Vinyl is the choice of material for window graphics, vehicle wraps, pop-up displays and many other common types of signage. There are two types: cast vinyl and calendered vinyl.
Customers often wonder about the differences between the two. It’s the manufacturing process that separates them.
Both types of vinyl use the same ingredients, the core one being a polyvinylchloride polymer (PVC) to which are added various additives. A plasticizer gives the vinyl film its flexibility, while a pigment gives it its color.
Cast vinyl has higher production overheads than calendered vinyl. But it is worth noting that whichever you choose for a project, the vinyl is going to cost you much less than the labor. There are also product warranties to consider. So it’s more about choosing the right vinyl than trying to save costs.
Cast vinyl is of better quality than calendered. It also lasts much longer, over seven years, though the use of a polymeric plasticizer increases durability.
Cast vinyl is made by mixing up all the components with a liquid solvent and pouring it onto a casting sheet as paint. Molecularly, this mixture, known as an organosol, lies on the casting sheet in a very relaxed state. It passes along a conveyor belt through a series of ovens, which evaporate out the solvent, leaving behind the solid film.
Texture is applied by choosing the appropriate casting sheet, which also acts as a mold. Once dried, the vinyl is wrapped up in long rolls for later application of an adhesive.
As no stress is applied to cast vinyl during the manufacturing process, there is very little shrinkage. It is also very thin, about 2mm, and has excellent conforming properties. This makes cast vinyl ideal for use in vehicle wraps.
Producing calendered vinyl uses similar ingredients, but without a solvent to cast paint. Instead, the mix is melted to about half the temperature of cast vinyl. It’s extruded as a kind of paste through a die, and then passes through a series of calendering rollers. This makes for a thicker vinyl, around 3 – 6mm, which is more apt to shrink and has a lifetime between one and seven years.
Because it is less conformable, calendered vinyl is best suited applied to flat surfaces or slight curves. Using a polymeric plasticizer over an economy one will enhance durability and conformability, but you’d never wrap a vehicle with it.
On the plus side, calendered vinyl requires no expensive casting equipment or solvent. It uses less energy, leading to cheaper production costs. The thicker film is also easier to handle and more scratch-resistant.
Vinyl is a flexible material, contributing to many digital print media campaigns.
For the best quality products in the right applications, work with a quality, signage professional.