A Fresh Look at PSA Media: Tips to Streamline Your Signshop
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A Fresh Look at PSA Media: Tips to Streamline Your Signshop

As advances in inkjet technologies continue to move forward, so does the availability of new printers, media and inks. Stay on ahead of the curve by keeping in touch with the new products.

By Jennifer Chagnon, InteliCoat Technologies

While these improvements are critical to the continued development of the sign industry, they also present signmakers with an ever-changing plethora of new supplies and hardware - making it increasingly difficult to choose what option best fits their needs.

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  • Among the most recent advancements in the industry, developments in pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) media have opened the eyes of many in the sign market. Although PSA products have been around for quite some time, their effectiveness and ease-of-use have been catapulted to the next level.

    In addition to commanding higher price points in the sign channel, today's PSA media options cut down production time by streamlining the process. Additionally, since many of the new PSA media options feature the versatility and functionality that today's imaging professionals require, they enable the creation of new and improved applications, which can lead to product differentiation.

    This article will provide a basic overview of the benefits of utilizing pressure-sensitive adhesive media in the sign industry, as well as background on the various applications that can be produced with today's PSA offerings. It will also provide advice for signmakers looking to choose among the wealth of media options.

    Cutting costs with PSA media
    Although the cost of PSA media is higher than materials without PSA, the time savings afforded by the use of PSA media make it an extremely cost-effective option. Another major factor contributing to cost savings is the board. The difference between standard mounting boards versus adhesive backed boards or sprays results in a 30% to 40% cost savings. Similarly, the use of sticky sprays heightens the risk for contaminating the image while mounting, which requires reprinting the job - doubling costs.

    The same can be said for the differences in time/labor. Without the need to spray or remove a sheet on a board, signmakers can simply locate the image, peel the backing and press into position for perfect, bubble-free mounting every time - resulting in a 20% to 30% reduction in production time. PSA media also eliminates the need for toxic spray mount adhesives, making the air easier to breathe and more importantly, reducing harmful effects on the environment.

    PSA Media: The Basics
    As the name implies, PSA media feature an adhesive that forms a bond when pressure is applied to fuse the adhesive with the desired surface. Since no solvent, water or heat is required to activate the adhesive, there are several factors that can affect the degree of the bond, including smoothness and contaminates present on the surface. The wide variety of PSA options available for signmakers includes both repositionable and permanent pressure sensitive adhesives, so it is critical to understand the differences and choose the option that best fits the requirements of the intended job.

    While permanent PSAs form a permanent bond after several hours or days, repositionable adhesives are designed to form a temporary bond, which can be removed after months or years without leaving residue on the adherend. Solutions that feature low-tack adhesive for easy removal and re-application are perfect for short-term venue or event signage where temporary graphics are needed such as concerts, sporting events and retail venues. In today's eco and cost conscious environment, low tack PSA media also enable the recycling of boards through the use of replacement graphics.

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    Popular PSA Options
    Whether the final application is for a retail outlet or tradeshow booth or beyond, customers are looking for durable, high-quality products that are cost-effective and meet their unique needs. Not only should the PSA media allow for exceptional print fidelity and vivid colors to grab the attention of potential customers, it should also be low-glare and anti-curl to sustain the requirements for high traffic outlets. Solutions should also feature superior image durability or the ability to over-laminate for additional durability and to extend life for outdoor applications.

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    To make the most of the media currently available, it is important to understand the options and opportunities associated with each. The following section details the various choices and provides advice on proper use.

    Matte Papers
    Matte PSA paper options present an inexpensive choice for signmakers looking to produce general purpose signage, posters, POS displays and tradeshow graphics. The heavy weight paper and PSA coating combination reduces paper cockle and provides easy handling during the mounting process. When choosing among matte papers, it is beneficial to choose matte papers that can be produced across ink jet printing systems, from water-base thermal to piezo.

    Photorealistic/Poster Papers
    Photorealistic PSA papers present a cost-effective solution for printing short-term, high resolution glossy graphics and posters for use in retail environments. Available in both matte and gloss finishes, poster paper PSA options are designed to capture fine details and bold, vivid colors. The heavy weight paper and PSA coating combination of such poster solutions reduces paper cockle and provides easy handling during the mounting process. From sign shops producing POP displays and posters to advertising agencies creating packaging mock-ups to photographers creating unique photographic exhibits, the versatility of poster paper PSA options make them an attractive option for professionals striving to diversify their business.

    Photobase Papers
    Ideal for photo reproduction, signage, posters and POP displays, photobase PSA papers are available in both gloss and luster finishes. Photobase papers also provide a bright white surface for applications that require bright, vibrant colors. When choosing among photobase PSA media, look for options that feature a universal microporus coating that provides instant dry times on most high speed, waterbase thermal and piezo inkjet printer systems, with dye or pigment inks.

    Polypropylene Banner
    Available as both permanent and repositionable, polypropylene banners are ideal for posters, retail displays, window displays and short-term residential graphics. Low cost polypropylene PSAs can be used indoors and outdoors for both short and long-term signage. Unlike adhesive vinyl options, polypropylene solutions are recyclable and will not shrink with heat or have any edge curl off of the surface. When choosing among banner media, maximize the value by looking for solutions that feature a universal coating that is compatible with most thermal and piezo water-based ink jet printer systems.

    Yielding high density with superb color gamut, fabric PSA media options provide a soft textile appearance for the creation of flags, displays, window decorations, window backlits and wall murals. When choosing among fabric PSA options, signmakers should seek solutions featuring low tack pressure sensitive adhesive to enable the ability to reposition and reapply countless times. Additionally the porous surface of fabric PSA media adds to flexibility when mounting. If the project calls for it, there are many fabric solutions available featuring a luster finish.

    As the availability of new printers, media and inks continue to advance, so does the effectiveness and ease-of-use of the products. While PSA products are not new to the sign industry, technological developments have diversified the amount and types of applications that can be produced using PSA media. By understanding the available PSA options and their capabilities, signmakers can dramatically streamline their processes and diversify their business.

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