll-up banners or cassette banners…
Whatever you call them, roller banners are one of the most popular ways to promote your brand and push out your message.
From office receptions to motorway service-station entrances, I’ll guarantee printed roller banners are seen more each day than most other types of display print.
And that’s even before we take the exhibition halls into account.
With them being everywhere, you’d think roller banners all use pretty much the same material and same cassette mechanisms….wrong!
Different media can perform very differently in these pop-up banner units and with this guide, I look at how to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Polyester films for roller banners
Roller banners printed using a printed polyester (PET) film are usually the most stable. Stability when talked about with pop-up banners just means the film stays flat and the vertical edges don’t curl.
A number of reasons can cause edge curl. If the film isn’t completely straight within the cassette units the bar behind the graphic can cause the print to twist. The top (or bottom) bar not being fitted properly and being skew can also be a culprit.
You’ll also see it when the film has been overlaminated for scratch protection or to make the system that bit more durable. Too much pressure on the laminator’s rollers will cause tension in the media and this tension will lead to curling. Too little can also cause issues and it shows with the edges either pulling in or pushing out.
This is where our expert on the laminator proves super valuable. His job is to make sure your prints are flat first time, every time.
Polyester is more expensive than the other options. DuPont makes most of the base material and it comes with a premium price tag for the stability and the possible slight edge in print quality.
Perfect for long-term promotions or for units that will be daily taken down and rollered back up but if you’ve got a timed event, polyester may be a little overkill.
PVC roller banner media
The first of the more cost-effective options is a PVC film. Still relatively flat and stable, it can be more susceptible to curl when left up for a long period of time.
PVC will still have the ability to take on plenty of ink and create a hi-definition result.
In fact, almost all of the media we have tested over the years have given acceptable results – some we have had to profile the printer to, some have worked well out of the box.
When you’re using roller banners to promote your brand, making sure your corporate colours appear exactly as they should is probably the most important aspect. To ensure colours are consistent, we calibrate all our machines individually.
Polypropylene roll up media
Another option for roller banners is a high-quality polypropylene film. Strong, tear resistant and with excellent lay-flat properties, PP is also the most cost-effective of the three options.
If eco-credentials are important to your campaign, polypropylene is recyclable. Important when you have a couple of hundred of these to dispose of after the event.
Depending on how long you need the units to last and also what price point you need to hit, all of these films will do the same job equally well with only a few differences between each media type.
Banner PVC for roll-ups
Keep an eye out for this one. We’ve seen a number of roller banners being offered at knockdown cheap prices because they use a standard banner PVC.
Don’t get me wrong, banner PVC has its unique place when cable tied to railings or festooned over buildings but in a roller banner unit, no thanks.
No matter how thick the grade used, it will suffer curl badly especially when under the stress of being up all day.
If the price looks too good to be true, check what media the printer is using. You only get one chance to make that first impression – don’t let your brand down by racing for the low-end.
Laminated versus unlaminated?
Back in the mists of time, all roller banners were laminated. In this previous age, they were also about four times the cost they are now…
Usually overlaminated with a ‘sandtex’ or textured finish, the laminate was there to stop the image being scratched or damaged.
To be competitive, many of the display films available now offer anti-scratch protection without the need for a laminate.
Inks are also a lot more durable than they were previously. Technology has changed form water-based printers to solvent, latex and UV curable. With each generation, the need to laminate for scratch purposes at least becomes less necessary.
We print all our roller banners on our Fuji UV curable printers. These inks are pretty much bulletproof and the finished roll-ups laugh in the face of the laminator.
Our experienced bod on the laminator may not be needed too often for roller banners but rest assured, we’ve got him busy with many other products we produce.
Grey-back versus white backed roller banner films?
You’ll see many options out there for roller banners. It’s not just about the media or whether its anti-scratch or not.
Another element to keep check of is the backing of the product. OK, so everyone is hopefully looking at the front of our graphic and not even concerned with the reverse.
But what if the sun behind causes a shadow of the pole that holds up the film to show right through your most important message?
You’d be surprised how often this can happen. It’s the main reason we standardised on a grey-back film.
We can’t control every eventuality but we can limit the potential issues wherever we can.
So, more to roller banners than you thought?
Make sure to read and memorise this post next time you’re looking to update your displays. Or to make it simple, give us a call on 01782 413789.
We’ll make sure you get the right roller banner for your requirements.
We’ve just launched a complete range of exhibition and display stands including roller banner cassettes, complete pop-up units and everything in between for both fabrics and films.
