The myriad choices magnets present

Magnetic Attractions

“So this is how the world works, all energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet.”
—Hunter S. Thompson 

The magnet has fascinated mankind for roughly 5,000 years—since the Chinese first discovered its useful properties for making compasses. A magnet can be any object that has a magnetic field. It will attract anything made from a ferrous metal, such as iron, steel, nickel and cobalt.

Magnetic Signage

The graphics industry has made excellent use of these unique properties to create a myriad of signage choices. Magnetic signage substrates—most often available in rubberized white vinyl rolls or sheets with flexible magnetic backing—come in varying thicknesses, including the most popular thicknesses of .012, .020, .030 and .060 inches. The strength of the magnetic attraction is generally proportional to the thickness of the substrate. Standard measurements for the pull exerted by the magnets listed above are 30, 60, 85 and 120 pounds per square foot.

Printable magnetic sheeting has made changeable exhibit displays possible. This trade show display uses magnetic pictures that attach to magnetic portions of the backdrop so the look can be changed regularly.

A big advantage of these versatile graphic panels is that they can be imaged in every possible way. Hand painting, screen printing and digital imaging all work equally well. Roll width is usually 12" or 24" with sheets also available in many popular sizes. Aside from the common white stock, many colors and metallic surfaces are also available. 

Magnetic products suppliers such as Magnum Magnetics (Marietta, Ohio) and Master Magnetics (Castle Rock, Colo.) offer a wide range of magnetic sheeting options in addition to a range of other magnetic products. 

Wow-Factor P.O.P.

Printed magnetic signs have long been used as removable solution for the sides of cars, SUVs and trucks, but an area that is increasingly making use of magnetics is P.O.P. applications. Point-of-purchase advertising has traditionally used magnets to hold signage onto shelves and racks, or with a hook attached, to use as a moveable sign hanging solution. 

Magnetic sheeting can be printed on a flatbed printer and cut with a digital die cutter to create small refrigerator magnets. (Images courtesy of David King)

Magnetic signs are also useful as in-store price changers, or for announcing sale items and names on building directories. 

Cut in strips, printed magnetics can be used for removable retail “shelf talkers.” Cut small to shape, printed “refrigerator magnets” with logos can make for a great giveaway item at the cash register of any retail store. Outdoor retail P.O.P. applications include magnetic “pump topper” signs that attach to any metal gas pump housing at the local station. 

Special stands can be constructed, using existing metal hardware, or even walls coated with magnetic-receptive paint in order to display magnetic graphics. The advent of digitally printable magnetic materials opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

And the power of magnetism can be used for more exotic display purposes. It’s possible to make a display that utilizes powerful electromagnetic fields to suspend a small object in space, making it magically “float on air”. This Wow factor represents a unique way to attract attention to a product. Magnets are mounted on the top and bottom of the product with opposite polarity to the magnetic force of the display. So if the top of the display has north polarity, the top of the object would have south polarity, and the inverse for the bottom.

New on the Magnetic P.O.P. Scene

I recently learned of an exciting new magnetic display product from Mendon, Mass.-based Visual Magnetics. While primarily intended for the P.O.P. industry, these non-traditional magnetic signage products could be used for a broad range of applications in almost any area of the graphics business. The Visual Magnetics Graphic System matches magnetic-receptive technologies with unique print media—allowing retailers to create dynamic in-store experiences that can be updated quite easily.

Traditional vinyl-based magnetic signs have long been used for temporary and/or removable vehicle signage. (Image courtesy of Jay Lansburg)

The system components consist of three parts: ActiveWall, a micro-iron latex primer that can be painted onto a wall or other surface; InvisiLock, a double-sided adaptable high-performance “substrate” magnet that will stick to ActiveWall primer on one side; and MagnaMedia, a paper-like micro-iron impregnated print media that accepts graphics on one side and mounts to the InvisiLock substrate on the other. MagnaMedia is available in different base materials including polyester, cotton, fabric and polypropylene; and comes in thicknesses from 9 to 22 mils. It works with most printing platforms, and can be easily rolled-out and mounted by in-store personnel. Entire walls in stores can now become changeable murals or advertisements. 

Other Applications

But we can’t afford to forget about traditional uses as well. Magnetic sheeting started off as vehicle graphics and they still are strong players in that field. Not everybody wants a wrap, despite their popularity.

Magnetic signage substrates is most often available in rubberized white vinyl rolls or sheets with flexible magnetic backing. (Image courtesy Magnum Magnetics)

Trade show exhibits now use magnetics for creating easily changeable graphics. The traditional use of magnetic tape to hold graphic panels onto display frames has been augmented with digitally printed display panels. Trade show booths can now feature changeable graphics so that the booth can have a different look every day of a trade show without changing all the panels. Magnets will stick to it, so spot graphics and photos can be printed onto magnetic stock and swapped out regularly and easily.

Museums can also benefit from magnetic graphics. Only a small percentage of a museum’s exhibits are on display at any one time. This allows them to be constantly changing what is being shown. In order to facilitate this we often create magnetic receptive permanent graphic panels. These large panels remain fixed, but sections of the graphics can be replaced using smaller magnetic panels that adhere to the surface. The main advantage of this is the much more attractive and permanent appearance of large exhibit panels as compared with lots of little temporary graphics. 

Care And Maintenance of Magnetic Graphics

1) Keep them clean (as well as the surface that they adhere to). Magnets don’t stick to dirt, only metalized objects. Clean with a soft cloth and mild detergent for best results. Ensure the magnets and the application surface are dry before adhering.

2) Store at or in a loose roll, not tightly rolled. Don not store anything on top of them.

3) Always store them with opposite surfaces touching, never the same surfaces touching. Print area should not touch print area and magnet should not touch magnet. This could cause the graphics to become de-magnetized.