by Melissa Donovan
Magnetic and magnetic-receptive signage is popular in display and point of purchase, especially retail environments. Advancements in digitally printable media make this application ideal because of the ability to easily remove and changeout messaging.
Above: Master Magnetics offers ThinFORCE, which is a 15-mil high-energy magnetic sheeting solution engineered for indoor and outdoor applications.
Magnet-based materials are not new and it has been used for years as vehicle signage. Long before digitally printed vehicle graphics or even color change films were popular, signs created for trucks, vans, and sedans made out of magnetic media were—and still are—a popular way to advertise business.
Print service providers (PSPs) not already offering magnetic vehicle signage should consider it, especially if they already provide other applications utilizing magnets or magnetic-receptive media. The learning curve is minimal and return on investment is lucrative. Advancements in material composition, specifically thinner gauges in the 15-mil range that still offer high-energy magnetism, make offering vehicle magnets even easier than before.
All These Years
Many print providers offer magnetic signage for vehicles. It’s easy to do and brings in a nice profit. It is still a popular application for magnetic-receptive and magnetic substrates.
It is important to first differentiate between magnetic-receptive and magnetic materials. There are printable magnetic materials, which is a base magnet that is printed to directly. “With magnetic-receptive materials, there are two components to the media—the base substrate and the magnetic-receptive coating,” explains Tori Deetz, VP and creative director, Visual Magnetics.
In either magnetic or magnetic-receptive formats, Clay Reierson, director, market strategy, Xcel Products, Inc., believes magnetic signage for vehicles is still a great option for PSPs to offer clients. Not only is it easy and cost effective, “unlike vinyl graphics installed directly onto vehicles, magnets can be temporary, reused, and installed by anyone. They are great for individuals wanting to advertise during the day and then remove at night to drive a car for personal use.”
Removability is an attractive trait of magnetic signage and extends to a number of professionals like plumbers, painters, flooring contractors, and electricians, notes Mike Gertz, marketing manager, Master Magnetics, Inc. “Magnetic signs for vehicles are still popular and probably always will be since these vendors rely on removable magnetic signage for their vans, trailers, and cars,” he continues.
Another audience for magnetic vehicle signage are educational institutions and youth leagues looking to promote their sports teams. Gertz says magents are popular in these scenarios for bumper sticker-like applications, especially when considering the difficulty of removing vinyl stickers.
“Magnetic car graphics are still an effective and low-cost way for any business to market their company to the local consumer. They are easily applied, easy to remove, and require minimal maintenance to keep them looking great,” agrees Matthew Adams, sales executive North America, Newlife Magnetics LLC.
Out of the gate, price-wise, car magnets are a bit higher compared to adhesive-back graphics. This is because, according to Reierson, the magnet material is more expensive than vinyl decals. “The cost is justifiable if a PSP doesn’t charge for installation. Also, when used and cared for properly, magnetic graphics can last for years.”
Get Into It
PSPs offering digitally printed magnets and magnetic-receptive material for other applications are positioned to easily add this service. For PSPs not already providing any type of magnet-type applications, bringing these in house presents minimal challenges.
Most of the printers already found on production floors from eco-solvent to latex and UV are able to print on magnetic-receptive and magnet material, as long as the media is designed to be compatible with the ink. “This is a great opportunity to increase business for print providers with existing equipment. You already have the wide format printer and you can print direct to magnet so it is a one-step process using solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex ink systems on vinyl or coated printable topcoats,” says Gertz.
Even aqueous ink can be used on magnetic sheeting with a paper printable topcoat. Gertz recommends in this scenario when printing a vehicle sign that a protective laminate be used.
“No matter what kind of print setup you have, there is a solution that allows for great results and increased profits. Magnetic car graphics are an ideal revenue stream for any printer,” agrees Adams.
Material thickness and weight are directly proportional when it comes to applicable substrates to run through an existing printing device. The thicker the magnet, the stronger it is, meaning it weighs more. 30-mil thick magnets are commonly required for vehicle magnet signs, advises Gertz.
“Magnetic sheeting is heavier than most substrates. The weight needs to be considered for the print process, not just when material is feeding in, but also when it is coming out of the printer. The magnet needs to be supported so it doesn’t hang and create a drag on the smooth flow through the printer,” shares Gertz.
For printers with a maximum printhead height of less than 30-mil, the traditional two-step process of printing on vinyl and laminating onto a magnet will work, advises Gertz. Although newer materials are being introduced that offer half the weight and half the thickness, but at the equivalent strength of regular sheeting. This expands printer compatibility further.
Finishing digitally printed magnets and magnetic-receptive material is also fairly uncomplicated. As magnetic sheeting “cuts easily with scissors, utility knives, and CNC routers for unique shapes and larger volume production,” explains Gertz.
The magnet material itself is typically reasonably priced. “The investment for buying small rolls of magnet is minimal starting at less than $100 for most standard gauge rolls,” notes Reierson.
Education on how to print and cut magnetic-receptive and magnet material isn’t difficult. “The learning curve is quick. The material prints like traditional vinyl, cuts like butter, and is easy to handle besides the extra weight of the thicker materials. Although magnet sizes have grown to 48 inches wide and beyond, the finished graphics are generally small and easy to handle,” admits Reierson.
