Supply chain protection, pricing worries, eco concerns: they are issues that worry a lot of you.
But should you be more optimistic given what media and inks manufacturers and suppliers are doing?
You’ve heard the stories of PSPs having bought a ‘normal’ year’s worth of wide-format print media in one go to ensure they can meet the boom in demand for social distancing graphics throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. So it will come as no surprise that that’s exactly where most media companies have focussed development and launched the most new products since lockdown. But there are other issues that need addressing - like how they are ensuring an ongoing, continuous supply of materials, and what they’re doing in regards to the environment.
Antalis product manager Mike Collins says “all products launched this year have been geared towards anti-Covid social distancing graphics. We have had a large demand for indoor and outdoor floor-graphics in particular and Antalis has invested in building up large stocks of a wide variety of different solutions to meet customers’ immediate demands.”
He adds: “The growth is certainly being aided by the increase in demand for new media as sustainable options come to the forefront once again. The rise of carbon offsetting - when it comes to selecting and specifying a sustainable substrate - is becoming a real consideration. Antalis announced earlier this year that all materials purchased from across its paper, packaging and visual communications ranges (including large-format media) can now be carbon offset. We anticipate the demand for sustainable solutions will increase as designers, brand owners, end users and printers look for environmental product support from suppliers.”
Environmental issues are proving core to CMYUK’s media range development. “We’re committed to sourcing clean eco materials that will really make a difference to the industry,” says group marketing director Robin East. “Brands have been crying out for viable sustainable alternatives that deliver on quality and price, and with our recent launches for Ufabrik and PVC-free Kavalan we are leading the charge for clean, eco-responsible materials for the wide-format digital print industry.”
Shaun Holdom, global product manager at Drytac says it too has upped its eco offering. “There has been an unprecedented demand for floor graphics media, as businesses discover the value of floor decals to encourage social distancing, to direct customers around one-way systems and for advertising. Drytac’s manufacturing facilities in the UK and Canada have been working around the clock to produce media for floor graphics applications in particular.” And he points out: “Our range now includes more PVC-free products. Our new SpotOn SynTac and Interlam EcoTex two-part solution, aluminium-based Polar Street FX for outdoor applications, and Polar Floor PET are all PVC-free. We are also developing more environmentally friendly products across our signage and display ranges.
Guandong goes as far as saying: “We feel it is our moral duty to make products which include all the technical and technological characteristics required for eco-sustainable applications. This is why we use the highest possible percentage of recycled line products, and our products are manufactured using selected resins so that, during the disposal phase, waste is totally recyclable and/or similar to Urban Solid Waste (MSW). Also, our materials are all covered by the Greenlife guarantee seal, registered several years ago, when eco-sustainability was a creed and not a fashion.”
Mark Mashiter, managing director of Soyang, is also eager to point out his company’s green credentials. “At Soyang we have continued to develop our textile range and non-PVC range, taking the best products from both our own production and our partners’.
“The ongoing investment at Soyang has been for material made from recycled polyester yarns and also yarns made from recycled PET bottles for applications such as flag, display and backlit textile printing. We are in stock of products up to 5m wide which can be used across most digital printing types and all are OEKO- TEX certified and meet the EU standard for flame retardancy.
Flame retardancy is also a focus at Swedoard, where this autumn sees the introduction of SB Fibre FireRetardant.
But not all planned launches are going to plan - the Covid-19 scene having disrupted the intentions of some, such as Inktec Europe. “Despite everything going on, we’ve continued to be open and offer the supply of our materials throughout lockdown. Bearing in mind the situation, we have also looked at what is happening in our sector and re-prioritised the products that we were launching to reflect the need and demand,” says managing director Joey Kim.
“While the situation may be easing slightly, we will be re-looking at the products we initially intended to launch to gauge whether the moment is right to bring these to market too, or whether we should hold off in the short term.”
LAUNCHED SINCE LOCKDOWN
Ufabrik Wallcovering Canvas Eco Greyback
This material is manufactured from recycled PET plastic yarn.
