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The lowdown on coatings

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In many instances, printed fabrics used in exterior applications require a coating or laminate. Coatings often depend on the type of media and ink used. “If printing with solvent ink systems, a coating is required for the ink to sit on the surface of the coating and give better color,” notes James Gay of Fisher Textiles. “If printing with UV curable or dye sublimation inks, a coating is not required.”

For its digital print products, Mehler Texnologies applies an acrylic topcoat on both sides to retard the migration of plasticizers. “Plasticizers keep the vinyl soft and supple, so when they migrate, the vinyl becomes tacky,” explains Rick Stepien, Mehler’s business manager. “The topcoat creates a smooth surface and aids in cleanability. It also helps enhance the adhesion of the ink to the printed media.”

Sometimes certain compounds are added during the manufacturing process to make the most of the substrate. “Adding in specific components in the PVC formulation will extend the life of a membrane for exterior usage,” says Steve Fredrickson of Serge Ferrari. “Specifically, UV inhibitors will extend a project life.”

Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer from Pine City, Minn.

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