By Digital Output Staff
Floor graphics are a great medium for marketing and wayfinding messaging. Requests for floor graphics, stickers, and decals exploded during COVID-19 as businesses tried to communicate proper social distancing measures. While demand for this type of work wanes, the appeal of floor graphics has not.
These graphics are traditionally printed on wide format devices. To improve efficiency at higher volumes many commercial printers add these to their service offerings. One important consideration is the media. Many floor graphic media options are suitable for inkjet printing—specifically wide format inkjet—and not toner- or electrophotographic-based solutions.
A few media suppliers like FLEXcon, Kernow, and Relyco offer floor graphic media for this space.
When it comes to the inkjet versus toner argument for commercial production printing, toner-based systems are a mature technology with extensive media options. However, there are several challenges related to toner-based and HP Indigo systems used in producing floor graphics.
One significant challenge is the width constraints of the printers. “While HP Indigo does have 30-inch wide sheet printers, the majority of toner-based systems are less than 20 inches wide, which is a constraint for the finished graphic size because the average floor graphic size is 2×2 feet or larger,” shares Jodi Sawyer, strategic business unit manager, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
Further, the role of heat within the printing process eliminates the use of certain media types that could melt.
Sawyer points out that with toner printing, ink is transferred to the printable surface through a fusion process of heat and pressure. Similarly, HP indigo uses a heated blanket to melt the ink and embed the image, which is then transferred from the blanket to the printable surface through direct contact. Both processes involve heat and pressure to transfer ink to the printable surface at high speeds. “What this means is that the printable surface—in this case the printable base film for floor graphics—needs to be able to withstand the heat and pressure as well as have a smooth surface that has been top coated or surface treated to accept the inks in the transfer process.”
“With a melting point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, our floor decals are designed to be easy to print on OEM production devices. They print similarly to standard label sheets. The media are under the 300 gsm threshold, which means our floor decals are also easy to print on most MFP and desktop devices,” says Steph Oeser, marketing manager, Reylco.
On the Market
To combat these challenges, certain media providers offer toner-compatible floor graphic media.
“The printable floor graphic products designed for compatibility with toner are primarily film-based products, typically vinyl, polyester, and hybrid/synthetic films, which can be top coated or surface treated to ensure ink adhesion,” shares Sawyer.
FLEXcon offers its FLEXmark floor art 6605. The reverse printable, high-gloss clear vinyl base film indoor floor advertising system is designed for full floor coverage versus partial floor coverage decals; graphics have more depth and dimension, and are more eye catching. The 2.8 mil high-gloss clear vinyl resists tearing and abrasion is designed for durability and removability for up to 180 days following installation. It offers excellent printability via a range of ink systems—including UV screen and UV inkjet; and the top film can be top coated for HP Indigo printing.
“For the wide range of toner printers on the market today, using a product top coated for compatibility with toner will ensure proper ink adhesion. Some of the large volume, recently introduced industrial toner-based printers can print vinyl and other substrates without the need for a topcoat. Consult the manufacturer’s media compatibility guide for more information,” suggests Sawyer.
These products are primarily intended for indoor floor graphics applied to hard, smooth, commercial floor surfaces and commercial carpets.
Made of ultra-tough polyester, Kernow offers the KernowPrint FloorSharK floor graphic for dry toner. The product is an anti-slip certified floor graphic that is extra durable, without the need to laminate. It is the only dry toner floor graphic rigorously tested and certified for slip resistance with a unique sharkskin coating, according to the company. It’s ideal for indoor environments, and can be applied to all smooth and hard floors, including low-pile carpet tiles.
Unlike other floor graphics, Kernow says FloorSharK doesn’t shrink and there’s no risk of the edge peeling or gumming up. FloorSharK is also easy to remove—all in one piece and no residue.
“Toner-based systems allow for compatibility with a broad range of printers. Our blank floor decals are specifically designed for print-on-demand environments. They are compatible with most laser printers, UV inkjet, and offset printers,” says Oeser.
Reylco’s REVLAR Floor Decals feature a special adhesive that binds to floor, but can be removed. The non-slip decals stay put and adhere to various smooth surfaces, such as vinyl, wood, synthetic wood, carpet, and ceramic tile or concrete.
Oeser notes that its floor decals are compatible with toner-based printers. No special treatments are required. Its floor decals are not compatible with HP Indigo. The product is offered in three shapes and sizes on 11x 17-inch sheets, are OSHA compliant, and UL 410 certified.
“With our stay-put technology, our floor decals will adhere to various smooth surfaces, such as vinyl, wood, synthetic wood, carpet, ceramic tile, or concrete. They are removable, and will cleanly remove from the floor,” shares Oeser.
She says this is a good solution if you’re looking to design your own custom floor decals. The company provides free templates so you can design with confidence. “The blank media will laser print with ease, and the official non-slip OSHA compliance and UL 410 certification is very important for some clients,” says Oeser.
System for Success
Floor graphics are generally designed in one- or two-step processes. Two-step systems involve a base media as well as a skid- and/or slip-resistant overlaminate. One-step systems do not require a laminate, with the media providing skid and slip resistance on their own.
Sawyer points out that two-step floor graphic products are typically used for toner and HP Indigo printing. “Many one-step floor graphic products feature a textured, embossed, or rough/grit printable surface, and this has a high risk of potentially damaging the print blank during the transfer process,” she explains. “Establishing good ink adhesion can be a challenge when using products that are highly textured on the surface because the ink will not be able to establish contact with the surface during the fusion/toner transfer process leading to print voids. In comparison, two-step systems include a smooth printable base film, typically clear or white, with an approved overlaminate. These systems are optimal for these print technologies as compared to the one-step systems. Because the print surface is smooth, there is little risk of damage to the blank and poor-quality ink adhesion. In addition, the graphic is protected by the overlaminate, ensuring that it will remain vibrant for the life of the promotion,” adds Saywer.
Reylco’s floor decal solutions are two-step products. “After printing, apply the printed white label to floor, then apply the clear overlaminate sheet on top. The non-slip overlaminate has a permanent adhesive to ensure that it will not come off the base label. We offer guidelines with easy step-by-step instructions,” comments Oeser.
KernowPrint FloorSharK is a one-step floor graphic for dry toner.
Toner and HP Indigo systems offer the benefit of high-resolution, high-speed production for floor graphics as compared to other digital print methods.
“The variables to consider are the type of floor graphic—interior floor and/or carpet, as well as the width constraints. On the technical side, the combination of materials is key; as are ink drying and curing, the surface type, texture, and profile, the installation method and conditions, and the maintenance and cleaning protocols,” says Sawyer. “In addition, providers should consider the target audience and whether they will benefit from the ability to provide high resolution, high volume, small format floor graphics to their clients. Support for the offering will also be required—understanding of the installation process, maintenance, and removal of the floor graphics,” she concludes.
Jan2023, Digital Output