Fabricating yarn from plastic waste involves the collection of pre and post-consumer plastics. Bottles are cleaned, sorted, shredded into flakes, and then converted into pellets, which are melted into extruded fibres. These are then spun into yarn that when woven form the substrata of the Ufabrik Wallcovering Canvas Eco range.
The Canvas Eco Greyback joins Canvas Eco white back. It is B1 flame retardant, Reach compliant and usable with water-based. latex, solvent, and UV inks. It is a paste-the-wall application in widths up to 3.1m, with smaller widths on request.
CMYUK says Kavalan looks like PVC, has the strength of PVC, welds like PVC - and has “a very attractive price point”. The material is designed for eco-responsible waste-to-energy disposal - a 3.2m roll of Kavalan can generate enough energy to power an iPhone for five years, and what’s more, it weighs 50% less than traditional PVC, reducing carbon emissions from its transportation. Kavalan also has B1 and EN13501-1 fire ratings, and is EN-71, 33P, ROHS and Reach approved.
Kavalan has just been 100% endorsed by FIAB and Miller Weldmaster, which have each given it 100% for its weld performance.
Polar Floor PET 170
This 6.7 mil PVC-free polyester film has been developed for indoor applications of up to six months. It has achieved a post-printed anti-slip rating of R10 and has the durability to withstand heavy foot traffic - including high-heeled shoes.
SpotOn SynTac Floor
Another PVC-free release, this is 9.6 mil (240μ) film coated on one side with Drytac’s ‘dot pattern’ removable adhesive to make application easy on all common floor types, and quick, clean removal within 12 months. Paired with Drytac Interlam EcoTex overlaminating film, SpotOn SynTac Floor creates a ‘peel and stick’ two-part floor graphics solution.
Polar Street FX
Made to meet demand for outdoor floor graphics, this PVC-free, aluminium print media has achieved an R12 slip rating without the need for lamination. The 10mil medium is resistant to scuffing and high levels of traffic for up to 12 months outdoors, and is fast and simple to apply for fast-turnaround projects.
This is an antimicrobial surface protection film with Microban technology. It uses zinc to help protect doors, keypads, counters and other surfaces from bacteria and other harmful microbes for up to 15 years, even when cut to size.
REvita Tack Puro
The main features of REvita Tack Puro are a textile-like feel and the use of nano tack technology. It is 70% recycled and 100% recyclable.
Floor Graphic Media
Available in a matte finish, in 25m rolls with a width of 54in, is this 450gsm combination of PVC and fabric. It is R12 slip-resistance certified (DIN-51130 by IFA) and can be used on various surfaces including carpet, rougher textures and even walls. It is said to offer excellent scratch-resistance, requires no protective laminate, and is easy to remove.
Copper Antimicrobial Tinted Film
Anti-microbial coatings can play an important role in today’s environments and the addition of copper has been proven to kill many germs on contact. Big claims are made for this film, said provide a 90%+ reduction in contamination within 30 minutes and 99% by four hours. Efficacy lasts for three months depending on aftercare and touch frequency, and it can be cleaned with typical cleaning products, such as non-alcohol based multipurpose cleaners or water. Available as 30m rolls in 50cm widths and as sheets
This new addition to the FloorSharK family of self-adhesive floor graphic products can be applied to various surfaces and is a highly durable R12 rated material for print, cut and apply outdoor use - no over lamination required. It will withstand pedestrian traffic and light industrial usage (pallet trucks, carts etc). It’s also water and cleaning detergent resistant and easily removable. It has low slip potential in dry and wet conditions.
PrintGrip provides exceptional levels of grip in dry and wet conditions, with independent testing indicating a Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of 75 (dry) and 68 (wet) - equating to a R12 rating.
Constructed from a UV-stabilised PE-based film that is coated with grit and covered with a printable top coating for eco-solvent, UV and latex inkjet inks, the medium has a 50-micron adhesive, making it suitable for most exterior paved surfaces, including concrete, natural stone and tarmac.
