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APET Sheet for Printing: How to Get the Best Results

Views: 21     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-05-09      Origin: Site

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Introduction


APET sheet is a durable and versatile material widely used for printing applications including signage, packaging graphics, and labels. With its glossy surface and high print quality capabilities, APET sheet delivers excellent visual impact. However, there are some key factors to consider when printing on APET sheet to ensure the best results. This comprehensive guide will provide in-depth guidance on substrate selection, various printing methods, types of inks, drying and curing processes, finishing techniques, and how to avoid common issues. Following these best practices will maximize the quality, lifespan and visual appeal of printed APET sheet products.


APET is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material used in plastic bottles. It provides many benefits for print applications including a smooth print surface, dimensional stability, chemical resistance, strength and flexibility. APET Sheet is fully recyclable at the end of its useful life and can have a print lifespan of over 5 years when manufactured and printed correctly. Let's examine each step in detail to unlock the full potential of this versatile plastic printing substrate.


APET SHEET (24)

                                                         APET Sheet


Substrate Selection


Careful selection of the APET sheet itself lays the foundation for success. Look for a brand known for consistency in caliper/thickness, surface finish, and density. Leading manufacturers precisely control the extrusion and thermoforming process to deliver uniform APET grades optimized for specific printing methods and common applications.


When choosing a substrate, first consider the intended use. Thinner gauges between 0.5-1mm work well for adhesive-backed labels, decals and stickers where flexibility is important. Some examples include product labels, signage outdoors or indoors prone to handling.


Thicker substrates 1-3mm provide sturdiness well-suited to larger signs, displays, and POP graphics exposed to environmental elements. The aesthetics and durability of such printed items benefits from extra material thickness without added weight.


Key attributes to evaluate include:

  1. Caliper/thickness: Consistent micron tolerance across large sheets prevents banding/variation in prints.

  2. Surface finish: A super-smooth glossy surface yields sharp photographic images and text. Avoid dull/hazy sheets.

  3. Clarity: Optically clear without streaks, spots or other visual defects ensures vibrant color pops.

  4. Weight: Heavier films of 250-300gsm have more rigidity but lighter sheets below 200gsm are flexible for bending/curving.

  5. Weatherability: Durably withstands some sunlight, moisture, extreme temperatures without degrading the print layer. Specialty UV-resistant or chemically-treated sheets remain fade-proof for long-term outdoor applications.

  6. Chemical resistance: Withstands solvents, cleaning agents, alcohol and other caustic substances commonly encountered by printed products. Special formulations protect against oil, grease or other industrial chemicals.


Ask suppliers for test results confirming physical properties, print/laminate adhesion, durability ratings. This ensures trouble-free performance and maximizes return on printing investment. A small extra cost upfront saves bigger problems downstream.


Printing Methods

Several proven digital and traditional printing techniques work well when optimized for APET characteristics.


Digital Printing

Wide-format inkjet and toner printing provide excellent image quality, versatility and short-run economics on APET sheet. Key considerations include:

  1. Inks: Water-based pigment or UV/latex inks formulated for plastic adhesion. Avoid dispersions that can delaminate over time in outdoor use.

  2. Resolution: Minimum 720dpi for photos/gradients, higher for fine text. Denser print modes produce more vibrant pigment laydown.

  3. Drying: Add forced-air drying or UV curing for water-based prints to prevent scuffing during finishing/converting.

  4. Sheet feeding: Load sheet glossy-side down in cassette for optimal printside contact with platens/feed rollers, avoiding electrostatic attraction problems.

  5. Caliper variation: Adjust platen gap and pressure roller programming for consistent tension across thick/thin sections to avoid banding.

  6. Lamination: Seal prints for UV-resistance and protection immediately after aqueous inking for best adhesion results before exposure to elements.



Screen Printing

The look and feel of screen printing lends itself well to merchandise, decorative trim applications and larger signage/displays on APET sheet. Recommendations include:

  1. Inks: Water-based emulsion or UV/plastisol formulations suited for plastic surfaces provide adhesion without solvents/odors.

  2. Mesh counts: Higher 205-305 T/in for fine details and halftones; lower 120-150 T/in flood fills large solid areas quickly.

  3. Off contact: Proper snap-off distance plus consistent squeegee angle/speed lays down smooth, thin ink layers immaculately.

  4. Post curing: Curing ovens or flash dryers accelerate adhesion of UV/plastisol inks or emulsion inks with heat-reactive additives.

  5. Flatness: Allow prints to fully outgas solvents/moisture before die cutting, slitting or converting for highest dimensional stability results.

  6. Registration: Adjust print table clamps or pneumatic holds for uniform pressure front-to-back ensuring perfect multi-color overlays.


Large Format Printing

Roll-to-roll UV inkjet, latex and solvent printers achieve photo-quality on demand for out-of-home signage, interior décor and promotional displays when used with the proper inks, settings and dryers. Consistent high speed results demand:

  1. Caliper control: Tension/vacuum stack systems promote flat, wrinkle-free feeding in larger widths and gauges.

  2. Resolution: Minimum 1080p for wall murals/graphics up to 4k/8k ultra-high definition for detailed rendering.

  3. Ink adhesion: Use printer OEM plastic-rated UV/solvent/latex inks tested on APET to withstand intended usage environment.

