Digital Printing

Printer Maintenance for Idle Printers

Printers run thousands of hours with repetitive motions, and while it can be time-consuming, investing time into printer maintenance is a crucial step in keeping your printer running efficiently. But what if your printer has been idle and out of commission for a few weeks? Should you take extra steps before firing up your first print? Yes! Printers are designed to run for hours on end, so when they’re out of operation for an extended period, you need to take additional maintenance steps before starting up production.

Chi Chan, Arlon's Technical Engineer

Chi Chan, Arlon’s Technical Engineer, has put together the below tips to ensure success when rebooting your printer.

  1. Perform a manual maintenance cleaning by changing the printhead wiper and felt, and cleaning any ink around the printhead.
  2. Empty your ink waste tank to avoid dry ink from rubbing on the printheads during your auto clean. 
  3. Flush the ink that has been idle in the printhead for weeks by running your auto clean 1-3 times.
  4. Check your nozzles to ensure they are all healthy and don’t need to be replaced.
  5. Run a print test to confirm print quality, and this will also show you if there is banding being caused by clogged nozzles. If you do see a clogged nozzle,  repeat the cleaning process above until clear.
  6. Update your system. Before you resume production, make sure your software is the best it can be by making software and operating system updates.

Performing maintenance after your printer has been idle is a crucial step that will help increase the longevity of your printer and ensure your first print runs flawlessly. Are you looking for everyday printer maintenance? Check out our post on The Importance of Printer Maintenance.

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Digital Printing Signage

How to Mount Graphics on Large Substrates

How to Mount Graphics on a Large Substrate

In digital printing, UV printers and HP Latex R-Series now can print directly on a substrate, making mounting graphics on large substrates a thing of the past. Yet, not every sign shop will make that type of investment, and the alternative of mounting graphics on large substrates can be a challenge. To help this part of your application process, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to mount graphics on large substrates.

Step 1

Set up the laminator so that the rigid substrate is supported from the front and back. I’ll be using the platen of the UV printer (the flat part of the printer where the media rest during printing) to support the substrate as it feeds into the laminator and the table to catch the finished product.

Step 2

Open the nip all the way up and feed the substrate into the laminator in reverse.

You might be wondering: “Why not just use the UV printer to print directly on that 4’X8’ pegboard?” Good question! We didn’t print directly on the board because there is not enough space behind the printer to fit the substrate.

Step 3

Dry fit the graphic on the substrate to make sure that the graphic is positioned correctly relative to the substrate.

Step 4

Place a weight over the graphics and fold about 25% of the graphic’s leading edge.

Step 5

With a liner back slitter such as the YelloTools’ BodyGuard Knife -Teflon, cut a 2” strip hinge and remove the liner strip.

Step 6

Fold the leading edge back onto the substrate and apply the strip hinge with a squeegee.

Step 7

Manually feed the pre-mounted graphic into the laminator until the strip hinge is just past the nip rollers. The UV printer’s platen is only used to support the substrate.

Step 8

Square the substrate with the laminator, close the nip, and peel off the liner below the hinge strip.

Step 9

Run the laminator forward and carefully remove the liner by grabbing it as close to the middle for even tension.

Step 10

Once you reach the end of the substrate, rotate it 180° and feed into the laminator just past the strip hinge.

Step 11

Repeat from step # 9 and apply the remainder of the graphic. Trim excess film.

When mounting graphics for large signs, a little creativity can go a long way. Now that you know the steps, you’re ready to go out and mount those signs.

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Manufacturing

Cast or Calendered Film – What to use for a Vehicle Wrap

Before there was the question of which vinyl film to use on a vehicle wrap, paint was the only media of choice.  Fast-forward 70 years, factor in massive technological advances in adhesives and liners, we have today’s vehicle wrap films. With new technologies come new questions, such as do I need to use a Cast or Calendered product? And does a Cast film have the same service life as a Calendered film? If you ask yourself these questions before starting your vehicle wrap, you’re in the right place. We’re going to be answering these questions and more.

Vehicle Wrap Durability

Durability is the main driving factor when selecting a vehicle wrap film. Calendered film is designed with a short to mid-term range of durability (0-5 years); the film can also shrink up to 1/4”. Calendered film is an excellent option for short-term lettering, spot decals, or partial wraps. Full vehicle wraps require strategic paneling and seaming (piecing together) of the film over complex curves and bumpers.

