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Buyer guide for personalized signs

Choosing the right media

Rigid substrates can be a good solution to display your messages. Rigid materials can be strong, lightweight, affordable, professional, versatile, weather resistant, easy to customize and easy to install. They can provide an impact that other large format materials can’t.

Rigid substrates are mostly used for small or medium formats. Projects larger than 2 to 3 m² can become bulky and difficult to ship, store and generally harder to handle.

For large and very large formats, we recommend that you choose banner solutions that will be lighter and easier to use.

Likewise, for promotional applications we recommend flexible media for their ease of transport and handling.

Rigid substrates can be more expensive to purchase than flexible options. However, the installation can be simpler and provide a longer-term solution. They also do not require a frame or tension system and may ultimately prove to be more economical once installed.

How to choose your material?

Our flatbed press technology allows us to print on wide range of rigid materials including wood, metal, and plastics but it’s also possible to print on ceramic, glass and more.

In this guide, we will limit ourselves to the most common materials.

These materials are:

Different criteria must be taken into account when choosing your material:

The fire classification

It is important to consider the location of your sign and in particular whether it is inside or outside. Often a fire classification is required inside Establishments Receiving the Public (ERP) such as points of sale, reception halls, exhibition halls, sports halls, stations. It is important to be well informed.

Fire rated media can be more expensive.

Opacity 

Rigid materials have different levels of opacity. Some are completely opaque (Dibond®), others are translucent, and some are completely clear ("Plexiglass®").When using translucent or clear materials white ink can be added to specific areas to create opacity. This allows some areas to be clear and other areas to be opaque.

For backlit applications, there are also white diffusing materials that let the light disperse evenly.

Rigidity

The stiffness of a printed panel will depend on the following.

  • The nature of the material: PVC, PP, PS, PMMA Aluminum, composite panels, cardboard… Each material will be more or less rigid depending on its nature.
  • Its thickness, the structure of the material: a material can be solid, fluted, or a composite.

Honeycomb/fluted materials have a very good weight / stiffness ratio but often have a less regular surface appearance. Solid and sandwich-type materials will have a good surface finish. They will also have a good price / stiffness ratio as well as weight / stiffness.

The rigidity will be determined by the application, but also by the number of points of attachment/anchor points.

For example, a 3mm thick Dibond® panel (Aluminum-PP-Aluminum sandwich panel) is very rigid and it can be fixed by hardware every 1 m or possibly every 2 m indoors. This material will often be used to make permanent signs or elements of store fittings.

A 3 mm thick Coroplast® type panel is flexible in the direction of the grooves and a little less in the transverse direction. It will typically be used for small size signs for promotional purposes.

The size

The size of the sheet depends on the materials. For some materials, the maximum size of the sheet is 4’ by 8’, while others come in 5’ x 10’. If this format can be used during printing and during the various stages of manufacture, it is often then cut again for questions of packaging, transport and handling, especially during installation.

As standard, we deliver rigid materials in a format of 60” x 39” maximum to optimize shipping costs. If a larger size is required, please contact us.

Outdoor weather resistance

First of all, you should clearly identify the location of your panel, indoors or outdoors.

The durability of your project will depend on the material chosen, this is especially important for exterior panels that are subjected to sunlight ( UV radiation).

Sintra® type PVC and Dibond® type aluminum panels will have very good UV resistance and will be recommended for permanent outdoor applications such as signage panels or signs.

Coroplast is less resistant to UV light and should be used for short term promotional applications.

The UV resistance of your sign is also limited by the inks used in digital printing. Our inks have excellent UV fastness and have a 1 year outdoor durability. This durability is given as an indication and does not constitute a guarantee.

Beyond two years, you may notice color changes due to the aging of the pigments used in the inks. These changes are very gradual, they do not appear suddenly and will primarily affect more sensitive colors.

To prolong the durability of the inks, an anti-UV film lamination can be applied which will protect the printing from UV radiation and thus increase its durability to 4-5 years.

Moisture resistance is very good for all plastic or aluminum panels.

The cardboard/foamboard will be reserved for the interior and for interior POS applications.