  4. Dryers: Integrated or standalone dryer/curing ovens fully set prints to eliminate potential issues in finishing like cracking or lamination defects.


Any of these commercial printing methods work well on APET with proper material sourcing and small tweaks. Understanding equipment and substrate peculiarities leads to top results.


Inks

Ink selection impacts adhesion, the final appearance, and service life of prints after exposure, handling and cleaning. Here are some guidelines for success:


Solvent Inks

  1. Fast drying with tremendous durability and vibrancy on plastics, but produce strong fumes requiring ventilation.

  2. Specially formulated low-VOC or "Eco" solvent inks minimize environmental impact without sacrificing performance.

  3. Check manufacturer’s MSDS for safe operating procedure and compliance with current regulations.


UV Inkjet/Screen Inks

  1. Cure instantly when exposed to adequate UV radiation leaving no smell.

  2. Can be laminated immediately, handling tough environments and chemicals without degradation.

  3. Be sure inks cured fully as undercured areas weaken over time against UV rays.


Aqueous/Latex Inkjet Inks

  1. Pigment-based for brilliant colors that withstand some outdoor weathering.

  2. Require UV-blocking overlaminate for long-term outdoor exposures to prevent fading over several years.

  3. Avoid inks heavily loaded with humectants which can lead to cracking as they dry.

  4. Test manufacturer’s recommendations for pre-treating APET to aid water-based ink adhesion.


Water-Based Screen Inks

  1. Economical choice suited for short-term POP graphics and interior applications.

  2. May require heat curing or forced air drying before finishing or risk scuffing issues.

  3. Use air-drying additive-hardened inks for improved durability and faster drying when possible.


Always choose inks from reputable manufacturers rated and intended for printing on APET substrates. Poor ink adhesion ruins the whole job and wastes time/money.


Drying and Curing

Per the chosen printing method, adequate drying prevents problems handling, converting or long-term performance which ruin the entire job.


Inkjet Printing

  1. Water-based pigment inks dry naturally within minutes, but add forced hot air drying for scuff/scratch resistance before finishing/distribution.

  2. Solvent/Eco-Solvent inks require 10-30 minutes or up to overnight to fully flash off vapors depending on layer thickness and environmental conditions.

  3. UV-cured inks harden instantly with adequate bulb intensity and exposure from roll-to-roll or flatbed printer.


Screen Printing

  1. Flash drying or heat curing ovens fully set UV and plastisol inks within seconds to minutes depending on temperature and ink volumes.

  2. Water-based emulsion inks must dry hours at minimum and test fully dry before finishing to not scuff.

  3. Avoid unnecessary extended oven times that could damage inks or degrading substrate properties.


Drying and Curing Equipment

To fully set inks and ensure the highest print quality, it's important to invest in proper drying and curing equipment. There are a few main options to consider:


Infrared Dryers

Infrared dryers use intense heat lamps to quickly cure and dry water-based, solvent, and UV inkjet prints on APET sheets. They work by directing infrared waves onto the printed surface, efficiently heating the ink and causing fast evaporation.


Benefits of infrared dryers include:

  1. Very fast drying times, often just seconds or minutes.

  2. Precise temperature control to avoid overheating substrates.

  3. Compact size for fitting into any shop space.


Things to consider include lamp life expectancy and having sufficient power for larger sheets or heavier ink coverages. Models with movable lamps allow drying both sides.


Conveyor Dryers

Conveyor dryers provide an automated, high-volume solution. Sheets travel continuously through a heated tunnel on rollers as fans circulate hot air. Temperature, speed, and air flow are adjustable.

Benefits include:

  1. Continuous drying of multiple sheets simultaneously.

  2. Consistent, controllable temperature across large heating zones.

  3. Options for multiple heating stages like pre-heating and cooling.


These require more space but greatly increase production capacity. Ensure dryer length matches your largest sheet size.


Dedicated Curing Ovens

For UV or plastisol screen inks which require intensive heat-curing, standalone convection ovens with UV bulb arrays are best. Digital controls set precise heat profiles.


Benefits include:

  1. Achieving very high, controllable temperatures for full-bodied ink films.

  2. Options for inert gas atmospheres to prevent oxidation or smoking.

  3. Multi-zone partitioning to optimize curing of various ink thicknesses.


Proper ventilation must be installed due to heat and potential ink fumes. Ovens are a large capital investment.

Choosing drying equipment based on your specific printing process, ink types, production needs, and budget leads to perfect drying every time. This avoids potential issues with incomplete curing down the line.


Finishing Techniques

Properly finished prints maintain vibrancy, resist abrasion and protect against UV deterioration for longer lifespan. Common protective methods include:


Laminating

  1. Clear polyester, polycarbonate or PVC films lock in colors and safeguard prints from damage and fingerprints.

  2. Thermal lamination under pressure adheres laminate intensely for outdoor durability. Peel-and-stick films require perfect application.