ST110 RCY Flag / ST117 RCY Display Fabric
Both of these materials are made from PET bottle yarns, as is the company’s Alterra Coated Backlit Fabric offering. Also new to its portfolio is Altimis - Coates Backlit Fabric made from recycled polyester yarns.
SB Composite Premium 5mm
It’s all about weight here, Swedboard having introduced a 5mm thickness following demand from customers already being offered the board in 10mm, 16mm, 20mm and 40mm. Though lightweight it is stable and stays straight, and does not crack in either direction if bent.
Swedboard’s SB Fibre, SB Composite Premium and SB Solid Premium can be ordered in widths of 1220mm, 1600mm, 2030mm, 2400mm and 2500mm. The lengths can be up to 4200mm. On the SB Fibre board front, the print liner now has with a thicker paper.
Ultima Displays has launched a self-sanitising stretch fabric that it expects to unlock the potential for tension textile displays and partitions, and provide a confidence boost to the events and exhibition industry.
The HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 technology has been tested to be 99.99% effective within 30 minutes against SARS-CoV-2 (the Covid-19 causing virus) and is designed to inhibit the growth and persistence of bacteria enveloped viruses on textile surfaces. Its antiviral and antibacterial properties are due to a combination of silver and vesicle technologies designed to significantly reduce viral and bacterial infectivity on treated surfaces.
“The treated stretch textile with the HeiQ Viroblock technology is a game changer for the industry. The inherent self-sanitising properties means that the graphic remains germs and microbes resistant without the need to wipe clean,” says Mark McCleery, MD at Ultima Displays.
Stringent tests have been carried out to ensure the treated textile with the HeiQ Viroblock technology has a strong antimicrobial efficacy demonstrated by ISO 20743 and ISO18184. The technology is EU Reach compliant. All of its ingredients are cosmetic grade, bio-based (72% bio-based carbon) and recycled.
The treated textile can be cleaned if graphics become dirty by gently washing at 60°C for up to 30 washes, without effecting the antimicrobial properties.
The HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 technology is a patent pending technology and is also Oekotex certified, ZDHC and bluesign homologised.
INKS: PRICING AND SUPPLY PROTECTION
When we conducted our annual Widthwise survey of UK and Ireland large-format PSPs at the start of the year, a whopping 60.96% said the price of supplies was one of their biggest concerns for their business in 2020 and beyond. Then Covid-19 struck. But as companies work out the ‘new normal’ amid what is still a fluctuating worldwide supply chain scenario - and given the focus of this feature is consumables - we asked a number of ink suppliers to comment on concerns about possible ink price hikes and disruption to supplies to UK large-format PSPs. Shall we say there was a certain reticence to respond, but those that did had the following to say, which perhaps allays some fears?
Bobby Grauf, Agfa sales manager UK and Ireland, points out that the company develops and manufactures its own wide-format inks. “For the UK and Ireland, we source directly from our main ink factory in Belgium. For local supply we operate out of four local warehouses, namely in Derbyshire, Kent, Somerset and Scotland for next-working-day deliveries, plus our channel partners carry stock for their customers. On top of that we have the option to increase our safety stock at a central location in the UK. We significantly increased said stock in the run-up to the UK’s exit from the European Union, as well the recent Covid-19 pandemic. We also have agreements in place for overnight deliveries from Europe and elsewhere into the UK should the need arise.”
Mark Goodearl, EFI senior ink product manager at EFI, says the company “continues to build on this foundation and today manufactures a significant portion of the ink required for the UK and European market in the Bradford, UK facility. These initiatives reduce shipping costs, improve turnaround times, offset rising raw material and manufacturing costs, while also improving overall inventory availability to our partners and customers in the region, particularly in the UK.
swissQprint too seeks to reassure UK customers. “swissQprint is fortunate to have proactive and well-prepared ink supply partners so there has been no disruption to our ink supply chain. swissQprint UK holds an extensive stock of our ink range to ensure our customers can call off for same-day delivery and next day delivery, on all ink and consumables. We have held our prices through this challenging period, says MD Erskine Stewart.