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Mural Media: A Complete Guide to Digital Wallcovering Applications
By Ed McCarron, Director of Sales and Marketing at InteliCoat Technologies
According to a January 2011 report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA), the global wallcovering market is expected to reach $26 billion dollars by 2015. GIA attributes this growth to the increased demand for the remodeling/refurbishing of homes within the residential construction industry.
This sets the stage for sign makers to use their digital printing technologies for the creation of not only custom décor applications for the residential market niche, but for the high volume commercial markets as well. Unlike other printing processes, digital imaging is uniquely positioned to take the reigns of wallcovering applications due to its ability to produce one-off /custom graphics and displays.
So the time might be right, but there's more for sign makers to like. Wallcoverings are a high margin application with the potential for high volume with national or regional chains. Add to this the ease with which installation can be sub contracted to professional wallpaper installers, as well as the wide variety of materials available for all inkjet technologies, and you have a perfect storm of opportunity.
The following article will explain the various steps for creating quality digital wallcoverings, and provide tips and advice for success in this burgeoning market niche.
Wallcoverings for the Home and Beyond
Among the most common venues, there are several opportunities sign makers should consider. For example, art murals are very popular for both residential and commercial uses. Due to the increased ease with which people can purchase artwork directly online, many have begun licensing artwork and marketing murals over the Internet for printing and installation in a home or venue.
Museums and historical sites are ideal for one-off custom mural installs since backdrops are as a critical piece for many exhibits. This is similar to transit venues such as airports and train stations, which often rely on large custom murals for decoration and advertisements to grab the attention of travelers. The ability of digital imaging technologies to produce one-off pieces for such spaces makes it an affordable option for museums and transit venues alike.
Retail and hospitality venues' are another critical revenue source since they have a strong need for custom environmental graphics to create unique atmospheres. The retail and hospitality industry also presents a high volume opportunity for sign makers. With the omnipresence of regional, national and international chains, sign makers can realize significant profits by partnering with the right organization.
Getting Started: Choosing the Right Wallcovering Media
There are a number of products on the market today featuring heavyweight latex base papers with different top coats or treatments to meet various printer technologies. This enables sign makers to find the ideal wallcovering material, regardless of type or brand, from water-based to solvent to UV to eco-solvents printers.
When working with designers and/or architects, it is also critical to choose a wallcovering media that meets requirements for both Type II commercial wallcoverings, as well as the ASTM Standard E-84 tunnel test procedure, which ensures that the product base meets flame spread requirements. The media manufacturer should have certification documentation available upon request to prove that it is in accordance with such standards.
It is also important to note that sign makers should not use vinyl, polyester or thermal laminates for the production of wallcoverings. Since wallcoverings require the application of a wet paste to the back of paper and to the wall, moisture must escape from the paste for proper drying. Traditional vinyl, polyester and thermal laminates do not allow this to take place therefore it would not dry well. The added weight can also cause installation, de-lamination, and wall adhesion issues.
In addition, paper expands and contracts at a different rate than vinyl, polyester and thermal laminates, causing an imbalance. Over time, the combination of a laminate and a paper product would fight against each other in different environmental conditions forcing the expansion and contraction at different rates. This would be a very unstable construction - leading to distortion of the wallcovering over time.
Printing and Finishing Your Wallcovering
Prior to printing the panels, sign makers should be sure to check the printer manual for alignment options. Due to the heavy gauge of wallcovering material, it can commonly feed through the printers at different rates, which can cause print alignment issues.
Once printed, panels should be finished with a liquid laminate, which is applied prior to installation. The application of a liquid laminate or acrylic spray finish ensures the easy removal of paste residue, which commonly remains after the install, especially along the seams. Such finishes also deliver water, stain, abrasion, chemical, graffiti, and UV resistance, as well as the ability to clean the surface of contaminates throughout the life of the wallcovering. This is very important for wallcoverings that are displayed in high traffic/high visibility areas.
Potential air bubble issues or outgassing may occur if liquid laminates are applied via a liquid laminator or laminator bath, so it is recommended that sign makers use hand or aerosol applications. Products with liquid laminates meet surface durability requirements for wallcoverings (ASTM F-793).
Installing Your Wallcovering
It is also advisable to use professional wallpaper installers, especially with regional or national accounts. In addition to eliminating the need to travel for installation, certified wallpaper installers are inexpensive, plentiful and easy to find. You can visit the website for the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers to find listings for certified installers by area at www.ngpp.org.
Below is a quick checklist of some other installation guidelines to consider before getting started:
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