There are numerous materials to print onto in the retail signage and point of purchase display industry. For permanent and semi-permanent displays looking for rigid material options, the most common among them is polystyrene (styrene or HIPS). You may recall our discussion on polystyrene, which accounts for between 25% and 30% of the material we print on at NGS Printing.
It raises the question: What accounts for the remaining 70% to 75%? That’s what we’re about to get into, along with other details for why you may want to use the referenced sheeted materials in your next signage campaign.
Short for expanded polyvinyl chloride, expanded PVC is a rigid plastic material injected with air during the extrusion process to get bulk and thickness without adding material. During manufacturing, the material gets squeezed through rollers during the cooling process, which sets the thickness anywhere from 1 millimeter to 25 millimeters.
Expanded PVC is a commonly used material in the POP display market because it is among the best all-around options when you’re looking for a durable, inexpensive, rigid and lightweight material. Typically all thick materials are very expensive because they need a lot of material to produce the thickness. Expanded PVC uses air instead without being noticeable besides a slight texture to the surface. In fact, expanded PVC often times is a preferred material because it is attractive from the front, back and even the side profile unlike fluted cardboard or Coroplast.
Printing onto expanded PVC is only possible with digital and screen printing capabilities and unfortunately can not be used in offset or flexographic applications. It is available prominently in white and black but can be also sourced in all different colors and even custom run in large quantities. With all of these qualities, you can probably understand why so many POP displays and retail environments use expanded PVC as a substrate of choice.
Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive-Backed PVC (P/S Vinyl)
While many people don’t quite know what the pressure sensitive adhesive backed PVC may be when they first hear it, they immediately understand when it’s shortened to “decals” or “pressure sensitive vinyl.” Decals are commonly thought of as bumper stickers. However, the retail industry is full of different types and applications. Decals are printed graphics on a thin guage flexible PVC film that has a tacky adhesive surface on the backside that allows it to adhere to hard surfaces, such as a pane of glass on doors and windows, laminate cabinets, or metal display fixtures. From safety labels to sidewalk signage, pressure-sensitive adhesive-backed PVC has a variety of applications. What makes decals very flexible is that they can be constructed with the application in mind. If the end user is going to place the decals on to a plaster wall, outside on a sidewalk, on a metal cabinet, or on a store aisle floor, NGS can use special adhesives, over laminates, or inks to make it work as needed.
Although most of the P/S vinyl we print on is adhesive on one side, NGS Printing is also capable of printing on the adhesive side. We can also make a double-faced construction for mounting on the inside of a window facing outside. When it comes to pressure sensitive adhesive backed vinyl, the options and applications are virtually endless, which probably explains why we see so much of it here.
PETG is part of the polyester family and can be made into printable sheets for graphics. Unlike the materials already mentioned, PETG is a clear glossy plastic substrate material that can elevate the style of any retail display. Additionally, PETG is also highly impact and scratch resistant, which makes it ideal for POP displays and retail signage where patrons touch and bump into the displays all the time and safety is a priority.
Incorporating clear substrates like PETG into any design gives a high-end look when paired with second surface printing. What it doesn’t have much of is color variety and PETG can have a subtle blue hue when compared to some acrylic options. Generally, it comes in clear gloss or clear matte finishes, unlike acrylic, which has many more color translucent options, the kind you might find on backlit signage (e.g. vending machines, fast-food menu stanchions, etc.), for example. PETG can be used in translite graphics as well, but acrylic may be the better rigid material option if color is what you’re after.
As previously referenced, acrylic is a clear rigid material that is akin to PETG, but has slightly different properties, mainly in regard to its strength. Both PETG and acrylic are quite sturdy compared to glass, but PETG is around five times stronger, so acrylic is not nearly as shatter resistant. However, given its color variety and optical clarity, acrylic brings more eye-popping characteristics than does PETG. Headers, translites and POP displays are some of the products that we frequently use acrylic for. Applications where quality trumps everything, such as printing second surface on a thick clear material, acrylic is superior due to its clarity.
Putting the “v” in vinyl is versatility, of which this material has plenty. Used in signage, packaging and thin gauge rigid display graphics, rigid vinyl is somewhat of a misnomer because it’s actually not quite as sturdy as you might expect. That’s because we print on thin-gauge versions like 0.010, 0.015 and 0.020. Thin gauge rigid vinyl has many of the same characteristics as thin gauge polystyrene except it is less expensive and even more durable. It typically comes in clear or white, but it does accept ink and color well. Rigid vinyl is often used for shelf strips, aisle violators, and rigid decals when we add an adhesive to the backside.
The rest of the signage story
Materials not mentioned but commonly are printed on are magnetic stock, foamboard, Coroplast, and cardstocks. All of this is to say that you name it, we print on it. And we’ll do it better than anyone. Contact us and we’ll let our printing do the talking.