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Flexible Material Innovation

With sign-making companies constantly on the lookout for new products that could help improve the quality of applications, Brendan Perring picks out the latest flexible materials

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Flexible materials are amongst the most common products used in sign-making

Flaunt your flexibility

As many sign-making firms would agree, our industry is one of the most varied markets in the world. Companies are tasked with a range of jobs on a daily basis, and while this may be good news in terms of bringing in different types of work, it does pose a challenge when it comes to selecting the right materials and kit for certain jobs.

Flexible materials are amongst the most common products used in sign-making and while there are plenty of options on offer to the market, selecting the best one for your business may not be the easiest of tasks. As with all types of work in sign-making, selecting the right material for jobs is a critical one that will impact the finished product.

With this in mind, we look at some of the latest flexible materials available on the market and find out how sign-making companies can benefit from using these solutions in production.
Ongoing development

One company that is able to lend a hand when it comes to flexible materials is Contra Vision, which has a host of options available to the industry. Rob Stone, operations director, says that the firm is well placed to offer such solutions, as it is the only company that is wholly active in the field of see-through graphics.

“We continue to develop new products, applications and technologies for the specialisation,” Stone says, adding: “The company recently exhibited at FESPA in Hamburg, where it showcased a range of products guaranteed to get the attention of those familiar with the benefits of perforated materials.

We continue to develop new products, applications and technologies for the specialisation

“The new materials technology is perforated, but there is no way to tell this from even a moderate distance. It also launched a new see-through application that is quicker to install than ever before.”

Stone also says Contra Vision is able to offer solutions beyond those typically seen in the sign-making sector. For example, Contra Vision Backlite yields see-through graphics that can be seen around the clock, even in lighting conditions that make conventional see-through graphics difficult or impossible to see.

In addition, Stone adds that the company can supply perforated materials in a larger range of transparency options than usual, with 50/50 and 80/20 transparencies allowing customers planning a see-through graphics installation a wider range of options balancing design impact with the depth of the tint perceived from the see-through side.

Stone went on to say: “Even the line on Contra Vision’s perforated products has an innovation-led story to tell. Perforated product from Contra Vision featuring the Contra Vision Grayliner closely simulate, when printed, the expected result the film will achieve when it’s applied to a window.

Contra Vision says that its Grayliner solution yields results that closely simulate how the print will look when applied to a window

“Customers who’d like to know ‘what’s it going to look like’ can be shown the printed graphic before application and get an accurate impression of the result rather than something which will ultimately look totally different.”

Driving innovation

Another company heavily involved in this sector is Metamark and Ian Simister, sales director, explains that the firm has been responsible for many innovations in the field of printable digital media, listing MD5 as the product it is best known for in the sign-making industry.

Simister expands: “MD5, and its variants, were in the vanguard of products expressly formulated to perform with modern digital inks and the product has been riding high ever since. It is one of very few products that are known as ‘reference materials’, which means it is used by printer manufacturers as a quality benchmark.

“If ever a product innovation could lay claim to being a success, it’s the latest incarnation of MD5. Further refined to exploit continuing hardware development, Metamark very recently manufactured the thirty-millionth square metre of MD5.”

O Factoid: Metamark’s popular MD5 has an unprinted durability of seven years, making it suitable for long-term indoor and outdoor applications.  O

Simister leads on from this to say that Metamark is committed to developing new and innovative solutions for the industry, highlighting the adhesives as one area of the flexible materials sector that has seen expansion in recent years. Metamark refers in its technical specifications to Apex adhesives, which are used on many of its products.

Simister explains: “Apex adhesives feature a patented single-pack fully cross-linking formulation. What that delivers is performance that’s packed with benefits at every life-stage of an applied graphic. Products with Apex adhesives are easy to apply because the adhesive is easily repositioned. Once applied though, a reliable ultimate bond builds, keeping the graphics where it’s adhered.

“When the time comes to remove the applied graphic, no trace of adhesive is left on the substrate. That makes removal clean and trouble free, so saving time and money.”

Simister also points industry members in the direction of Metamark’s Décor Mark range of solutions, explaining that the firm’s experience with modern industrial plastics and adhesives has allowed it to launch this portfolio of films for use in decorative applications.

Metamark will send literature and samples of DécorMark to interested signs and graphics companies

Simister says: “One goal, met early in the product’s development, was that anything in the Décor Mark range should print like MD5 prints. That means Décor Mark materials are easy for sign and graphics companies to work with and they open vast opportunities in exploiting the new and emerging Décor sector.

“Always one to put the proof of concept in the hands of those who work with the materials, Metamark will send any sign company interested in finding out more about its Décor Mark innovation a sample pack.”

Delivering added value

Meanwhile, Soyang Europe has also established itself as a leading provider of printable materials, and has solutions on offer for wide- and grand-format print jobs. Sales manager Kerrie-Anne Moore explains that the company is able to assist on a wide range of applications and picks out some of its more popular solutions.

Moore says: “We can offer non-slip printable aluminium floorcoverings, textured wall décor and recyclable textiles to frosted self-adhesive films, non-curling pull up banner and even printable carpet.

“We’re keen to deliver added value in every product we offer. Whether it’s a premium grand format fabric or something as straightforward as a self-adhesive vinyl; giving our customers an advantage is paramount.”

With this in mind, Moore focuses in on some of the specific products available from Soyang Europe, such as the Sonetic magnetic wallcovering. Sonetic is a two-part product that encompasses a self-adhesive magnetic lining, which is affixed to the wall along with a thin, printable film incorporating a ferrous element allowing it to be placed, repositioned, and removed from the lining.

Sonetic is a magnetic wallcovering from Soyang Europe that has been used in applications across a range of industries, such as the education sector

Moore comments: “The positive impact this product can have in the hospitality and education sectors as well as retail environments—where there is a real need for PoS graphics to remain current—is massive and it offers great flexibility. Once the initial magnetic lining is in place, it can then be easily over-laid with repositionable drops of printable graphics, which can be produced on any roll-to-roll latex, solvent or UV printer.

“We have a number of Sonetic users in the education sector who find it versatile and interactive for classroom activities. It is possible to use a cutter to cut around printed graphics on the replaceable part of Sonetic, but educators have also opted to let the children cut round the graphics with scissors as part of the activity, increasing its popularity in this sector as a learning tool.”

Soyang Europe also offers Alumi Graphics, an aluminium foil-based material that conforms and holds to the texture of any surface that it is applied to and can be printed with UV, latex, and solvent printers up to 1.3m wide.

Alumi Graphics from Soyang Europe can be printed with UV, latex, and solvent printers up to 1.3m wide

Moore adds: “With its high durability, resistance to heavy pedestrian and rolling vehicle traffic, as well as all types of weather conditions, it has a myriad of potential applications in both indoor and outdoor environments and offers a different look to other mainstream substrates.

“It’s very easy to install and just as easy to remove and gives sign makers an opportunity to give realistic graphical illusions to a massive variety of floor and wall surfaces.”

While sign-making may be challenging at times, the almost endless supply of new products and materials offer something of a lifeline to companies seeking solutions to take on difficult applications. It is clear that both manufacturers and suppliers are committed to ongoing development in this sector, and there is no chance of them resting on their laurels.

However, as with any area of the sign-making industry, it is critical to establish the best type of material for a project and ensure that you only invest in quality solutions to complete the job. Cheaper products may save on initial costs, but there is a chance these materials may not achieve the desired output, leaving both you and your customer disappointed.
Keep an eye on the developments of leading manufacturers and suppliers, and there is a good chance the right, and quality, solution will be waiting for you.

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