Cast films are manufactured for long term use (5-11 years); when compared to Calendered, this vinyl will have immeasurable shrinkage. For long-term, full, seamless vehicle wraps, or long-term lettering, decals, and partial wraps Cast vinyl is a must.

How can you maintain the durability of a Cast or Calendered Film? When using an overlaminate, be sure to choose one of equal or better quality than the base film. Using a lower quality laminate will dramatically shorten the durability of the high-quality base film.

SLX Cast Wrap with Series 3270 Matte - Wrapped by Sign Biz WA
Vehcile Wrapped in a Cast film – SLX® Cast Wrap with Series 3270 Matte – Wrapped by Sign Biz WA

Cost Factor

Price can be the determining factor between bidding on or winning a job. When cost-driven opportunities are presented, and it’s short term, a Calendered film could be your vinyl of choice. If you select a Cast film over a Calendered for your vehicle wrap project, don’t be deterred by the cost. For the added durability, the increase is insignificant in mid to long term applications. The difference in price can also balance out in a few years when it is time for removal. Yes, removal.

Removal

Time is valuable, and using your time to remove a difficult vehicle wrap can be less than ideal. Why is the removal of Calendered film different than Cast? Calendered film can remove poorly due to the loss of essential polymers and plasticizers that give the film its durability. Also known as rot. Once this happens, the film is prone to come off in tiny pieces, leaving adhesive.

Choosing the right vehicle wrap film can make all the difference in the long-term profitability and workflow of your business.  Customers change, but the one thing that usually stays the same is the type of vehicle graphics. You now have the information you need to make an informed decision when selecting and purchasing a vehicle wrap film.   

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Signage Wall Applications

Basic Guide to Application Tape

Nowadays, there are endless types of application tapes on the market, and spending time deciding on which one to use can take up valuable install time.  To help you speed up the process, we’ve compiled a comprehensive basic guide with everything you need to know about application tape — from the different types to how to choose the right one for your next project.

What is Application Tape?

Application tape (app tape for short) is “a pressure-sensitive tape used to transfer cut vinyl graphics and printed films from their release liners to the application substrate.” Depending on its use, app tapes can be categorized as premask, pre-spacing tape, or transfer tape.

  • Premask – covers the entire panel of a graphic film and protects during storage, transport, and handling. It also provides extra stiffness to graphics with a liquid laminate instead of a film overlaminate.
  • Pre-spacing Tape –  used to mask cut graphics. It maintains the relative alignment and spacing between the letters and emblems within the same panel.
  • Transfer Tape – tape for heat transfer graphics commonly used for custom apparel.
Application Tape can be used to apply window graphics when using material such as Arlon's Ever Etched Cal/Cast.
Application Tape can be used to apply window graphics when using material such as Arlon’s Ever Etched Cal/Cast.

Choosing the Right Application Tape

When choosing the right application tape, these are the questions you need to ask:

Is it for pre-masking or pre-spacing?

The premask for UV-inks may be different from other ink types, as well as premasks for liquid laminated graphics vs. film overlaminates. The amount and type of liner exposed will also affect what kind of pre-spacing tape to use. For release liners with air egress, make sure to choose a tape designed to adhere to them. Etched glass films or any graphic with a textured finish require special app tapes. 

How will the graphics be stored and transported? 

Almost all tapes are okay to be stored for a  short period or transporting graphics stacked and flat. However, some graphic providers produce a large batch of graphics and will sit on the shelf for months. Make sure to choose an application tape that will not permanently bond to the graphic over time. Avoid storing the graphics in high heat or prolonged sunlight. For graphics that must be rolled for transport, choose a tape that will adhere well to exposed liners. Always roll the graphics with the masked side out and at least 6 inches in diameter.

Is the release liner easy or hard to remove?

If the graphics have a tight liner release, you may need to use a high tack tape to peel it off the liner. If the graphic is not releasing from the liner, flipping the graphic liner side up and peeling off the liner works most of the time. Always test the cut force before running a cut job and only use enough force for the film to weed well but not cut into the release liner. 

Is the application surface low surface energy or textured?