There’s an up to date brochure showing all the items – click here, let us know where to send and we’ll email one across.
A Designers Guide to Aluminium Composite
If you’re just entering the graphic design industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of print materials out there. The truth is, graphic designers are faced with a lot of options when they’re ready to take their designs to print. And while more options mean more power, it’s important to understand the basics in order to choose the best material for your needs.
To help you better understand your options, we’re diving into our second print substrates 101, with a focus in this article on aluminium composite—AKA Dibond.
Maybe you’ve heard of Dibond, maybe you haven’t, but we’re here to get you up to speed with this highly durable material.
What is Dibond and How is it Made?
Dibond is the brand name of one of the top aluminium composite materials (ACM). Often used to create permanent high valued outdoor signs, this material consists of a plastic polyethylene core sandwiched between two aluminium sheets.
The combination of plastic and aluminium coating makes Dibond extremely durable and much more lightweight and shock-resistant than pure aluminium.
In addition, because this material is completely solid, it can easily be cut into intricate details without losing the integrity of the piece. This property makes Dibond a popular choice for signage designs that may require trimming after printing.
The generic name of Dibond is aluminium composite. However, because the brand has dominated the manufacturing of this material, many simply refer to this product as Dibond.
It was originally created more than 20 years ago by 3A Composites, which was known as Alcan Composites at the time. 3A also manufacture similar products using aluminium such as Hylite and KAPAtech.
They also manufacture the paper board we covered in this blog post about Dispa board printing. We wouldn’t recommend Dispa though for your new shop signage!
Dibond Usage in the Sign and Print Industry
Those in the graphic design industry will likely encounter Dibond when they are ready to take their project to print.
Dibond is one of the most popular outdoor signage materials, especially for signs that are intended to be permanent fixtures. Its varied uses include company logos, retail signs, directional signage and shopfitting.
Aluminium Dibond signs are ideal for mounting as they offer the flattest panels of any material. You’ll see Dibond being used in many exhibition displays. Next time you’re at the art gallery or museum, have a peek at what the prints are mounted to.
Further, because each aluminium composite panel is made up of plastic and thin aluminium sheets, Dibond is very lightweight and sturdy. In fact, the combination of these substrates is designed to withstand the outdoors, offering a waterproof and heat resistant surface that will not warp in the sun.
Some of the top uses of aluminium composite in the sign and print industry include:
- Long-term outdoor signs
- Typographic signs or projects with intricate details
- Expensive digital prints and graphics
- Mounted logos
- Retail signs
- Parking signs
- High-end real estate signs
- Creative projects
Outside of the sign and print industry, Dibond also has applications in decorative lighting, furniture construction, interior design, displays, and more.
Case studies on the durability of this material have shown it to be a top contender for those in need of a superior finished quality and weatherproof signage.
The Pros of Aluminium Composite
- Long-lasting and highly durable
- Protection from outdoor conditions like rain, snow, and the sun
- Can be cut easily without damaging the integrity of the sign
- Offers the flattest panel of any material, making this material ideal for mounted signs
- Visually appealing effect due to the multiple substrates
- Lightweight thanks to the plastic core
- More shock resistant than regular aluminium
- Does not warp in the heat
- Can protect expensive digital prints and graphics
The Cons of Aluminium Composite
- Different finishes can carry more expense
- Slightly less rigid than solid aluminium
Different Types of Dibond
As the first and leading manufacturer of aluminium composite material, Dibond has created a variety of products to suit any designer’s needs.
Some of the most popular Dibond products include:
Butler finish: Characterised by its shiny and polished surface. By adding a clear lacquer to the surface of the panel creates this effect.
Dibond Digital: This material is specially designed for maximum ink adhesion. This grade of Dibond can create truly striking digital prints, allowing your design to shine. If you’re interested in Dibond printing, this is likely the best option for you.
Dibond Décor: Characterised by its wood appearance. This is perfect for signs that call for a more rustic aesthetic.
Dibond Mirror: Featuring a glassy and reflective surface, this grade of Dibond offers a mirrored surface that is unbreakable and half the weight of a conventional mirror.
Dibond FR: This variety of Dibond features a mineral core, giving it the fire retardant classification.
Dibond Structure: If you want to give your sign a unique look, Dibond Structure offers a signature surface with unique finishes to the aluminium.
Dibond Eloxal: This material features an additional anodised coating making it much harder and more durable than the standard paint system.
