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Keys to Long Lasting Banners

Producing banners that will stand up against the Florida heat and the Chicago winds

By Jennifer LeClaire

Mailmen aren't the only ones who have to deliver through wind, rain, and other extreme weather conditions. Customers hold sign makers selling long-term banners to the same high standards.

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  • Short-term banners are hardly a challenge for sign makers because the weathering process, which is the main issue, takes time to occur. But producing banners that last five or more years is a different story. Still, with the right materials, inks and equipment you can produce banner signs that will stand up against the Florida heat and the Chicago winds for the long haul.

    Choosing the right materials and inks
    Creating long-term banners starts with choosing the right material. While you can get away with 12 ounce (or less) material for short-term banners, long-term banners require heavy-duty materials. In most cases, a 13-ounce to 15-ounce material should serve your needs. While you can choose up to 18 gauge materials the cost-effectiveness is questionable for most applications.

    Inks are also important. With more and more customers incorporating photography into banners, the goal is long lasting photo-realistic quality. There are many brands of ultraviolet (UV) inks on the market that will prolong the life of banner lettering and high resolution photos.

    Choosing the right equipment
    Choosing the right equipment can make producing long-term banners much more efficient and there are plenty of options for the sign industry.

    Roland's SOLJET-500 allows sign makers to print and contour cut photo-realistic printing up to 1440 dpi. Banners printed on the SOLJET-500 last up to three years outdoors, though lamination is recommended for some applications and environmental conditions.

    Océ Display Graphics Systems' Arizona 30 is their entry level inkjet printer to produce outdoor durable graphics using 3M inks and media to offer an outdoor durable warranty of up to three years unlaminated, or up to five years laminated. It offers an addressable 360 dpi resolution, plus 6 color printing for an apparent 600 dpi.

    The Hewlett Packard's HP-5000 with UV inks is also another option, as well as several others. Most importantly, we suggest researching the specifications of several printers and their users to determine which printer best suits your all-around needs.

    Guarding against the wind
    Weatherproofing is probably the biggest challenge for sign makers trying to produce long-term banners. Wind and the sun are the primary concerns.

    The effects of wind can oftentimes be a bigger adversary than the sun. "In a very severe storm when the winds might reach 100 mph, a pressure of 100,000 pounds will be exerted on a 40' by 80' banner," says College of Wooster mathematics professor John Ramsay. "Even though that is a large amount of pressure across the entire surface of the banner, it is manageable with enough of the correct types of fasteners because it works out to about 35 pounds per square foot."

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    Jason Bridgeman, graphic artist/production manager for Sign International in Beaumont, Texas, recalls a 8-foot wide by 16-foot tall long-term banner installed on a crane that was 40 feet in the air.

    "We always put reinforced corners on the banner with the grommets through them so that the wind doesn't rip the grommets out," says Bridgeman. "We also had to cut lots of wind pockets - half circles cut into the banner to increase the flow of wind. That's a great way to make a banner last a little bit longer. Usually, if you have to cut through a letter it doesn't make a difference, but I try not to put a wind pocket in the middle of the letter so it doesn't distort the letter."

    Keep in mind that cutting "wind pockets" may void manufacturers warrantees on the banner materials. So apply practical common sense when needed.

    Guarding against the sun
    Another key factor is sun exposure, says Dan Healy, tech support manager for MetroMedia Technologies, an outdoor advertising firm with offices worldwide. UV inks and lamination are a good way to protect against the sun, but the direction a banner faces can be a bigger factor in a banner's lifespan.

    "A north facing sign or banner is not exposed to direct sunlight, everything is indirect, so that can hold up much better than a south facing banner," says Healy. "Also, if you are in a heavy sunshine area, like in the sunbelt, the banner might not hold up as well as banners in northern states. Altitude can even have an affect."

    Guarding against pollutants
    Then there are air pollutants. In lieu of film laminating the banner to protect it from environmental factors, a liquid laminate may be applied. Several companies manufacture spray-on or brush on clears that will help edge seal the graphics to the banner. "The clears help give it an additional layer of protection from abrasion, chemicals and soot in the air, and it gives it some degree of UV protection." says Bridgeman.

    Finally, keeping the banner clean will increase its longevity. A simple washing with soap and water - or even just water - will produce good results.

    Installation for long-term use
    Even with the best materials, inks, and even with UV protection and wind pockets, if the banner is not properly installed it's chances of long term survival are slim. Durable grommets are critical, especially in windy cities.

    "It's the flapping, moving and tearing that gets you," says Lane Camfield, partner, Custom Quick Signs in El Paso, Texas. "We make sure to anchor the banner directly to the building to make sure it doesn't go anywhere."

    For installation between poles, bungie cords can be lifesavers, says Bridgeman, and you can reuse them over and over again.

    "When the wind blows the bungie cords will give the banner some movement so it doesn't rip it out. If you can't use bungie cords and if you are going up against a building, basically the only thing you can do is put screws in the wall and attach them through the grommets, but bungie cords work great. I always try to carry some in stock in various colors, so if someone has a blue banner we can use blue bungie cords and it's not as obvious."

    Selling long-term banners
    Now that you know some key elements to keep in mind while producing long-term banners you can market them to companies in your community. From auto dealers, apartment buildings to industrial facilities with safety concerns, there is an increasing demand for long-term banners. Of course, all customers want their banners to last a lifetime, but even with today's technology and materials, permanent banners are not a reality.

    "You have to educate the public as to what is realistic and also that the better quality of material that you use, the better shot you have at having a long-lasting sign," says Tina Benson, MMT quality assurance manager. MMT guarantees its flexible face products against cracking, chipping, pealing and color fading for a five-year period.

    "Everybody wants something economical and they want it to last forever," says Camfield. "Sometimes first impressions of banners are that they are for temporary use, like a grand opening, and will be taken down in a month."

    There may be no such thing as a permanent banner, say experts, but a quality banner that is weather-proofed and installed correctly can last a very long time.

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