Ultimately, the graphic needs to adhere to the application surface more than the tape adhering to the graphic. So, if you use a high tack app tape, in the case with low surface energy substrates, you might peel off the graphic with the app tape. You can wait and let the adhesive build or assist the adhesion with little heat. One pro tip for paper app tapes is to spray water on its face and let it soak to 20-30 seconds to weaken the tape’s adhesive. For textured substrates, you might be better off with a low or medium tack tape because the graphic’s adhesive will not have enough surface contact to establish excellent adhesion.

Applying App Tape

Application tape is typically applied by hand. However, for large panels, we recommend using a roll-to-roll laminator or lamination table such as the Rollsroller3 or CWT4. When using these tables, make sure that the app tape is applied without tension, so the graphic remains flat and does not peel off the edges.

While It might be tempting to only have a single application tape for all your projects, it’s essential to make sure you’re choosing the right application tape for a successful install.  Make sure to consider the tape’s capability in storage, handling, and final application, not just if it will stick on your graphic. Want to learn more vinyl basics? Check out our Basic Guide to Registering Vinyl Graphics

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Manufacturing

Cast or Calendered Vinyl Film – To Spec Or Not To Spec

In the branded world we know today, there are vinyl films for every substrate. Concrete, porta-potties, and trains are all examples of branding on substrates we see every day. But when you choose a vinyl film for your next job, how do you know you’re making the right choice to maximize your profit? Step one in selecting a vinyl film is deciding between Cast or Calendered. Below we will take a quick look at the difference between a Cast or Calendered vinyl and how choosing the right film will help you improve your film spec odds tremendously.

Cast and Calendered 101

The terms Cast and Calendered refer to the ingredients used and the manufacturing method of each vinyl. Cast begins as a paint-like substance, called organosol. Orgnisol poured over a sheet and run through a series of ovens cures the liquid into a solid film, creating what we know as a Cast vinyl. Calendered film starts as a dough-like substance called plastisol, run between a series of hot rollers to press the film to the desired thickness. The casting process produces stress-free film, that over its lifetime, will have minimal shrinkage. In contrast, the calendering process produces stressed film, that over its much shorter lifetime, can shrink noticeably.

Cast or Calendered for Flat Surfaces

If you are applying to a Flat (2D) surface, you can choose between the two types of film based on the desired durability, especially in outdoor applications. Now, for short term durability, a calendered film will be your ideal selection. For long term, a cast film will be the way to go. For an indoor application with no exposure, use a calendered film, but keep in mind that it will still have some shrinkage.

Arlon's DPF 510 GTR a 3.2-mil (80 micron) calendered film.
Arlon’s DPF 510 GTR a 3.2-mil (80 micron) calendered film.

Cast or Calendered for Curved Surfaces

When applying to a curved (3D) or compound curved surface application, a cast film is your go-to. Does that mean you cannot use a calendared product? No! 3D application is possible with calendered film, but with little to no long-term durability.

Arlon SLX® Cast Wrap & Series 3270 Matte - Wrapped by Scribbles & Drips - Photography by J Cole Photography
Arlon SLX® Cast Wrap & Series 3270 Matte – Wrapped by Scribbles & Drips – Photography by J Cole Photography

Maximizing Durability

Film type isn’t the only thing you need to take into consideration when choosing which product to use; a proper laminate pairing is also essential. To increase your graphic’s durability, use a laminate of equal or better quality. For example, using a calendered base film with cast overlaminate is a great way to extend graphic durability by having the laminate stabilize the base film. Using a cast base film with a calendered overlaminate will work oppositely, allowing the laminate to shrink and cause failure.

When we break it down, a cast film is the best option for long-term (4+ years), 3D application. While calendered is the best option for 2D, short to mid-term (2+ years) application. Want to learn more about vinyl? Check out our blog on Pre-Installation Steps for Wall Vinyl Applications

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Wall Applications

Basic Guide to Registering Vinyl Graphics

Registering vinyl graphics can make applying multiple panels across a large graphic laborious. The good news is, we’re here to make your life easier! Today, we’re covering the fundamentals for registering vinyl graphics from creating the perfect registration mark to removing the liner. Here is it, our Basic Guide to Registering Vinyl Graphics.

Key Terms

We have outlined key terms that you will need to know to better understand how to register vinyl graphics.

