There are often questions about what media to use for what application. This is an informational post that will be a good foundation for helping users decide what material to use.
Digital Media is comprised of three basic parts: a topcoat, an adhesive layer, and a carrier sheet. Each component will determine use and effect cost. Digital vinyl requires more care in handling and has a corona treatment to make sure the static energy is consistant. Understanding the components will help you better choose the correct media for the job.
Top Coats: Cast top coats are poured in the manufacturing process ‐ a more expensive and more exacting process. Calendered products start as small slabs that are rolled thinner and thinner. This causes them to be sucseptible to skrinking. More complex polymeric vinyls have more elasticity ingredients added that help reduce shrikage, but increase cost. The thickness of the material can also effect printability ‐ thicker materials often require more care with calibration and heat settings. Typical Cast materials are around 1.5 mil, calendared around 3 mil. wall films and printcut films around 6 mil.
Cast Vinyl: High performance, premium product; highly conformable, low shrinkage, long term.
Calendared Polymeric Vinyl: Medium performance; mildly conformable, high to medium term.
Calendered Monomeric Vinyl: Low cost, non‐conformable; noticeable shrinkage, short term.
Adhesive: All adhesive will become harder to remove the longer they stand applied. The time stated is the window of removablilty.
Short Term Removeable: 6 month easily removable. Used for Wall materials and specialty transit vinyls.
Removable: 1 year removability. Basic signage where removability is needed. POP displays, etc.
Long Term Removable: 5 year removability. Typical adhesive for vehicle wraps.
Permenant: Not designed for any removability. Usually used for general signage. Removing may damage substrate.
High Tack: An agressive adhesive for demanding substrates and applications: Low energy plastics like porta-potties, recycling bins, and motorsport bodywork for dirt bikes, 4 wheelers, and construction equipment.
Carrier Sheet: Carrier sheets can be lightweight (70 lb) , heavy weight (90lb), PET plastic (clear), or embossed with a pattern that facilitates air release. Each variety effects price and printability (heavier carrier sheets are usually more stable when heat is applied, but add cost.)
Laminates: Laminates add scratch resistance, UV durabilility, and dimensional consistancy to digital prints as well as allow for “edge to edge” printing. They come in cast and calandered varieties, as well as polycarbonate, and many other not so common options. Typically a more conformable cast laminate can be used on less expensive calendared vinyls, but placing a calendared laminate on a cast digital print would sacrifice the characteristics of the cast print. Cast laminates range from 1.3 ‐ 2 mil thicknesses and are often specially formulated for the demanding curves of a vehicle wrap. Calendared laminates start at 3 mil and can be bought with thicknesses up to 20 mil for specialized uses like touch pads and motocross graphics.