Weathering the Weather: Best Practices for Storing Print Substrates

As in real estate, the three most important aspects of storing substrates, whether they’re roll or rigid media and materials, are location, location, location.

Bag it up: To guard against temperature and humidity fluctuations that could affect both inkjet media and laminates, wrap the unused materials in the plastic in which it was delivered.
Bag it up: To guard against temperature and humidity fluctuations that could affect both inkjet media and laminates, wrap the unused materials in the plastic in which it was delivered.

Materials should be isolated from changing temperature and humidity as much as possible. The best way to do this is to store substrates in a climate-controlled area. Variations in temperature and humidity will cause materials to expand and contract, making them susceptible to failure at the most inconvenient times, like after you’ve delivered a large job to the customer.

Plastic/PVC board materials are especially vulnerable to temperature fluctuations. Wood- and foam-based boards are most vulnerable to changes in humidity. With either type of substrate the key is to strike an environmental balance.

Moreover, if you don’t have to inventory a lot of substrates for an extended time period, don’t. Most manufacturers can ship what you need quickly on an as-needed basis.

Stack rigid board materials horizontally so that less air circulates between them, and support them evenly underneath. Very often, a pallet of board is unloaded with a fork lift and supported only on the ends with 2x4s. Put a 2×4 or a piece of plywood in the middle, or use a pallet so the board doesn’t warp in the middle. Once that bottom board bows out, the rest are sure to follow. If you have to stack them vertically, pack them together tightly.

Because roll media is susceptible to the same ravages of temperature and humidity, you should follow the same basic guidelines. Plus, unused media should be wrapped back up in the plastic in which it was delivered.

For media that’s designed for aqueous-based printing, it’s especially important to keep out water and humidity. The primary job of an inkjet coating is to absorb water. The more humidity it absorbs before printing diminishes its ability to accept moderate or heavy ink saturation.

Humidity fluctuations and exposure to the air will also affect adhesives. Especially low humidity will tend to dry out the adhesive. Too much air exposure will cause the adhesive to cure prematurely. Once again, the ideal is a climate-controlled storage area, plus bagging the media after every use.

Unlike board materials, vinyl rolls should be stacked vertically. If vinyl rolls are stacked horizontally on top of each other, the pressure can cause plasticizer migration, which will result in lines across the width of the material as you print.

Try to combine like materials together, such as a vinyl substrate with a vinyl laminate, so that they expand and contract in the same basic pattern. This is not as crucial for short-term applications of a month or less, but longer-term applications require closer attention to material compatibilities.

For instance, if you use a monomeric, economy vinyl with a foam board, the laminate will tend to come off the board rather quickly since a monomeric vinyl contracts in one direction, causing edge creep and delamination, particularly as the board begins taking on water and expanding and contracting with temperature fluctuations. An intermediate, polymeric vinyl laminate, on the other hand, expands and contracts in many directions, allowing it to “keep up” with the substrate underneath, extending the life of the graphic.

Advanced Signs & Graphics Sticks with Versatile Wrap Vinyl

Vinyl for vehicle wraps
That's more like it... Nancy Tipton of Advanced Signs & Graphics says they can knock out a vehicle wrap in four to five hours with LexJet Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl.

Nancy Tipton, owner of Advanced Signs & Graphics in Lancaster, Pa., recently had a vehicle graphics project where the client specified a certain type of vinyl. The problem was that the vinyl wasn’t LexJet Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl (it was a lot thinner, for one, says Tipton).

Wrapping a vehicle with graphics“We were wrapping the front hood and tried to heat and stretch it as we normally would and there was a huge color shift right off the bat: the green panel became light green. With Simple Flo you can pull it back up and heat it again if necessary, and you don’t get any color shift,” explains Tipton. “When we tried that with the other vinyl it tore, and our squeegee tore it too. We were frustrated with it and it made our install time twice as long because we had to be very careful with it. Also, we installed outside in a protected area, but as soon as the temp got up to 80 or higher the material really stretched. We’ve worked with Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl in 90-degree heat before and there were no issues with it stretching in the heat.”

Based on her experience, Tipton recommends factoring in the additional time it may take to get used to working with a vinyl that’s been specified that you haven’t worked with before.

“We have those installs down to four or five hours with Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl, and with the other vinyl it took about three days. Plus, Simple Flo is priced right,” says Tipton. Tipton estimates that Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl is about 40 percent less expensive than the vinyl that was specified.

Printing signs on vinylAdvanced Signs & Graphics first started using Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl as a sign vinyl and then started doing vehicle graphics with it as demand for those types of projects rose. An example of a sign-type project that was a perfect fit for Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl is shown here.

This project needed to be wrapped over the board, over the top and sides and around the back, “kind of like you would wrap canvas over stretcher bars,” says Tipton. The board shown here was one of several sample boards used by sales reps to show different types of cabinetry knobs.