How to Apply Printed Vinyl
Printed vinyl application is very much reliant on the preparation process you undertake as this will almost certainly ensure an issue-free service life.
To ensure a good bond, you must make sure that the surface you will be applying with printed vinyl is free of any treatments, such as waxing. Specialist surface cleaners are useful tools in this situation as they all but guarantee an easy application, although it’s advised that any greasy, rough or porous surfaces should be avoided. Any surface that has been recently painted should be dry and left to cure before any graphics are applied.
There are many surfaces that are prone to out-gassing (the release of a gas that was originally absorbed and trapped by a material) and this can lead to any adhesive bond failing miserably. Surfaces prone to this will produce bubbles beneath the printed vinyl layer and ultimately ruin the application process. Some of the surfaces you should look out for are acrylics and anything that’s been treated with wax, sealants or varnish.
If you plan on applying one layer of vinyl onto another, you must always take extra care. Other vinyl surfaces include banners and truck sides, both of which contain plasticisers that are capable of transferring to the new vinyl layer and breaking down the adhesive bond. You need to take care when doing this because any sign of a failing adhesive, including “stringing”, is impossible to reverse. You can prevent this ever happening by choosing the right vinyl for application onto plasticised substrates.
The Methods of Application
Depending on the complexity of the designated graphic, your method of vinyl application will vary. The two most common methods of vinyl application are known as wet application and dry application. Here’s how they compare:
Air bubbles and other results of out-gassing are most commonly associated with larger surface areas and the best method of vinyl application for larger areas is almost certainly wet application. With the wet application method you can re-position an image numerous times which is a huge bonus if you’re working with multiple colours that require the utmost precision in order to align properly.
Wet application involves floating the application tape carrying the image face down in a special fluid and gently dabbing it to achieve the required positioning. Only specialist application fluids should be used during wet application instead of standard washing up liquids and soapy water as you don’t want to contaminate the substrate with fats from these solutions. Again, the adhesive bond is essential and it can easily be damaged by solutions other than specialist application fluids.
Dry application is not too dissimilar in its method but doesn’t use any positioning fluid, so you’ll have to rely on your skill as a vinyl application installer to get it right first time. You don’t have the same freedom of precision with dry application but it is generally considered a preferred method by many professionals. Beginners might benefit from using wet application methods first to gain the assistance they need from the special fluid.
Mike James has a design background and writes on relevant topics for the industrial design industry for Southern United Ltd, a specialist label, nameplate and engraved plaque manufacturer for the Aerospace, Defence and Commercial sectors.
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