  • Bleed – excess print that is trimmed away when the film is cut to final size.
  • Substrate Size – the size of the area to be applied on a substrate.
  • Skew – the wall or substrate, is level, square, etc.
  • Overlap – the amount of film that covers the next panel.
  • Registration Point – Easily identifiable, unique shape/line along the edge of a print in the overlap.
  • Key Panel – starting panel, usually determined by key graphic element or edge of the panel.
  • Tack Point – tape or exposed adhesive that will hold the panel to the wall or substrate during registration.

Registering Vinyl Graphics 101

Registering vinyl graphics, when used in wide format printing means, to adjust to secure exact correspondence. Printed graphics are designed to fit a specific substrate, but large graphics will have multiple printed panels requiring you to register/align your graphic to a substrate before installation.  But, why is registering appropriately critical to a successful installation? If not appropriately navigated, registering panels will take longer, then applying the panel or require removal and reinstallation. Knowing how to register your graphic properly will lower application time and increase quality and efficiency.

How to Register Vinyl Graphics

Step One – Layout and lineup your graphic by each panel on a clean table or flat surface, or two panels at a time, space allowing.

Step Two – Identify three registration points on each overlapping edge of the panels, a high, middle, and a low on the panel and fit them together.

Step Three – Use tape or a Stabilo pencil to make marks near the registration point. Tape works best and can be cut with a squeegee to release and maintain marks. The tape now becomes your general registration point.

Step Four – Using a liner knife, make a single cut in the liner 3″ – 5″ (7 cm – 13 cm) below your high registration point. This should be done prior to mounting to the substrate.

Step Five – Using tape or exposed adhesive, fit your key panel to the wall or substrate right above or below your registration marks. If you use the area of the registration marks, you run the risk of removing the mark or distorting the film with the registration mark on it.

Step Six – Once the panel is fitted with no tension, release any lower tack points of the panel and pull the liner from the liner slit just under the first registration or tack point. Pull the liner tight against itself with even tension.

Step Seven – Once you have exposed 8″ – 10″ (20 cm – 25 cm) of adhesive while pulling the liner, begin application at the point of the liner slit. Work down the panel and then remove the liner and apply the upper 15-20% of the panel.

Step Eight – Remove the visible registration marks and repeat the process for each remaining panel.

As you can see, the proper registration of vinyl graphics can save you time, frustration, and increase your productivity.

Are you installing wall graphics? Before you take the above steps on vinyl graphic registration, make sure you watch our video on how to test your wall for media compatibility.

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Corporate Digital Printing Signage

COVID-19: Free Downloadable Signs

As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, signage is playing a crucial role in keeping communities safe and informed. We understand the challenges businesses are facing, and we are committed to doing our part in assisting in any way we can. Our team has come together to create downloadable signs for you to use that communicate essential information to the public, your customers, or your employees.

All signs are available in high visibility and low ink options as well as English and Spanish. To download the files, click the link below each image group.


COVID-19 Prevention Signage


Physical Distancing Signage


Prevention Posters


Healthcare Signage


Restaurant Signage


General Open and Closed Signage


Curbside Pickup Signage

Covid-19 Orange Curbside Pick-up Here Sign
Click to Download English
Click to Download Spanish

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Corporate

Staying Vigilant During COVID-19

Staying-Vigilant-During-COVID-19

The world is facing an issue of enormous scale and importance. With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the incredible speed at which things are changing around us, Arlon’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees, partners, and community. Guided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials, we are preparing and taking action for all possible scenarios to ensure we have the right plans and resources in place. Proactively, we are focused on the following:

Health and Safety

Our dedicated task force has put in place immediate risk reduction protocols for our employees such as social distancing, halting all non-essential business travel, canceling events and attendance at upcoming trade shows, offering flexible work from home policies and extended paid sick leave, and implementing a stringent office cleaning and hygiene procedures. We are communicating regularly with our employees to keep them informed as the situation continues to develop.

Partner Support

As we temporarily halt business travel to reduce exposure to our employees, we remain connected and productive during this challenging time. We can support you and your customers using phone, email, and live chat.

Continuity of Supply

Our Placentia, CA and Weifang, China factories remain active as we keep the safety of our operational employees top of mind. Additionally, our suppliers are working with us to mitigate any delays that might occur with the evolving situation. To date, we have not experienced any delays in our production.

We’re committed to being both responsive and responsible, navigating these times with everyone’s safety in mind.

