However, perhaps his most versatile equipment
This printer also opens the door to other, new products, not previously offered including vinyl stickers. Although, not the most profitable of products (if you really want to make money then you should go down the vehicle wrap route) window stickers and window decals are another arrow the sign-maker can add to his quiver.
What are window stickers?
Window stickers are reversed printed vinyl stickers, that are stuck on the inside of a window facing outwards. Contrary to popular believe, the image is not printed on the sticky side of the vinyl, but is mirrored and printed to non-sticky side. As such, clear transparent vinyl is always used in the manufacture of window stickers. This allows the image to be seen through the window and through the inside of the vinyl itself.
Window stickers are generally printed onto one of three material types: permanent self-adhesive vinyl, removable self-adhesive vinyl and static-cling. (For information on what is vinyl, please refer to my earlier article on Vinyl).
Permanent self-adhesive vinyl is vinyl that has adhesive that is engineered to bond for several years. The actual number of years will depend on the grade of the vinyl and the environmental factors, but a minimum of 3 years is to be expected. Permanent self-adhesive vinyl is recommended when you do not intend to remove the sticker. This is not to say it is anti-vandal proof (specially anti-destruct vinyl should be used in this case) but the permanent window sticker option is recommended when you desire a long-lasting sticker.
Removable self-adhesive vinyl generally has a lower tack adhesive that allows the decal to be easily removed in the short to medium term (often 12 months). After this time the removable window sticker becomes more permanent and finally ends up as permanent as the permanent window sticker, the adhesive bonding over a longer time period. The removable option is a very good compromise between the permanent and static cling sticker, and often an obvious choice for retailers and restaurants. When removed within 12 months they tend to leave no adhesive residue.
Static cling window stickers are those that have no adhesive at all. They 'cling' to the window as the name suggests, by static. The advantage of static cling stickers is that they are easily removed and repositioned without difficulty and leave no adhesive marks on the window. However, the downside is that their lifespan tends to be limited to 6 months. They also tend to be more expensive to manufacture than the self-adhesive alternative.
White Back or Not to White Back? That is the question
What makes window stickers different to manufacture than normal facing stickers is that they are always printed onto transparent vinyl with the image mirrored. However, when an inkjet prints onto transparent vinyl the entire image becomes translucent, irrespective of how much ink is laid down. This is very like writing on a window with a felt-tip pen. The light will travel thought the window and the image resulting in the image being virtually lost. The same happens to a window sticker, digitally printed by solvent inkjet onto a transparent that is not white-backed.
Therefore, to bring the colours to life again the sticker needs to have a white backing (that's why we all use white paper to write on, right?).
There are a number of options open to the sign-maker to white-back window stickers, depending on the equipment available in his workshop.
The first method available is by using his thermal transfer printer. This type of white backing does not give the most sold white but is very effective in short-runs. The only thing to note is that the width of vinyl is limited to the size of the thermal printer which is often set at 380mm.
The second option is silk-screen printing, layering over a coat of white ink. This can either be done in-house if the team has the means, or outsourced to a local screen printer. For long-runs this can be the most cost-effective way of white-backing stickers.
Finally, if thermal transfer printing or screen printing is just not feasible then the sign-maker can resort to his trusty old laminator to laminate a white-vinyl backing. This is not as cost-effective as screen printing and is quite a skill to master, but where options and equipment is limited it as good as any way to white-back window stickers.