Calendered Vinyl - Photo courtesy of SignIndustry.com

During the quote process, my first question is typically, “Where will your stickers be located?”  This information is important, given there are many different materials to choose from to create a vinyl sticker product.  This question is asked, with materials in mind.  For a long lasting product, it’s best to use the vinyl film best suited for the job.  Typically your answer will fall into one of two categories, Indoor or outdoor.  Other factors such as environment (around water, solvents or heat sources) also fall into play.  Not only am I assessing your needs for material, but also concious of your budget, as vinyl films can cost a little, or a lot.

So onto the nitty gritty, there are two types of classes of material.  Casted and Calendered, also known as CAST and CAL vinyl film.  To the naked eye, usually only the price tag is noticeable.  A customer wouldn’t typically know if I were to use cast or cal vinyl, unless indicated and the pro’s and con’s were explained.

Calendered Vinyl film - Photo courtesy of SignIndustry.com

Calendered Vinyl film – Photo courtesy of SignIndustry.com

Calendered vinyl is extruded (stretched), meaning that as the vinyl is created it is elongated to a memory. This means that over time, the vinyl will contract and shrink back to its original state, sped up by Ultra Violet reaction.  Picture it this way – If you had 8″ of liquid plastic that you spread over the space of 10″, over time that 10″ of vinyl would want to spring back to the original 8″.  This is why we see some vinyls shrinking and leaving an adhesive “halo,” because the adhesive wants to stay put, while the vinyl wants to shrink.  Most CAL vinyls are rated anywhere from 2 – 7 years lifespan (manufacturer dependant), but this can even be as low as 6 months – 1 year for some specialty films.  Be sure to confirm the rating of the vinyl being used for your job.  CAL films are typically thicker and only meant for flat surfaces, or surfaces with a single direction curve.

Cast Vinyl film - Photo courtesy of SignIndustry.com

Cast Vinyl film – Photo courtesy of SignIndustry.com

A Cast vinyl film is exactly that, casted.  Casted meaning that it is poured into a specific size and allowed to stay in that state.  Since we’re starting with a material that was never stretched, it has better tolerances over time.  Given the creation process, Cast films will be thinner and more conformable to compound surfaces.  They can be used outdoors with no worry of having the film shrink like its younger brother, calendered.   The lifespan of a Cast film is typically 7 – 12 years (manufacturer dependant) in the harshest elements.  I would call these yearly ratings the worst case scenario, as manufacturers often test in harsh temperate climates, around the ocean, industrial, etc.

Cast vinyls will usually come in more colours, as well with new technologies like air channels to assist with wrapping vehicles and other projects.

One misconception is thickness of material.  Typically a cheaper CAL material is actually thicker (2.8 – 4.0 mil) thick, and a CAST material is usually 2.0 mil.  This is not mm, but a difference measurement, mil.  Thinner materials will conform and stretch better.  I get requests for the “thickest vinyl you have,” when in fact it’s thinner vinyls that last longer, if they’re from a reputable brand and CAST.  You can always add a clear laminate over a sign, which come in varying thicknesses, but that’s another story and typically only applied to digitally printed materials.

CAST

Pro’s – Longer lifespan, Conformable to compound surfaces, Will hold state and not shrink, More colours available.

Con’s – $ Expensive $

CAL

Pro’s – $ Low Cost $

Con’s – Shorter lifespan, Only installable to flat / single curve surfaces, Shrinks over time, Limited colour selection.

Hopefully this post will help shed some light on where costs come from for specific quotes and give you more power to make choices with your spending.

You may also find further detailed information at SignIndustry.com.

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