grocery magnet

Printing with Magnetic Materials

Bill Schiffner is a freelance writer/editor based in Holbrook, N.Y. He has covered the imaging industry for 25 years and has reported on many evolving digital imaging technologies including wide-format printing and newer electronic digital signage. He was the editor for a number of imaging publications and websites. He can be reached at bschiffner@optonline.net.

Printed magnets and magnetic signage have long been a great specialty business for sign shops, offering additional revenue streams and repeat business from customers. Over the past few years, magnetic media has also become much easier to work with. In the past, output providers had to print to adhesive-backed vinyl and then mount the print to the magnetic media.

But printing onto magnetic materials has evolved tremendously since then, and today working with them has become a bit more practical. It’s now possible for shops to take advantage of printing directly onto magnetic materials using eco-solvent, UV and Latex inks as well as offering cost-effective ways to make easily interchangeable signs for vehicles, retail and in-store displays, and wide-format signage.

Magnetic/Receptive Trends

Jim Miller, technical sales, Adams Magnetic Products, Elmhurst, Illinois, points out that the day-to-day effectiveness of magnet media and magnet-receptive media presents excellent options for sign shops. “There are a number of benefits for magnetic-receptive medias and the popularity for signage and graphics applications. They offer much easier installation with no professional installers required. Magnetic media is also more portable. Gone are the days of fighting to ship and deliver ‘hard surfaced’ P.O.P. displays. Now it can be done in more cost-efficient freight and more manageable formats, rolled in tubes when using magnet/receptive ‘flexible’ media.”

Miller says another benefit is layered add-on messaging options for either seasonal customers or applications where a “subliminal message” is needed. “For example, simply layer a '30% Discount' message on top of existing graphics, or layer key messages about a product. Lastly, graphic cost is another benefit. Today the sky is the limit for print technology and its flexibility; whether it is for use with UV, Latex, solvent, offset or flexo print technologies, a magnetic-receptive/magnet media is available,” he explains.

Systems Approach

“Vehicle signs, calendars and sports schedules will always be at the top of the trends list for printing on magnetic sheeting every year,” comments Mike Gertz, marketing manager, Master Magnetics, Castle Rock, Colorado. “Magnetic graphics systems have seen a noticeable increase in demand in recent years. The combination of printable magnetic and magnetic-receptive sheeting has become popular because the system is versatile, cost effective and easy to use. The system provides vibrant, attention-getting color and works for small applications such as restaurant menus, P.O.P. displays, and store aisle directories, as well as large full-wall murals. One main reason for the increasing use of magnetic graphic systems is the ability to easily change out variable information or graphic elements without changing the entire graphic,” he adds.

Big Push for Retail Applications

Jim Cirigliano, marketing manager at Magnum Magnetics in Marietta, Ohio, says there’s a big push right now to use magnet and magnet-receptive media in retail signage such as menu boards, in-store wall graphics and P.O.P. displays. “These systems allow retailers to easily change out their graphics for different day parts or seasonal offerings.”

Cirigliano explains that these systems comprise two parts: magnetic-receptive media and printable magnet sheeting. “Printable magnetic sheeting is the magnetic media many printers are already familiar with, and consists of a rubber-based thin magnet with a printable surface layer that can be fed through a printer. Magnetic-receptive media looks similar, but is designed to mimic the properties of steel that make magnets stick to it. In other words, magnetic-receptive media won’t stick to metal—instead, other magnets stick to it.”

Cirigliano says as these systems are being used for larger and more prominent displays in retail settings, the wider-format media has become more popular because it allows for large graphics to be printed on fewer individual pieces, thus creating fewer seams when installed. “In addition, retailers are counting on their in-store graphics to be eye-catching and of flawless quality,” he says, “meaning printers are expecting high image quality and consistency of the magnetic media from batch to batch.”

