Why release liner quality is essential for great graphics

Drytac explains why high-quality release liners are crucial to easy printing and installation.

Authored by D’Arcy Lewis, Technical Sales Manager, at Drytac.

When installing self-adhesive graphics, the last thing you probably think about is the remnants you throw away. However, the quality of these remnants – better known as release liners – can make a significant difference to the printing and installation process of a graphic, and the end result.

Release liners are a critical feature of self-adhesive print media. They are a key component for the delivery of the product and the application performance, but as they are ultimately disposed of they are often perceived as being of low value. That couldn’t be further from the truth. By spending just a few more pence or cents on a graphics solution with a high-quality release liner you can save yourself a lot of hassle, time and – ultimately – money.

Typically paper-based (although they can be made of Polyester/Polypropylene), release liners are usually applied during the manufacturing process of print media, including films made from PVC, polyester, polypropylene and synthetic paper. Coated on one or both sides with a release agent, they are used to prevent the sticky surface of a substrate from adhering prematurely or to the wrong surface.

Reduce printer head strikes

There are a number of key aspects of release liners that can affect their compatibility for a job. For example, some printers use extreme heat which can shock cheaper liners, potentially causing cockling or head strikes. Using a higher-quality PE-coated liner will help the material lie flat during the printing cycle.

Stablise thin materials

A thicker release liner is also required to stabilise thin materials during printing. For instance, a 50-micron/2 mil polyester would normally be too delicate, but the correct release liner enables their use.

Help machines see optically clear materials

In addition, optically clear materials require an opaque or white liner so machines can see the materials and print on them.

Stability during cutting

A good liner will also add stability during cutting, especially on integrated printer/cutters where the material is gripped by pinch rollers. These machines truly whizz the material around, so the liner has to grip to give accurate cut lines.

Heavier release liners will help graphics lay flat and easier to install

The weight will also influence installation; a heavier release liner will help the graphics lay flat to ensure a much easier installation process. Air release liners have added technology to make materials easy to use: tiny channels which enable air to flow and not get trapped between the material and surface, which would otherwise create bubbles. Standard PVC is not porous so this release paper technology makes graphics materials, particularly those used in vehicle wrapping, more forgiving.

Moisture stable liners help media lay flat

Paper absorbs and disperses moisture from the air, always trying to achieve a balance. This constant change, due to the environment, can cause lay-flat challenges. Moisture stable release papers overcome this challenge. They are coated on both sides with polyethylene which inhibits the absorption of moisture and eliminates changes in the paper’s profile. The paper is then siliconized on the adhesive receptive side.

Eliminate tunnelling

All Drytac’s products with release liners are designed to tick every box for higher quality. Only dimensionally stable base papers are used, with two-sided PE coating for moisture stability. Silicone, adhesive and paper chemistries are specially formulated to eliminate tunnelling of the media and to work with Drytac’s adhesive solutions.

For something that is usually considered waste and is thrown away, a lot of technology goes into good-quality release liners. Spending a little more on a better product will prevent printer damage, reduce downtime and speed up the installation process, making the job easier and cheaper in the long run.

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Minuteman Press gives salon monthly makeover with Drytac Polar

Minuteman Press finds Drytac Polar Premium is perfect for easily applied window graphics in cold environments, relying on the vinyl for a monthly display project.

Material hair salon in Bath has revealed a new look every month, with window graphics printed by Minuteman Press using Drytac Polar Premium. Thanks to Polar’s ease of application, each new window display can be installed in under an hour.

Material is a neighbour of Minuteman Press, which runs three different departments from three sites on Bath’s artistic Walcot Street. Founded by David Ghent in 1998 as a high-street print shop, the business has expanded to include in-house designers, a digital print and finishing department, a large-format studio and sales and marketing teams.

“We see ourselves as a one-stop shop for all things graphic communication,” says Kieran Blacknall, Large Format Manager, Minuteman Press.

Commenting on the project, he says: “Material wanted to add some colour to the street by having monthly window graphics that tie in with a theme. Every month it’s something different so we look forward to seeing what their designer has come up with – we’ve had bunnies at Easter, lollipops in the summer, fireworks in November. We like to guess what will come next month.”

For its regular appointment with Material, Minuteman Press relies on Drytac Polar Premium, an 80 micron (3.2mil) polymeric printable self-adhesive vinyl designed to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions. It is available with a removable adhesive for short-term graphics applications that ensures a smooth, bubble-free finish on application and easy removal without residue when removed.

Kieran explains that Drytac Polar Premium – which is printed on its HP Latex 360 and cut on either its Summa vinyl cutter or Valiani flatbed cutter – was recommended by Drytac distributor Antalis.

“It turned out to be one of the best recommendations we’ve had,” he says. “For the Material project we needed a strong and durable product that performs all year round and can be applied quickly: the window graphics are removed and installed within an hour. The salon is on a busy road and is exposed to the elements so it was important for us to use something strong. We tried using low-tac solutions but as the weather got colder the adhesives started to fail, which is not an issue with Drytac Polar.

“We find it so easy to install with a water solution, and removing it is easy with the right tools. The fact that it’s a polymeric vinyl really helps with removability. We’ve found that monomeric equivalents tend to break during removing, particularly in cold weather, so I’m happy to use a premium product as it does save us time in the long term.

