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Magnetic Signage: The Growth of Magnetic-Receptive Media

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at pgladych@gmail.com.

Magnetic signs continue to increase in popularity as the sign industry finds new and creative ways to use them. Car magnets, menu boards and retail wall graphics are just a handful of the uses clients are coming up with for magnetic or magnetic-receptive materials.

Mike Gertz, marketing manager for Master Magnetics in Castle Rock, Colorado, says that vehicle signage is the most popular use of his company’s materials. It used to be that a company would have to print an image on vinyl and then laminate it to magnetic sheeting but, today, a lot of manufacturers, including Master Magnetics, have direct-print options.

“It makes it more cost effective because it is faster to print directly onto magnet for vehicle signs, refrigerator magnets or calendars,” he says.

Realtors, plumbers and other professional service contractors are very interested in magnetic reminders of their services, including sports team schedules with their company logos on them.

Retail point of purchase displays using magnets are also becoming popular because magnetic graphic systems allow customers to easily change out and layer different graphics. Because the magnetic material can have a magnetic attraction to the metal parts in a printer, many people have turned to printing on magnetic receptive materials that they can then attach to magnetic material adhered to the wall with adhesive.

Retailers can make full wall murals this way that they can then attach different promotions to.

FlexIRON, Master Magnetics’ version of magnetic receptive material is thinner and lighter than magnetic sheeting and it doesn’t have a negative interaction with the metal in a printer, Gertz says.

A sporting goods retailer, for instance, could print a wall mural of someone hiking in the mountains and then layer on magnetic receptive promotions for backpack sales or hiking boots.

“You can also do more graphic design changes that way too,” Gertz says. “It allows for efficiency and simplicity for store employees. You don’t need a sign builder.”

While not needing a sign builder isn’t usually a good thing, this can be used as a selling point for sign shops trying to promote a retail display option using magnetic and magnetic receptive materials that allows for a lot of customization.

“We print all the materials for you, and you change them out as needed. You don’t need to call a sign person out every time to change to a new sign,” he says.

Gertz points out that magnetic sheeting is “more expensive than paper but, for the durability and ease of change and the different functionality it provides, it justifies the cost.”

It also lasts longer and is reusable. The cost is determined by the thickness, width and length. The thicker the magnet, the stronger it is going to be, he says.

Master Magnetics is now producing ThinFORCE, high-energy magnetic sheeting that is half the thickness but just as strong as the 30-millimeter magnetic sheeting that is required for outdoor or moving vehicle signage. It uses a proprietary formulation of higher grade ferrite material to create the same amount of magnetism.

“It is easier to work with, easier to ship. It costs less to ship. It’s like the logical evolution of magnetic sheeting. It reduces the weight like anything else,” Gertz says.

Doug Rummer, product specialist at Magnum Magnetics in Marietta, Georgia, says that car signage is one of the biggest uses of magnetic sheeting. His company also puts out a magnetic receptive material called RubberSteel. The biggest applications for that are restaurant menu boards and grocery store directories, he says.

It also is becoming very popular in the retail world.

“If you go into Macy’s or places that have graphics printed and mounted on displays, that’s becoming more and more popular. I see a lot of mom and pop shops getting into local gas stations. When you walk in and see several hot dogs rolling around on a cooker, the signage and graphics being used to show those food items are magnets. They are printed magnets stuck to the machine, whether a coffee machine or a hot dog machine or a cappuccino machine,” he says.

Most sign shops buy the material in rolls. For car signage, the material must be 30 millimeters thick so that it will have enough strength to stay on a moving vehicle. Everything else uses 20-millimeter thick material.

Magnum Magnetics also offers DigiMaxx super-wide printable magnets for standard 40-inch and 48-inch graphics, signage and display applications.

“If it is a unique project that might require technical expertise and something out of the norm, we will work directly with sign shops,” he says.

The company also offers printer profiles on its website, informing sign shops how best to use Magnum Magnetics’ magnetic material in their specific brand of printer.

Alice Martin, director of marketing for Adams Magnetic Products in Carlsbad, Calif., says that “the day-to-day effectiveness of magnet media and magnet receptive media is impressive.”

The industry is attracted to it because it is easy to install, the media is portable, which means it weighs less and is more cost-efficient to ship because it can be shipped rolled in tubes; temporary seasonal messages and flash sales can be layered on top of existing graphics; and they are easy to print on because they are compatible with most ink systems, she says.

Clients can layer up to three pieces of Adams’ magnet receptive material over a magnet base.

Adams Magnetic Products offers MegaMAG, its wide-format flexible magnet sheet that is available in 40-inch, 48-inch and 50-inch widths for signs, screen printing, P.O.P. displays, digital imaging and more.

“It can be used for most print media applications and comes in 20- or 30-millimeter thickness. It’s available plain, with adhesive, with white PVC or with white write on/wipe off laminates that can be used with most ink systems. We can cut or slit it to any length and provide it on rolls or in sheets,” she says.

Its ClingMAG combines two separate holding technologies, magnetic holding force and micro-suction holding force to produce a thinner and lighter magnet that addresses two potential challenges with magnet signage. The micro-suction silicon layer on the back helps to reduce magnet particle migration while it increases the holding force of the magnet, keeping it from sliding, she says.

MAGbond is Adams’ magnet receptive printing material. It comes in 50-inch, 54-inch or 60-inch widths depending on the client’s choice of white paper, PET laminate or canvas sheets. PET offers a brighter white point. The material works with all flexible magnet sheeting and most existing magnetic wall systems, she adds.

FlexMag Industries in Marietta, Ohio, offers a different take on the 30-millimeter magnet that can be used for car signage. Instead of laminating a 4-millimeter vinyl on top of the 30-millimeter magnet, its FlexCoat-EZ has a durable printable coating applied directly to the magnet.

“That accomplishes a couple of things,” says Steve McLevey, customer service and product manager for FlexMag Industries, a division of Arnold Magnetics. “It’s the same amount of magnet, the same holding force, but you don’t have 4-millimeters of thickness the vinyl puts on there. Instead of a 34-millimeter magnet, it is closer to 30.”

That helps with the clearance on wide-format printers.

“By eliminating the vinyl with adhesive, you eliminate the potential of curling. You are not marrying two substrates together,” he says. It also eliminates cutting issues. On magnets with vinyl laminated on top, the adhesive can gum up the blades. Cutting vinyl on magnet can also dull the blades so the vinyl will get ragged.

“With the FlexCoat product, that doesn’t happen,” McLevey says. FlexCoat-EZ is available magnetized or unmagnetized in a standard roll or in custom sheet and roll sizes.

FlexCoat-EZ works well with eco-solvent, UV, and latex ink systems. It also works with both flatbed digital printers, wide-format and screen printers. It also works well for both indoor and outdoor applications.

“You tell us what your printer is, and we will tell you the product that fits it. We recommend the products that work best with the printers,” he says.

FlexMag Industries has over 8,000 active specifications for magnets. They can be used for car signage, business car magnets, schedules, write on/wipe off boards, menu boards and more technical uses, like medical drapes, security, holding applications or sensor applications. The write on/wipe off boards are coated with a material that is receptive to dry erase or wet erase markers.