By Melissa Donovan
Several media manufacturers have recently introduced anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminate films. For many adhesive-backed products, a laminate is required and other times it is a bonus to protect and add a level of depth and/or detail to a print.
Adhesive-backed products are commonly used in display and point of purchase (POP), whether as wallcoverings, posters, or window graphics. Each of these applications may require an additional level of protection that anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminate films provide.
Above: An anti-graffiti overlaminate, like Avery Dennison DOL 6060, maintains the integrity of a sign and keeps color intact, while delivering protection from uninvited damage.
Discussing Demand and Applications
Requests for anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminate films come from a number of customers, but in most scenarios the reason for their usage is the same—protection from intentional or unintentional damage. In display and POP a variety of areas or applications benefit from this type of protective laminate.
Anti-graffiti/anti-scratch isn’t a new phenomenon. “Tagging displays, walls, and windows both inside and out has been around since the invention of spray paints. End users look for products to protect their investment and keep their message clean out in the environment,” points out Amanda Smith, associate product manager, Mactac.
Not only does the overlaminate protect the customer’s investment, it also prevents any disruption to a brand’s messaging. “If a sign is vandalized or accidentally damaged, it creates a negative impression of the brand being represented. This is why the end customer will often know which areas are most susceptible to vandalism from past experience and choose to use this type of film,” explains Adrian Cook, digital print marketing manager, 3M Commercial Solutions.
According to Molly Waters, senior technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, demand for anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminates is often from those looking to protect areas prone to damage. Applications or objects that might benefit from this include subways, storefront graphics, free standing USPS boxes, power/telephone boxes, and traffic signs.
“Anti-graffiti films are designed to preserve graphics—often advertising—in areas where they may receive unnecessary wear and tear from graffiti and other unwanted vandalism. Reprinting graphics is costly and avoidable with this film, since it can be easily cleaned with standard cleaners,” agrees Edwin Ramos, national sales manager, GBC & SEAL. He recommends anti-graffiti films for POP signage such as bus stop graphics, outdoor displays in populated areas, and graphics in malls and high-traffic venues.
The transit sector is a popular environment for anti-graffiti laminates, specifically outdoor bus shelters and kiosks. “This is because of the high amount of traffic and the likelihood they would be vandalized over time. In addition, they provide premium outdoor durability and UV resistance that extends the life of the graphic,” shares Bekie Berg, product manager, FLEXcon.
While high-traffic areas like subway trains or bus depot stops are contenders for anti-graffiti laminates, the signage found inside of a bus or train also requires protection. “These graphics get altered by passengers with markers, pens, and/or paint. You need a material that can be easily cleaned of these alterations,” suggests Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac.
Beyond vandalism caused by graffiti, anti-graffiti laminates protect graphics from much more. “Stains and chemicals such as paint and permanent markers are removed with common household cleaners without damaging the film surface. Anti-graffiti film is also used to protect images in high-traffic areas from wear and tear, accidental stains, abrasion, gouging, and UV light damage,” comments Mitchell Noble, managing partner, Graphic Finishing Partners, LLC.
Anti-scratch laminates are ideal for counter graphics. “They provide the durability to resist scratching from keys and products being moved on the counter, and can also withstand harsh cleaning products,” adds Berg.
Any graphic application contacted by human touch leaves room for potential damage, advises John Coyne, sales manager, Lintec of America, Inc. “There are countless applications. One example is a museum display that could be exposed to touch by patrons. Another may be a grocery store application, which is potentially struck by a shopping cart rolling into it.”
“For POP displays, the demand is driven by the higher traffic locations in the store. While these areas are less likely to be graffitied, there are more opportunities for graphics to be scratched or rubbed against by shoppers. Use an anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminate in parts of the store where there is an elevated risk of passerby or shopping carts brushing against graphics,” explains Austin Eck, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
Anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminates are constructed with specific coatings or have certain properties in their chemical makeup that allow them to offer these characteristics. Due to the way these products are manufactured, it is challenging for all laminates to offer the same capabilities.
Special coatings are placed on anti-graffiti/anti-scratch materials to provide the different characteristics, says Yarbrough. Some laminates may have properties already in the composition of the material itself, but in either scenario the material is more expensive to create.
The protective barrier or coating is commonly made of PCTFE, according to Ramos—which increases the cost of the product. Many standard laminates are made of PVC, which is less expensive.
“Anti-graffiti films are composed of a base material that can be a treated or coated polyester/PET, a PVF such as Tedlar, or a PCTFE substrate rather than a soft vinyl/PVC normally found in PSA/cold laminating films. The harder surfaces protect the image much better than a soft vinyl/PVC film,” says Noble.