“We now use Drytac Polar Premium for the majority of our vinyl work, even for simple things like kiss-cut labels and wrapped boards, because it’s so reliable and versatile. Using Polar for more jobs has highlighted issues with our previous vinyl media choices; production times and overall product quality have benefited. We also use Drytac SpotOn for floor graphics and we’re always looking for ways we can use other Drytac products in the future.”

Learn More About Polar Premium:

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FD Signs puts safety first for massive TfL social distancing project with Drytac

FD Signs has completed a mammoth project to help Transport for London (TfL) passengers abide by social distancing guidelines, using Drytac media to ensure maximum safety.

Based in West London, FD Signs has over 20 years’ experience in delivering high-quality sign and graphics projects. TfL is a regular customer for the business but the social distancing project was on a scale never seen before, as Fintan Delaney, Founder and Director of FD Signs, explains.

“TfL needed to prepare for more customers using its services while adhering to social distancing, at a very quick turnaround,” he says. “Over a period of ten consecutive, 18-hour days FD Signs delivered 6,000 graphics a day for overnight installation in London Underground stations, by 30 different installation teams. At the same time, we produced other graphics for the Croydon Tramlink, Arriva Trains and Network Rail. In all we delivered in the region of 100,000 social distancing floor graphics.”

As well as displaying messages effectively, it was essential that the floor graphics were safe for their environment. Fintan specified a product that is R11-certified for slip resistance, meaning it has been approved for exterior applications and transitional areas that can get wet – ideal for stations on the London Underground network. The media also had to hold relevant fire safety certifications for use in a public space.

The ideal solution was Drytac Polar Grip overlaminated with Drytac Interlam Pro Emerytex, delivered to FD Signs as quickly as the team could print it, says Shaun Holdom, Global Product Manager for Drytac.

“Fast and efficient turnaround was key as the time frame FD Signs was working to was very small,” he says. “We were making daily deliveries to Fintan to keep up with his 24-hour production.”

Drytac Polar Grip is a white polymeric self-adhesive vinyl that adheres securely to any surface, including floors, metal, plastic, wood, glass and brick, for up to five years. As well as providing the fire safety certification (EN 13501-1) required by TfL, this 80 micron (3.2mil) PVC film is compatible with all major printing technologies – including the Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 UV printer and the Roland XR640 printer used by FD Signs – to deliver sharp, attention-grabbing graphics.

Drytac Interlam Pro Emerytex is a pressure-sensitive overlaminating film that protects graphics from abrasions, UV light, weather and temperature changes to increase durability and longevity. This film has been officially tested and certified for fire safety and holds the R11 slip rating necessary for this project.

Shaun Holdom comments: “We worked closely with Fintan and the FD Signs team to ensure all of the products complied to the strict requirements of the customer, including providing all of the technical information.

“It’s an ongoing project and we expect to see more transport operators, retailers and other businesses following suit. Floor graphics have become incredibly important for social distancing but it is absolutely essential that they are safe. Drytac is the market leader and our experts can provide all the advice and support our customers need.”

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Carpet graphics: getting installation right to get your point across

The attention-grabbing effect of floor graphics was demonstrated at the FESPA Global Print Expo in Munich in 2019, where around 70 directional floor graphics printed on Drytac media were in situ across the show floor. All were installed by Drytac staff before the halls opened on the first day.

Drytac offers advice on choosing floor graphics solutions for new carpets – a potentially tricky installation surface. 

Authored by Shaun Holdom, Global Product Manager; Drytac

Floor graphics are a great marketing medium and, increasingly, an essential communication tool thanks to their effectiveness in guiding people around a space. It’s crucial that floor decals or markers are installed correctly to avoid slips and trips and the graphics product itself is safe for its environment. Most materials and adhesives designed for floor graphics applications are compatible with all common flooring types, but carpets can present an issue.

Specifically, some users may find adhesion is difficult on new carpets – in fact the same type of graphic applied to an old carpet within the same location could suffer no adhesion issues while installation on a new carpet could prove almost impossible. The reason may be the material, the coating and even the design of the carpet.

Certain types of recycled, low-VOC or environmentally friendly carpets may be labelled as ‘stain resistant’ or ‘never stain’ and their properties also reduce adhesion. Often sold as carpet tiles, they are typically made from either durable and resilient nylon or polypropylene. Also known as olefin, polypropylene will not fade, will not absorb water and can contain anti-staining additives – which also repel adhesives.

In addition, polypropylene carpet will have a low surface energy (LSE) surface, which means it has a weak molecular attraction and is therefore more difficult to bond with other substances such as adhesive. Combine LSE with anti-staining additives and you get a surface that is very difficult to adhere to – very much like low-VOC latex/Teflon paint on walls. Normal removable adhesive will take 48 hours to properly wet out, but with this new type of carpet the adhesive does not wet into the surface.

Floor graphics products are generally rated for application to low-pile, industrial grade, smooth-surface carpet. Textured carpet – any design with ribbing, grooves or cut-outs – will not be compatible as the textured surface gives far less adhesion points for the glue to stick too.

To ensure a floor graphics product’s suitability for its intended location on any surface, an adhesion test is recommended before proceeding. No-one wants to spend time and money on a project that ends in failure and this is especially important with floor graphics; loss of adhesion can pose a serious safety hazard.

Drytac’s experts can provide more advice on floor graphics of all types; for more information, please contact us!

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