Screen Printing VinylEfx® Films


You can screen print on VinylEfx® films with either a solvent-based or UV-curable vinyl ink. VinylEfx® films make an ideal base film for manufacturing OEM emblems, decals, nameplates and fleet graphics. And, when printed VinylEfx® films are domed, their illusionary effects are magnified, which makes the graphics especially dazzling.

The test panels (pictured above) were screen printed and domed. Doming not only accentuates the illusionary appeal of VinylEfx® films, but also extends the useful service life of the graphic.

Since many variables affect screen printing, the outcome, that one printer has, can differ greatly from that of another plant operation. Based on years of experience with screen printers, though, we have learned what does and does not work. Here are few suggestions, with respect to recommended ink and clear coats, and curing and die cutting practices.

Before using any ink or clear coat in production, the over-riding or prevailing maxim should be: “Test, Don’t Guess”. Some of the inks that printer have used successfully are Sericol TMI II, Nazdar 3500 UV inks and 3M 9700 UV inks. Both Nazdar 3500 series and 3M 9700 UV inks print exceptionally well through a 355 or 380 mesh.

Sericol TMI II is a solvent-based vinyl ink. This ink can be either air dried or jet dried. The advantage of jet drying and curing in a batch oven is to accelerate the production process. Excessive heat, though, can cause VinylEfx® films to shrink.

To circumvent potential problems, our recommendation is to flash dry each color at 180°F for 20 seconds. After the final color is printed, batch cure the graphics at 185°F for 30 minutes. After clear coating with a product, such as Sericol UTMI clear coat, cure the graphics for 2 hrs. @ 185°F.

The Swisher Sweets graphic was screen printed and then later laminated with a scuff-resistent film to produce a P.O.P. counter mat.

UV curing also subjects VinylEfx® films to intense energy, which can cause film shrinkage, as much as 1/32”. This problem is not insurmountable. To minimize shrinkage, as well as to prevent puckering of the film on the release liner, always condition the material before printing. By conditioning, we mean sheeting the VinylEfx® film one day prior to production, and racking the sheets face-to-face. This “pre-seasoning” process allows the material to shrink on the release liner, so that the material can stabilize. The result is that better control of registration.

While UV lamps emit intense energy that can cause shrinkage, the results can be minimized significantly by reducing the energy level and speeding up the conveyor belt. Several of our customers adjust the setting of the UV curing lamps to 300 watts, and run the belt speed at 50 feet per minute. By making these adjustments, the amount of heat, to which the VinylEfx® material is exposed, is significantly reduced.

A custom “Iris” pattern film was screen printed for use as a decorative background for these Toys”R”Us display headers.

Don’t be concerned that the graphic will not receive sufficient energy to cure the ink and clear coat. If you print multiple colors and then clear coat the graphic, the VinylEfx® film is exposed to multiple exposures, whose curing effects are cumulative. In addition, after each exposure, the UV inks will continue to cure. This is called “post cure”. After each printing pass, you should check the ink for proper curing.

© 2012 Jim Hingst


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