Feel the Pull of Die-Cut Magnets

What is funny about doing a good job is that most of the time we learn the hard way. I have worked with hundreds of people and most of the time we all tend to learn about a new product or process only when we need it. Take magnets for example. If I teach you how to work with printable magnets, this information will only be important to you when you actually need to make magnets. You may not need this information now, but hang on to this article as it might come in handy one day. Now, on to magnets.

I think that magnetic sheets are under-rated in our business, I have sold hundreds of yards of printed magnet stock and have found many great applications. But before we jump into the uses of magnets let’s review what you need to know to purchase magnets.

White vinyl coated, adhesive backed or raw brown magnet material – In most of the applications I used the white vinyl coated. White vinyl coated magnet applications are cut vinyl, digital vinyl application, and direct print flat bed. Adhesive backed is for indoor applications where you are using paper or fabric prints to cover the magnet. I used raw for applications where I wanted to apply my own adhesive.

Sheets or Rolls – Most of the distributors stock the rolls. A roll is typically 24.375" wide by 10', 25' or 50' long. You can also get wider rolls like 42" or more from some of the manufactures.

Thickness – Yes you have a number of choices, from as thin as .012 all the way to .060, and though it is not always true, the thickness of the magnet does make the magnet stronger. Why I say this is not always true is because you can get magnets with different pull-strengths. Most distributors stock .030 magnet and I make it a rule to only offer .030 magnet material. I find this is a very strong magnet, it holds well to vehicles for door magnets and it lays nice for printing.

A word of caution: magnet material is heavy, so you should plan ahead with your magnet jobs. You do not want to ever be in a position where you have to ship a roll of printed magnet material overnight – Ouch!

I have made hundreds of magnets over the years, and every job is different, but the results are just about always the same. Here are the two types of magnet products you can offer:

1) Adhesive-backed vinyl adhered to the magnet material.
Now I like this for a number of reasons, including:

  • Just about anyone with a printer can make these types of magnets, regardless of the printer. All you need is a printer that can successfully print onto vinyl.
  • Both cast and calendered vinyl will work great for these applications.
  • You can apply cut vinyl to magnets.
  • If you make a mistake, you can peel up the vinyl and put down a new piece.
  • The surface finish can be controlled with the laminate you use.
  • A laminated vinyl print on a magnet is very durable.

2) Direct printing (flat bed) also has its distinct advantages:

  • A direct-print magnet looks and feels like it was screen printed.
  • There is no concern about vinyl peeling off the material.
  • Direct printing reduces the cost of producing the job.

Typically, if you have a flatbed printer you also have a digital die cutter, and this makes the cutting out of the magnets very easy and fast.

One warning about printing onto magnets using flatbed printers – sometimes the magnets do not lay completely flat on the printer, and that could result in head strikes. Make sure the bed’s vacuum pump is set for enough vacuum to make it lay flat. With some flatbeds I have had to apply the metal receptor to a sheet of Sintra or Dibond and then stick the magnet to the board and then print it.

I should also tell you that a lot of printers use flatbeds to print directly onto magnets, but some magnetic material manufacturers offer coated magnetic stock that you can put through your roll-to-roll printer and thus print directly to the material. I recommend comparing the price of these options with the cost of printing onto vinyl and then applying the vinyl to uncoated magnet sheets.

Printed magnets, for most applications, will need to be cut. Rectangles with rounded corners are great for door magnets, or die cut the material into various shapes for many other applications. Typically, car magnets are 20" x 16" and are cut with a ruler and then a corner rounder is used to clean up the corners.

Back when I had a large production print shop, we did a great (and very profitable) job for magnets that called for me to create a set of menu boards for a restaurant using custom die-cut magnets. The actual boards were made of .25" Sintra, and had nice wooden frames that we made. We covered the Sintra with a metal-based sheet product as a receiver for the magnets, and we applied a print to the top of the magnet receptor that had the restaurant’s logo and a “Daily Special” section on it.

Then we printed and die-cut all types of foods (lobsters, deserts, etc.) on small magnets so they could use them to highlight the specials of the night. Total cost for each of the 24" x 36" magnet board with the custom magnets was about $68, and I sold them for more than $350 each! We also did production job boards, menu boards, and so much more using the same process.

Very recently I got a job that required me to create a set of die-cut school mascot magnets for a school – but right now I don’t have the big production equipment. The client originally wanted a pack of magnets die cut, and I was going to outsource the job, but the smallest order I could find was for 500. And when the school offered them to the kids and parents, they only got seven orders – no school spirit!

Anyway, as a result I had to abandon the easy order and make them myself. I had two choices – print them onto vinyl and cut them by hand, or outsource them to my buddy and have him print them on his UV-curing flatbed and cut them using a digital die cutter. That was an easy answer for me. Now, since I knew I would be writing this article I went ahead and hand-cut several for demonstration purposes, but I wisely cut the rest using my buddy’s digital die cutter (see images).

I hope now, with times as difficult as they are, you will look at new ideas for your business, and I am sure that magnets will be part of your new selling solutions.