Alternative Products to Dibond
Aluminium composite offers maximum durability and visual appeal, making it perfect for long lasting and important projects. However, the high quality of this material does come with an added cost and may not be the best choice for every job.
If you’re looking for alternatives, consider some of the following:
- very lightweight
- less expensive than Dibond
- recyclable Polypropylene
- suited for external use
Foam centred Board:
- ultra lightweight
- very inexpensive
- paper exterior
- suited for indoor use only
- less expensive than Dibond
- highly durable
- many different thicknesses
- suited for indoor or outdoor use
Each of these alternative products has their own pros and cons. It can simply boil down to your specific project needs.
We understand that there is a lot to consider when choosing the right signage material for your needs. If you need to run through options to find the ideal substrate for your project, get in touch on 01782 413789.
Looking for more substrate guides? Check out our post here on Correx and Correx printing.
A Tough Paper Product For Internal Graphics
I’m always on the lookout for unique products that can be used to complete jobs in a different way or provide a different purpose.
When we sat down with 3A Composites and looked at their new DISPA® board, we immediately spotted a display board with a few unique differences compared to the substrates we already carry on the shelf.
I’m seeing more eco-friendly, environmentally friendly and recyclable products come through our door. With the growing focus on getting away from plastics, we’re all for using them wherever we can.
Made from 100% FSC certified paper DISPA looks like its got first-rate recyclable credentials.
For info, FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. It’s an organisation that started in 1993 to promote the use and management of the world’s forests. Approval by the FSC means the wood used in its construction has been sourced responsibly and the forests where the timber originally came from are being renewed.
It’s not just your sign and display products that can show the FSC logo – look around the next time you’re at the DIY store and you’ll see it on wallpaper, flooring, conservatories, doors and furniture. If it’s made from wood, it should have the label on it somewhere.
By using paper stock for the complete product, DISPA stays lightweight and manageable even in the bigger sheet sizes. As a ’built-up’ sheet with a number of layers utilising the same paper for the core, 3A Composites claims DISPA will stay rigid, stable and flat through production and in final use.
3A Composites calls the core of the material a ‘unique structure of embossed formed paper.’
I think of it almost as a cardboard Correx. All the paper ‘waves’ or flutes in the middle of the media giving it this strength and durability.
Being constructed completely from paper, it’s an internal product only and can be susceptible to the issues of being dinked on the edges. It’s the same possible damage as with any other softer substrate if mishandled. Just be careful when it’s in the print room and during installation.
Specifications and using DISPA Board
Thickness wise, DISPA board is only available at 3.8mm. Thick enough to keep warp-free and steady for hanging signs, POS units and displays.
As a board, its ideal for short term and lightweight promotional campaigns. But if you’re looking for something more substantial, check the alternatives we list further down.
Sheet sizes off the shelf should cover most jobs. From 1250x1840mm to slightly oversize 8×4 and 10×5. When creating complex point of sale display units that need CNC cutting and folding and we need to get it all on one sheet, we’re covered.
One of the big plus points of DISPA comes from its bright white, smooth paper faces. If you print using flatbed UV curable inks, printing DISPA board should cause no issues.
Double-sided hanging signs or point of sale cards become simple to produce when your board stays flat on the print bed and both sides have exactly the same properties.
As with DISPA board printing, the processing afterwards should be equally as stress-free.
Unlike plastics and metal substrates, paper materials can be converted using either manual tools or on the cutting tables. The only issue I can see is that the edges could crush if guillotined. Its the same with Correx or foam centred boards. Check pressures if it is an issue or look at converting using different kit if possible. It CNC cuts with little effort by using standard knives and settings.
Alternatives to DISPA board
Alternatives to DISPA include standard display board or display card. Also, these usually max out at around 2500mic thick.
They also don’t have the internal structure of DISPA with the laminated faces and built up embossed paper. For something like hanging signs though, they may be a viable alternative.
Dufaylite, Xanita board or Reboard are other options depending on the final application. Usually, a bit thicker, this honeycomb centred media (not quite like an Aero bar) is always popular as the substrate behind free-standing display units. It is strong, prints well and easy to cut and convert.
Foam centred boards like FOAM-X or KAPA are also popular for internal POS and hanging signs. Lightweight, strong and made from a sandwich of paper plus polyurethane. Foam core boards work well but most are not recyclable. DISPA, card and other 100% paper alternatives can also come in at a lower cost.
We’re putting together a Substrates 101 guide to the different media options within the sign and print spectrum – have a read through our details on Dibond printing or our post on Correx printing here.