  3. Textured or matte laminates diffuse light for realistic appearance or to emulate traditional materials like wood/stone.

  4. Test compatibility of chosen laminate chemistry with inks beforehand to avoid potential discoloration issues.


Edge Sealing

  1. Seal cut edges on decals, signs and other sheet applications to prevent moisture wicking using heat or chemical sealants.

  2. Automated roll laminators speed production while precisely sealing all four edges for water-resistant graphics.


Powder Coating

  1. Thermoplastic powders electrostatically bonded to prints form a hardened, scratch-resistant and chemical-proof protective layer ideal for signage and equipment labels.

  2. Available in smooth and textured finishes mimicking metals, stone, and wood with true durability to withstand weather, impacts and cleaning agents.


Mounting & Installation

  1. Double-sided tape adheres most printed sheets securely. For very long-term outdoor use, mechanical fasteners like rivets or standoffs last longer than adhesive alone.

  2. Proper surface preparation like cleaning and priming adheres graphics for the long haul while avoiding premature failure.


Correct finishing choices maximize every print's good looks and functional protection for the years of display planned. Testing confirms the best durable, compatible solutions.


Post-Processing

Once dry, APET sheets may require additional steps before finishing or installation.


Slitting & Die-Cutting

Cuts are cleanest when sheets are completely dried. Use new sharp blades to limit fraying on intricate shapes. Adjust rear roller pressure for smooth movement through guillotines or rotary dies.


Crimping & Bending

APET's flexibility allows shaping into curves, cylinders and other 3D forms. Score precisely with a creaser wheel or router to desired bend lines for clean folds. Finished bends hold positions securely.


Decorating & Embellishment

APET accommodates additional techniques to enhance prints like:

  1. Foil stamping and embossing for luxury texture and luminescence.

  2. Debossing/scoring presses shape and texture sheets without penetrating the surface.

  3. Digital cutting machines precisely contour vinyl, paper or substrate itself for decals and labels.

  4. Spot UV coating, online spot varnishing or aqueous topcoats protect specific high-wear areas from fingerprints.

  5. Photographic printing produces realistic continuums with multi-layered dimensional images.


Finishing Device Maintenance

Properly maintain equipment per manufacturer to ensure cut quality doesn't diminish. For example:

  1. Clean and sharpen blades/knives frequently using lubricated honing stones.

  2. Vacuum scrap debris to protect motors, belts and ensure smooth sheet movement.

  3. Check roller pressure and alignment and adjust as parts wear for consistently crisp cuts.

  4. Inspect belts and replace when glazing or cracks appear to maintain tight tolerances.

With additional decorating, finishing extends the creative possibilities of printed APET sheet applications. Proper equipment care delivers long-term, high-precision results.


Storage and Installation

Finally, consider substrate handling after finishing:

  1. Store printed sheets flat and weighted, not curled or bent, to prevent surface marks or deformities.

  2. Seal edge-cut packs tightly and label properly for stock control and protection.

  3. Clean installation surfaces per instructions to promote strongest adhesion of adhesive-backed products.

  4. Use dry application methods on clean, dry, grease-free surfaces for long-term bonding.

  5. Trim away excess liner material after successful adhesion and mount sheets square for best appearance.

Following sheets through the entire process from printing to installation or distribution eliminates potential hazards or defects. APET turns exceptional when guided by these premium practices.


Common Issues to Avoid


Following recommendations prevents these frequent pitfalls:

  1. Substrate imperfections like scoring, static, oils cause banding or hazy prints. Inspect thoroughly.

  2. Incompatible inks not intended for plastics may fail prematurely from poor adhesion.

  3. Incomplete drying leads to outcomes like cracking, edge peeling or poor lamination bonding.

  4. Over-curing UV inks or extended oven times degrade the print layer's hardness/flexibility.

  5. Improper finishing like edges not fully sealed allows moisture intrusion reducing durability.

  6. Rough handling during converting or installation places prints at risk of scuffs and rubs appearing early.

  7. Exposure to harsh conditions beyond APET grade's capabilities like constant high/low temperature fluctuations.

Addressing each process step carefully minimizes these common downfalls. Stick to the guidelines from proven product and ink suppliers for the best printed results on APET sheet every time.


Conclusion


APET sheet printing allows for high-quality signage, graphics, and labels when the right materials and processes are carefully implemented. The substrate has unique properties compared to paper, so following guidance about ink adhesion and working with APET's traits helps ensure smooth printing. Getting these foundation elements right sets the stage for long-lasting, visually striking output.


However, APET's full creative potential is only unlocked when paired with best practices. Understanding the substrate's characteristics, like how inks bond to its surface, prevents issues down the road. With knowledge of these inherent aspects, printers can avoid pitfalls and produce prints that proudly showcase brands for years. Attention to recommendations yields outputs that stand the test of time.


When the proper materials, inks, and techniques are combined, APET printing delivers bright, resilient displays capable of advertising for extended periods. Its versatility answers the needs of sign makers, graphic designers, and those in related industries. Following best practices lets APET truly shine as a medium and brings the highest-quality, most vibrant representations of clients for all to see. Its adaptability and hardiness make it a smart choice.


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