Wind resistance is also to be considered. It will be necessary to choose a sufficiently rigid panel whose resistance will be well suited to its size and method of installation.

Dibond®-type aluminum panels are generally used for exterior signs and Coroplast®-type panels rather for short-term uses in exterior POS.

Indoors, the constraints related to bad weather are fewer and other criteria will have to be taken into account such as appearance, weight or fire classification for example.

Weight

Weight in itself is not a guarantee of resistance. Honeycomb or sandwich type panels offer a very good stiffness / weight ratio.

It may be advantageous to choose a light material to facilitate shipping and handling or to accommodate the installation hardware. 

Appearance / texture

The surface of the panels can be matte, satin or gloss.

Lamination after printing will provide a different surface appearance than the original printed material. 

Colour

Digital printing uses standard four colour inks (CMYK) and requires a white background for good colour rendering.  UV inks are semi-transparent allowing the background color to show through.

To overcome this phenomenon and print materials of different colors, we first print a layer of white ink to mask the colour of the material and thus obtain a perfect colorimetric rendering whatever the colour of the base material.

This layer of white can cover the entire surface of the panel or be selective, that is to say simply applied in certain places. Where white has been printed, the colours will be “full” and the colour rendering will be perfect in places where white has not been applied. The base material will be not be seen through the inks if it has been printed or will simply be seen if the panel has not been printed.

It is thus possible to print, for example, on metal panels such as Dibond® type materials which exist in brushed aluminum, gold or copper finishes. In this case, the metallic appearance will stand out in the areas where white has not been printed. This is used in signage or as a wall decoration.

You will find on our site a comparison of the main rigid materials , as well as a small summary of their different applications .

Finishing options

Several types of finishes can be done after printing:

Cutting

Many rigid substrates can be cut to shapes but there can be limitations with some materials and thicknesses.

The die line needs to be supplied as a vector file, PDF or CAD file.

The cutting is then done on digital XY cutting machines with cutting tools adapted to the material (knife, milling cutter, etc.).

Folding

Rigid materials can be bent to form 3D objects.

The inks should be flexible enough to follow the deformations and not crack. This is the case with the UV inks used by Prismaprint.

The boxes will be creased to facilitate folding during assembly. This is widely used for cardboard POS (displays, cubes, totems, etc.).

Thermoplastic materials (PVC, PS, PMMA, PP, PE) can be hot folded to make small displays for brochures or counter displays for example.

Strucutural materials (aluminum panels, Dibond® type for example) can be bent with a press brake after printing.

Lamination

The following lamination options are available.

  • Anti UV: to extend the life of the print up to 4 to 5 years.
  • Non-slip: if the sign is placed on the floor.
  • Anti-graffiti: to protect panels placed on fences, for example.
  • Matte, luster, or gloss lamination to achieve the desired effect.

The gloss level of your signage is determined by the makeup of the inks (generally satin) in the places where there is printing and that of the base material, where there is no printing. Laminating will make it possible to standardize the gloss level over the entire surface of the panel.

Other finishes

Rigid thermoplastic materials can also be thermoformed or other plastic transformation process.

The size

The installation of a rigid panel is often very simple, it is one of the main advantages of using this type of material for your advertising message or decorations.

The sign panel is often fixed according to the support by anchors or screws, spaced according to the rigidity of the panel and weather constraints.

For large or high panels, we advise you to have the installation carried out by specialized personnel.

Contact us for installation throughout Canada.

For your work at heights, make sure you are always safe with the appropriate means of access and lifting.

Environment

Prismaprint is a division of the Prismaflex Group, which is ISO 14001 certified and Imprim'Vert labeled. We make every effort to reduce the environmental impact of our business and our products.

For more ecological panels, we recommend products without PVC (Polypropylene type for example), avoid Sintra® panels.

We also advise you to use mono-material panels as much as possible to facilitate their recycling. (for example avoid Dibond® type sandwich panels or plasticization if this is not necessary).

Overall, use the right thickness of material for your needs, avoiding oversizing. You will therefore consume less raw materials for your application.

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PRISMAFLEX CANADA INC
1645 Queensway E.
Mississauga Ontario,
L4X 3A3, Canada