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Cast or Calendered Vinyl -- How to Make the Best Choice

Multi-fix Professional Signmaking Film

The proper selection of vinyl film guarantees long-term profitability. Yet some signmakers base their choice strictly on cost. Some films are more expensive, so they reason, "If I can save R150 per roll of vinyl by using an intermediate film instead of cast high performance, I will. After all, that's a lot of money". Is that how you feel?

Well, everyone wants to save money. But an intelligent decision made through the examination of different types of vinyl is the first step to making sure you don’t get stuck doing a costly re-do. So make the right choice – one that’s determined by learning how vinyl is made and where that vinyl should be applied.

How Vinyl is Made

Calendered Intermediate

This vinyl film is generally made in a 80 micron thickness. Usually, the thickness refers to the film itself and not the adhesive that is applied. The adhesive can add another 25 to 50 microns to the thickness. First the raw materials (including resins, plasticisers, stabilisers, colour pigments, etc) are combined and heated, producing "melt". Then the melt is fed into a two-story high calendering machine that consists of a series of rollers. One group of rollers produces the rough gauge. The next group of rollers determines gloss levels and final thickness. It is important to note that calendered vinyl is manufactured in a continual web process. It's made by putting continuous stress, pressure, and heat on the vinyl; it is literally pulled through the machine. The process resembles the way Salt Water Taffy is made; remember the huge arms that around and stretch and pull the taffy until it cools down? Because the film is stretched and pressured into its final form, it has little dimensional stability. This means that if extremes of heat and cold affect it, it will tend to shrink back to its original size. This caused adhesive ooze around the letters, as well as cracking and peeling. Calendered vinyl must be produced in large quantities due to the sheer size of the machinery involved. These large batches limit the number of colours that are available. It is this fast and economical process that establishes the lower cost of calendered vinyl for the signmaker.

Cast High Performance

This film is made in 50 micron thickness, then the adhesive is added. This thinner film is easier to mold over irregular surfaces and is easier to weed, especially those tiny letters and delicate graphics. There are two main reasons why 50 micron high performance vinyl is much superior to calendered vinyl. The raw materials are of better quality in cast films and the manufacturing process is totally different. There is virtually no stress, no stretching, and no pressure applied to cast films. The high quality cast vinyl raw materials are mixed and then poured out, or cast on the casting roller. The mixture is then transferred through rollers to the casting paper. Since the cast liquid vinyl is supported by the casting paper once the liquid leaves the rollers, very little stress is applied. Heat and pressure are not applied like in the calendering process. This means that the higher quality cast films are suitable for outdoor use and long exposure to extremes of heat and cold. Since the film is not forced into a size that it wasn't originally made for, shrinkage, splitting, and cracking is significantly less than in the calendered vinyl films. Because casting machines are small in comparison to the mammoth calendering equipment, runs are short and a wider variety of colours are available in cast vinyl.

How to Choose the Right Vinyl for the Job

The first step in choosing the right vinyl is to determine whether or not the signage you are designing will be for indoor or outdoor use. If the sign will be indoors, the less expensive calendered vinyl may do the job. If the sign is to be outdoors or on the inside of an exterior door or window, a premium grade cast vinyl is the better choice. Why?

That’s because the cast vinyl will resist bubbling, fading, and peeling due to long term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. These rays cause eventual deterioration of both the vinyl and the adhesive. For most applications, 50 micron cast vinyl is the best choice. It conforms well to uneven surfaces, is more flexible, and has a longer life expectancy when exposed to harsh weather conditions. The quality of 50 micron vinyl's adhesive usually matches the the quality of the vinyl. Put simply, this means that premium 50 micron high performance cast film will stick better, longer, and faster than the adhesive on calendered vinyl. Lower quality adhesives as in calendered vinyl are more easily affected by moisture, solvents, and sunlight. This may cause the vinyl sign or graphic to turn yellow or curl.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Occasionally, a sign shop owner will make a cost comparison between a cast and calendered 50-metre roll of vinyl and reason that the big price difference is substantial. But really, when you compare the cost on a job-by-job basis, the outlay becomes insignificant. There may only be a R20 to R25 price differential of vinyl on a R150 sign! So, a wise recommendations is this: If you don't know where your graphics are going to be used or how long the useful life needs to be -- be safe and use cast vinyl films. Otherwise, choose the particular film for the job that it was made for. In short, use cast films outdoors and calendered films indoors. Not only will this give your sign ultra-performance, but you will be building a good reputation and long-term profitability from repeat customers



For More Information Contact:

Sign Equipment Services
PO Box 4619, Kempton Park, 1620, Gauteng, South Africa
Tel: JHB 011 826 1068 or 011 826 1521
FAX: 086 538 9016
Internet: sales@signequipmentservices.co.za




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Last modified: March 22, 2020