Firehouse Blog

Author Archive: Paul Meek

A CLEAR Guide to Transparent Materials – Part 2

paulnewpicFirst Surface or Second Surface? You may have heard these terms when printing or mounting graphics to clear materials, but what do they mean? Let’s break it down.

The first surface of a clear substrate refers to the side facing the viewing audience. Whether it’s a store window or wall-mounted graphic, first surface printing or mounting means the graphic will be on the viewing side of the substrate.

An important consideration when printing to clear substrates is white ink. Digital printing relies on the color of the substrate (primarily white) to provide opacity and color saturation. When printing on clear substrates, graphics will appear translucent and washed out without that white backing. The solution is to add a white ink layer under the color ink. This allows the graphic to retain transparency where needed while providing a white backing layer for the color ink.

In this first surface printing example, our clear substrate will receive a white ink layer followed by a full color layer. All the ink is on the first surface, or the viewing side. There are applications where this may, or may not, be desirable.

There are esthetic reasons, as well as durability concerns, with some first surface applications. For a storefront, window graphics on the first surface will be exposed to weather which will shorten their life span. Indoor graphics don’t face wind and rain, but they can be more attractive if they show off their clear substrate surface. This is where second surface printing and mounting come into play. Second surface reverses the first surface process. The graphic is printed or mounted on the back of the clear substrate. This allows the substrate to act as a protective layer.

There are two methods to consider. Second surface mounting of opaque graphics simply involves adding a window adhesive to the print face and mounting it to the back of the clear substrate. This can also be called face-mounting. For second surface printing directly to a clear substrate, the process is different. The image will first be mirrored. Then the color ink will be printed first, followed by the white ink on top. The graphic will be right-reading from the viewing side. Second-surface printing can also be done on PSV or window clings so they can be adhered to the inside of a window and seen as right-reading from the outside.

Now you are a first surface, second surface expert. You’re welcome.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

Short-run, custom-cut magnets with superior print quality? WE GOT THIS!

paulnewpicWhat do you get when you combine the print quality and flexibility of Firehouse’s Indigo digital press with a magnetic-receptive print material and our Zund digital routers? The perfect solution for indoor magnets! If you’ve ever ordered custom magnets from other vendors and were disappointed, you need to see these. Beautiful detail and color are expected from our Indigo press and these magnets really deliver both.

Magnetics have been around for Indigo presses for a number of years. Early versions presented quality and feeding issues. Firehouse did not want to pursue magnets until we could be certain the quality and consistency were solid. This material offers smooth feeding, strong ink adhesion and outstanding image quality.

Firehouse’s magnets are 16 mil thick with a durable polypropylene face. Whether you need 50 or 500, the Indigo has you covered. If you want something a little less “square”, add a custom shape to your magnets. These are ideal for promotions, magnetic business cards, high school and college athletics and any business who wants their message to “stick around” and be noticed.

Magnets can be aqueous or UV coated for added durability. And, because we cut these in house, rather then waiting for a custom die to be made, turn times are very fast. For more information, or to place an order, call or email your Firehouse rep today.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

A CLEAR Guide to Transparent Materials – Part 1

paulnewpicFirehouse’s clear substrates span the range from affordability to durability. Printing can be layered with white ink for maximum color saturation. Let’s discuss our most popular options for direct printing.

Window Cling
An 8mil, non-adhesive material primarily used for temporary window advertising, temporary product markings, POP displays and protective masking. Easily removable and repositionable. Can be first- or second-surface mounted.

For a complete explanation of first-surface and second-surface printing and mounting, stay tuned for Part 2 of my transparent materials guide.

Pressure Sensitive Vinyl (PSV)
This 4mil, clear, flexible vinyl material has an adhesive layer and adheres well to glass, metal, plastic and most smooth, clean surfaces. It’s ideal for indoor uses. PSV is available with a repositionable or permanent adhesive. It is easy to install and remove.

The following materials are rigid substrates. In addition to printing direct, Firehouse can also mount other printed substrates to these clear materials for a wider variety of options.

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-Modified (PETG) is a plastic resin in the polyester family. Extruded PETG sheets make an incredibly strong printing substrate. Firehouse prints PETG in .020”, .040” and .080” thicknesses. PETG’s strength makes it suitable for indoor and outdoor signage. It’s a perfect fit for outdoor backlit signs.

When you need a thicker clear sheet than PETG, acrylic is the next step up. Firehouse prints to 1/8” acrylic for frames, wall mounts or hanging graphics. While acrylic can be used outdoors, the better choice for clear outdoor graphics is polycarbonate.

For the ultimate in strength and durability, polycarbonate sheets can’t be beat. Available in 1/8” thickness, polycarbonate is about 200 times stronger than glass and virtually unbreakable with a very high impact strength. For vehicle signage, bus kiosks and any application that demands durability, polycarbonate is the perfect choice.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations