By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Protective coatings for digitally printed products offer a variety of uses including durability and specialty finishes. When used for interior applications such as wallcoverings, print service providers (PSPs) should consider a certified coating to protect against fire and mold.
Printable materials benefitting from protective coatings include vinyl, film, paper, and fabric.
Liquid coatings are a cost-effective option for adding durability to a printed product. With the ability to protect against abrasion, graffiti, and outdoor elements, coatings also provide decorative purposes.
“Coatings are available in gloss, matte, satin, texture, and pearlescent finishes, to name a few,” shares Bob Leidlein, VP sales and marketing, Alliance Technology Corporation. There are also specialty coatings specifically designed for anti-graffiti, no-slip, soft touch, and dry erase purposes.
In some cases, coatings act as a texturizing medium or gel. To do so, a higher viscosity is needed and PSPs should opt for a coating that is undiluted and thick, recommends Justin Bodin, operations manager, Breathing Color. “Customers apply this on top of a varnished print in order to create more unique, often more valuable prints.”
Additionally, Bodin says thicker protective coatings also double as a wet mounting adhesive, used to affix canvas or paper to rigid substrates.
Protective coatings are especially important in select applications, like digitally printed wallcoverings. “Designers pour a lot of time and energy into their custom, digitally printed wall graphics and patterns and these deserve an extra layer of protection,” explains Brian McElwaine, marketing manager, DreamScape. With the use of a protective coating, wallcovering art is safe from scratches and scuffs in high-traffic areas.
Designs are also protected from UV rays, which is crucial for maintaining color and vibrance in wallcoverings under direct light—avoiding rapid fading or yellowing when left unprotected, shares McElwaine. “Coatings simply prolong the life of wallcoverings by maintaining both appearance and structural integrity.”
In hospitals and restaurant settings, protective coatings provide additional safety layers like non-slip surfaces or anti-flame characteristics. It keeps surfaces clean as well, especially those with anti-microbial properties, comment Angela Argit, marketing coordinator and Amy Hohenadel, lab manager, Polymeric Group.
Acrylic coatings protect printed lithographic and canvas printed artwork from moisture, scratching, and UV resistance. “Using the acrylic coatings allows the framer to eliminate the use of glass, a huge savings for large-volume framers,” offers Lester Mallet, president, Gluefast Company, Inc.
When a protective coating is used with a wallcovering, several certifications may apply to protect against bacteria, mold, and high traffic.
One example is a Type II certification, often found in high-traffic public and commercial areas like hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and apartment buildings. “Type II certified materials are manufactured to meet or surpass minimum physical and performance characteristics set forth in Federal Specifications CC-W-408,” explains Sarah Stafford, sales and marketing, Marabu North America.
Protective wallcoverings utilized for anti-microbial properties should also pass testing like JIS Z 2801, AATCC Method 147, and AATCC Method 100, add Argit and Hohenadel. “Many anti-microbial products are registered with the EPA.”
The purpose of anti-microbial tests, such as the AATCC Method 100, are to protect against microorganisms, prevent infection, and evaluate antibacterial activity on textile materials.
Fire protection certifications are also available as highly flammable coatings pose a risk to end users and the PSP’s reputation. In select situations, materials or the application may require a fire retardant certification.
For example, Leidlein says hospitals and clinics have strict guidelines regarding fire-safe wallpaper practices. “There are companies that provide this fire certification,” he explains. “The certification is only applicable to the exact digitally printed materials and ink submitted to the fire retardant testing.”
According to Argit and Hohenadel, protective coatings that provide flame-retardant properties should pass ASTM 84 testing. ASTM 84 is a testing method that provides comparative measurements of surface flame spread and smoke density measurements with that of select board surfaces under specific exposure conditions. Other common test methods for wallpaper include NFPA286, DIN4102, and UL723. “It is recommended that the entire construction be tested by a third party lab.”
Several materials like fabric, film, paper, and vinyl benefit from a protective coating.
While some coatings are designed for multiple materials, others are formulated for optimal performance on a specific substrate. Coatings are available for commercial use to fine art applications including vinyl, canvas, wallcovering, metal, and corrugate, comments Stafford.
According to Leidlein, paper and vinyl benefit the most as these materials are typically susceptible to marking and abrasions. “Specialty UV liquid coatings can add texture or pearlescent looks on these materials as well.”
Protect & Preserve
While coatings are first used for protection, they also provide specialty finishes. Commonly found on wallcoverings and fine art pieces, a coating sometimes offers fire certifications or anti-microbial protection.
Part two of this series shares coating offerings from vendors.
Click here to read part two of this exclusive online series, Protecting Print.
Jun2019, Digital Output