Gertz cautions that if printing directly to an already magnetized magnet and not a magnetic-receptive component, there are a few differences between other substrates to be aware of. “One potential obstacle is if you have a metal platen on the printer instead of aluminum. The magnet attracts to a metal platen and will not flow smoothly.”
To combat this, Gertz suggests covering the platen with a non-metal barrier to create an air gap between the magnet and the platen. Barriers are commonly made out of styrene or chipboard. “Any substrate slightly thick enough that creates an air gap between the metal platen and the magnetic sheeting so it feeds in and flows out smoothly works well,” he adds.
Introducing a new service or application requires a certain level of marketing, whether it is reaching out to new customers or educating existing clients.
The best way to advertise is to use the product yourself. For example, place signage on your own company or personal vehicles. Also, Reierson suggests using thinner magnetic materials in mailings, giveaways, or other marketing pieces to spread the word.
Think local. “There are a lot of local businesses in your area that can utilize this type of magnetic signage. Focus on fleets that use personal vehicles that may not want permanent graphics, like couriers, delivery drivers, and similar markets,” recommends Reierson.
“To help get the information out to people actively looking for magnetic vehicle signs or others who don’t have them yet, email, direct mail, and optimize your website for search with all magnetic vehicle sign-related keywords,” advises Gertz.
Reierson also suggests finding parallel markets that use the same materials. “Fridge magnets work. Magnets have a higher perceived value by consumers and are less likely to be discarded. It’s just as easy to stick to their fridge for use at a later time.”
Trending for Magnets
New trends in magnet and magnetic-receptive materials apply to vehicle magnets as well as the materials in general and further application uses.
Material improvements in weight and thickness are at the top of the list. “Weight has always been perceived as a negative with magnetic graphics. The newest trend is to use high-energy compounds that increase the attraction to magnetic-receptive substrates. The result is a thinner, lighter weight material that has a similar holding power to its thicker, heavier predecessor. Although these high-energy options are more expensive, you’re buying less material and paying less for freight on the rolls, which helps offset the higher price point,” explains Reierson.
Xcel Products’ ACTION flexible magnetic sheeting is a thermoplastic, permanent magnetic product with superior holding power on most metallic surfaces. The white matte vinyl face is an ideal print surface for most printers and ink types, and works great for projects like promotional magnets, magnetic signage, and displays. It is available 15-, 20-, and 30-mil thicknesses.
“In recent years, there has been a transitioning towards thinner and stronger. Advancements in manufacturing technology for high-energy magnetic sheeting have resulted in a printable magnetic sheeting that is half the thickness, half the weight, and equal to the strength of regular sheeting. A 15-mil, high-energy sheeting has the equivalent—if not greater strength—than a 30-mil regular strength magnet. The cost is the same and in most cases less. Half the weight makes it easier to work with as well as the benefit of a significant cost savings in shipping,” agrees Gertz.
Master Magnetics offers ThinFORCE, which is a 15-mil high-energy magnetic sheeting engineered for indoor and outdoor applications. It prints with brilliant high-resolution color and clarity; is ideal for magnetic vehicle graphics in addition to other applications like banners and wallcoverings; and cuts easily with routers, plotters, utility knives, or scissors.
Illustrating the point about the demand for thinner, lighter weight materials, Newlife Magnetics is preparing to launch a flexible ferrite magnet media referred to as Super-Mag. The 15-mil product replaces the 30-mil standard energy magnet material most printers use today, without a reduction in holding force. Compatible with solvent, UV, and latex printers, Super-Mag is 66 percent less weight compared to 30-mil standard energy magnet material—which reduces both shipping costs and handling weight for the printer.
Magnum Magnetics Corporation also offers a thin, printable, strong, high-energy magnetic sheeting referred to as MuscleMag. It is specially formulated to be very thin to allow for smooth feeding and easy cutting while featuring stronger holding power than a refrigerator magnet, and ideal for vehicle signage. At 15- or 30-mil thicknesses, MuscleMag is provided fully magnetized and printable with solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex printers.
The content of magnetic and magnetic-receptive materials is also of interest, especially as sustainability becomes increasingly attractive. “As a manufacturer, we are seeing a surge of interest in magnetic-receptive medias that are PVC-free, recyclable, and made from post-consumer content,” notes Deetz.
All of Visual Magnetics’ media products are PVC-free and recyclable. However, Deetz notes that the company’s true polyester-based materials are particularly in demand because they consist of up to 50 percent post-consumer PET soda bottles.
“Now especially, with low-cost imported magnetic and magnetic-receptive media prevalent in the market, it is important for buyers to do their research to know what they are getting. Not all magnetic-receptive media is made with the same performance or sustainability standards,” cautions Deetz.
Adams Magnetic Products addresses the environmental trend with the introduction of GreenMAG, which contains no phthalates, is made in the U.S., and 100 percent recyclable. It is available in a 30-mil thickness for vehicle signage and compatible with eco-solvent, UV, and latex ink. GreenMAG uses a durable printable coating applied directly to a magnet sheet, eliminating the need for a laminated print surface. It is supplied magnetized or unmagnetized.
Magnets for Vehicles
Vehicle signage magnets are a great application to offer clients. Products are plentiful and run on many wide format printers available on the market. The finishing of the magnet—whether an automated cutter or manual scissors—is fairly uncomplicated. Promoting to local markets is the best way to get the message across that this service is now available. Landscapers, electricians, handymen, and painters can all use temporary, reusable signage for their vans and trucks. DO
Jul2020, Digital Output