Hard coated polyester—specifically PET—laminates provide an ultra-clear, scratch-resistant, super durable surface, notes Smith. “This allows it to be cleaned easily with any harsh chemicals if there was tagging or just with antimicrobial cleaners.”
“Making sure a film has anti-graffiti/anti-scratch properties is a balancing act. To get both properties the coating on the film is likely to be a hard coating with a low surface energy to reject the graffiti and prevent scratching. The limiting factor on this type of coating is that the film would only be suitable for flat applications, such as a window,” explains Waters.
The hard coating constructed during the manufacturing of an anti-graffiti/anti-scratch film is an expensive process. “Imparting this functionality is more expensive and time consuming to manufacture than most non-scratch resistant laminates,” notes Coyne.
Due to the coating, scratch resistant overlaminates typically have a thicker construction, which makes it difficult for them to be used universally. This is why all laminates do not offer these capabilities. “The thickness is ideal for adding a layer of protection, but may not be right for applications where a thinner profile is necessary like roll-up graphics or short-term outdoor signage,” advises Blake McCleary, marketing manager, General Formulations.
A Good Finish
Anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminates are offered in matte, satin, gloss, and other specialty finishes and even textures.
Common finishes are gloss or high gloss, however Eck has come across some matte options. Waters also admits that most of the anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminates she’s experienced have a gloss finish, but matte versions are available.
McCleary explains that anti-graffiti laminates are typically gloss to add protection and accentuate image colors to provide bright, vibrant graphics. Scratch-resistant films are usually available in matte and luster finishes because of the added texture embedded in the laminate. This provides a low-glare look for better viewability.
Gloss, matte, luster, and frosty clear are all options. “The finishes provide different aesthetic looks in addition to protection and durability to the underlying graphic. Embossed films are also available in different textures such as velvet and safari that can add a rich look and feel to the graphic,” notes Berg.
POP graphics are vast in their applications, as we have noted. Are anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminates specific to each application, or can the same one be used on a wallcovering and a window graphic?
“They are not application specific, however, just like regular film some may not be suited for all applications. For example, not all of these products are conformable. Polyester can only be used for flat applications. Be sure to check the product data sheet from the film manufacturer,” advises Waters.
Conformability is the main factor to consider, according to Cook. He says many anti-graffiti/anti-scratch films do not have good stretch characteristics for curves, whereas others do offer conformability so they can be used on curves.
Coyne believes the appropriate materials should be paried together. “Laminating a polyester over a printed vinyl may not be advisable. The dissimilar films shrink at varying rates and could pose a problem when exposed to heat, sunlight, or cold conditions. However, this could be a scenario where one laminate works for many different applications.”
Each application requires a different thickness gauge, points out Smith. For example, 1.5- and 2-mil films are used for both wall and window graphics requiring an overlaminate. Thicker laminates at 6.9-mil are designed specifically for storefront and transit windows to protect from all sorts of issues.
Don’t Use It
There are scenarios where an anti-graffiti/anti-scratch film wouldn’t be used, even if it is beneficial.
For many, cost could be a limiting factor. “Anti-graffiti film does add cost to a finished graphic that may not be necessary for all applications—such as a poster or short-term indoor signage. Other films can often meet the needs of your application without paying the premium,” agrees Ramos.
Coyne points out that some printable films already feature scratch-resistant topcoats, so they may not require the added protection of an anti-graffiti/anti-scratch laminate.
The application may also render anti-graffiti/anti-scratch characteristics in a protective film unnecessary. “For example, these films aren’t great for floors since they feature a smooth gloss finish and tagging doesn’t generally occur here,” admits Smith.
Placement of the graphic as well as frequent change outs are considerations. “Some short-term applications that will be changed often may not warrant using a higher cost anti-graffiti/anti-scratch film. Also, there may be applications where the likelihood of vandalism is lower due to the location of the graphic,” suggests Eck.
“If there is limited access to the graphic—for instance 20 feet up on a wall—it may not be required. Basically, if it is out of harm’s way it is not needed, but if it is in direct contact, the little extra cost is worth the assurance that graphic is protected,” agrees Yarbrough.
Top Off with Extra Protection
In many environments signage benefits from protection beyond what traditional overlaminates offer. Films with anti-graffiti/anti-scratch characteristics further enhance a graphic by preventing damage from vandalism as well as any accidental dents, nicks, and dings that may occur when in harm’s way. While not all applications require the added expense of this product, it is highly suggested for POP signage placed in high-traffic and densely populated environments like bus and train stations and shopping venues.
Oct2020, Digital Output