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Product aims to make printing on textured surfaces easier

September 1st, 2008 / By: / Graphics

Until recently, roughly textured surfaces at stadiums, restaurants and other businesses were often left bare because it was just too difficult to use them for display purposes. A new product aims to change that. 3M™ Scotchcal™ graphic film for textured surfaces uses an adhesive that makes it possible to mold digitally printed images onto hard-to-cover surfaces, including concrete block, brick, tile, poured concrete, and stucco.

“We’ve known all along that this was an area where you couldn’t install graphics reliably,” says Tim Boxeth, a marketing manager with 3M’s Commercial Graphics Division. “This opens up all kinds of new possibilities and, other than wall size, there’s no limit to the size and shape of the display.”

Orders have been brisk so far, he says. Most customers are using the film for advertising display, but some, such as medical facilities and universities, often just want to add visual interest to unattractive surfaces. Businesses, for example, may want to create an image that can be wrapped on one entire side of a building. It is also possible to wrap an exterior completely.

Generally, the film is printed with a solvent ink-jet printer but it is possible to buy film for electrostatic printing as well. The film can be ordered through any graphics manufacturer that has been trained in how to install it using heat and foam rollers. 3M is currently providing installation seminars nationwide for both the film and the overlaminate that can be used with the product.

While it isn’t required, Boxeth recommends applying the 3M™ Scotchcal™ luster overlaminate to protect the film from damage.

“You’re essentially doubling the thickness of the graphic when you use the laminate,” he explains. “It will be a more board-like product, which adds to the longevity of the ink and makes installation and removal easier.”

Outdoors, laminated films last about six months in challenging climates, longer in more temperate areas. Unlike paint, which can be expensive and difficult to remove, the graphic film can be easily removed using heat. Better still, Boxeth adds, images are always consistent so there is no variation if the same display is being used in several different facilities.

“You can do photo realistic art if you want to,” he says. “This clearly has distinct advantages over traditional methods people have tried for textured surfaces.”

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor.

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