Sincerely,

Chad Russell – President, Americas

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Vehicle Applications

Boat & Watercraft Wrap Applications

Vinyl wraps have become increasingly popular on boats and watercraft’s, making them the everyday option over paint.  When comparing the cost of painting, a boat wrap will save you time, are long-lasting, and a fraction of the price.

With no surprise installing on a boat or watercraft is very different from installing on a vehicle. If you’re planning on wrapping one of these, take a moment to read our current list of best practices ensure you’re on the right track.

Boat wrapped in DPF 6100XLP
Wrapped by Paul Oliver of Anchored Designs using DPF 6100XLP

Before we jump into the best practices, let’s break down the benefits.

Benefits of a Boat Wrap

Customization: Whether you’re promoting your business or looking to stand out, the customization options are endless.

Ease: Unlike paint, if your vinyl wrap gets scratched, you can replace the wrap reasonably quickly. 

Eco-Friendly:  Marine paints are toxic to marine life; making vinyl boat wraps the effective eco-friendly alternative.

Value: If the time comes of reselling your boat that has a custom wrap, the wrap can be easily changed when sold.  Your wrap will add value by saving the future owner a costly paint job.

Boat Wrapped in SLX Cast Wrap
Wrapped by Nukem Graphics using SLX® Cast Wrap

Best Practices

Measure Twice:  Unlike vehicles, boats and watercraft’s don’t have easy to find templates and have sharp edges. If you can’t find a template for your boat, be sure to take accurate measurements. 

Clean, Clean, Clean: Always clean and prep any surface before installing vinyl. Clean your boat or watercraft by following the steps found here on Perfecting Your Vehicle Prep.

Thick Overlaminate : Use a 2-mil (50 micron) cast overlaminate for max abrasion resistance; a thicker overlaminate will protect the vinyl from being torn on small items found in the water. 

Over-lap Seams:  At the front of the watercraft or boat, over-lap the two seams of the vinyl by one inch. Overlapping the seam that gets the most wear and tear will help prolong your wrap and leave less room for lifting.  

Waterline: Vinyl is relatively resilient, but it can be damaged if kept in water 24/7, ensure the longevity of your boat wrap by keeping it one inch above the waterline.

Boat wrapped with SLX Cast Wrap
Wrapped by Nukem Graphics using SLX® Cast Wrap

From boats to jet-skis, stand out on the water this summer with an eye-catching vinyl wrap. 

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Digital Printing Wall Applications

7 Easy Tips & Tricks for Weeding Small Letters & Decals

7 Tips and Tricks - Weeding Letters and Decals

Do you know the hardest part of making small decals and letters? Weeding!

If you are not familiar with weeding, it is removing all excess material from any decal or graphics that are cut-to-shape. Weeding small letters and decals can be a difficult task, but learning how to weed small letters and decals is crucial knowledge to have in the sign industry.

Here’s a rundown of our best tips whether you’re looking to take a design to the next level or need a refresher on weeding small letter and decals follow these tips and tricks below.

1. You need the proper tools, having the right tools will make your weeding a breeze. Our technical experts agreed that the YelloHook from YelloTools is the perfect addition to any tool kit.

Man weeding letters

2. Choose the correct vinyl with a tight liner release. A firm liner release ensures that small decals stay down during weeding, and allows you to weed with greater confidence and speed. Arlon recommends all of our cut graphics, and for print, we recommend DPF 6000RP White.

3. Check on your machine; confirm that your blade is in pristine condition. Using a dull blade will lead to poorly cut decals and make the weeding process very difficult.

4. Before starting your job, perform a depth cut test. Running a cut test ensures that the vinyl cuts thoroughly and that the decal is not attached to the excess material.

Pressing a button on a weeding machine

5. Weed directly after cutting, waiting too long to weed after cutting will allow the adhesive to flow back, causing the design to lift with the excess vinyl.

6. Try your best to keep your fonts simple; try using Sans Serif fonts. The sharper the edges on a font, the longer your weeding process will be.

Hands weeding a white vinyl

7. All of these tips are important to the weeding process, but it all comes back to one thing, patience. Take your time when weeding small decals and letters, essential but straightforward, weeding is a time-consuming task that is done best when you’re taking your time.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for weeding small letters? Let us know in the comments below.

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