Vehicle Graphics Driving Business

Melissa Cannon, sales and customer service representative at Ads On Magnets, Castle Rock, Colorado, a division of Master Magnetics, reports that the biggest trends in the magnetic signage market that she is seeing is for vehicle magnets, food and beverage, and industrial labels. “Our largest demand is for vehicle magnets. End-users put logo and contact information for their company, and they prefer the versatility of magnets rather than stickers.”

Cannon reports they have fulfilled several orders recently for breweries and restaurants that use magnetic signage to label taps and dispenser handles. “These clients use the magnets interchangeably so they are able to easily remove and replace the magnets in a sterile environment. The durability of the magnets also rivals that of ordinary stickers or labels. Magnetic signage is superior to stickers in the food and beverage industry because they are more resilient to various conditions such as fluctuating temperatures,” she points out.

A Welcome Addition to the P.O.P. World

“From the onset of the magnetic-receptive print films the choices of using magnetics to solve needs in the P.O.P. world has been a welcome addition,” says Joe Deetz, president/CEO, Visual Magnetics, Mendon, Massachusetts. Visual Magnetics is a materials innovation company that has been transforming walls and surfaces since Deetz invented "magnetic paint" in 1992. In 2007, the company introduced MagnaMedia, the world’s first magnetic-receptive print media. MagnaMedia is a component of the award winning Visual Magnetics Graphic System, which is used by more than 300 retailers as a cost-effective solution for in-store graphics.

“The magnetic-receptive medias are lighter and perform better than their older cousin, the printable magnet sheet. They come in a variety of materials from polyester to polypropylene, canvas and fabric wall coverings. You can layer the materials with ease and change out the image without hiring an installer,” Deetz says.

Printing Directly Onto Magnetic Materials

Cirigliano says that printing direct to the media is the way to go and printing to vinyl and overlaminating on top of magnetic sheeting is a completely unnecessary step. “Print technology is allowing shops to output directly to the media and is an easy transition to make that will save time and money right away, without adding equipment or processes. Ultimately, printing direct provides cost savings, fewer lamination issues and overall better vehicle signs.”

He explains that both the vinyl that a shop is buying to print on and the labor you’re paying to apply the vinyl to the magnet during your production process add costs to you. “Not only that, but the extra step and additional handling increases opportunities for a costly error to occur. There are major cost savings in letting the magnet manufacturer apply the printable surface to the magnetic sheeting at the factory, allowing users to simply print directly to the completed media.”

Other Benefits

Cirigliano adds that strange things can occur when you laminate vinyl over vinyl, especially when one or both of those vinyls is coated. “Most often the issue is the two vinyls don’t bond well to each other, which can result in the top layer de-laminating. Printing directly to magnets constructed at the factory with means-tested laminates for printing applications allows you to avoid this risk.”

He also points out that printing directly to the magnet is especially important for vehicle signs. “Outdoors, temperature changes and the elements can pull and shrink an extra layer of vinyl if you apply one, pulling the edges of the magnet up slightly. On a fridge this might not be a big deal, but on a vehicle, even a slight curl gives dirt, moisture, road salt and other debris a place to get underneath, lifting the magnet slightly off of the vehicle’s metal surface. This ‘air gap’ gives the wind rushing over a fast-moving vehicle something to catch, which is sometimes enough to pull the magnet off of the vehicle. For this reason, we strongly recommend printing directly to outdoor-rated printable magnets for vehicle signs,” he explains.

Print and Ink Options

Cirigliano explains that the other benefit from printing direct is that shops can take advantage of printing onto today’s magnetic materials using eco-solvent, UV-cure and Latex printing processes. He adds that their products offered are “optimized” for particular ink types.

“We sell a standard, ‘go-to’ product that works great for most solvent, eco-solvent, UV and Latex printers, but there are also magnetic media products that are optimized for specific press or ink types. For example, our new MuscleMag Latex product is specially designed to work with latex inks and carries HP’s certification for use with their 300 series of Latex printers. We’ve also got special products that work with certain laser/toner based machines that aren’t compatible with magnetized media: un-magnetized sheets that can be magnetized post-print. Plus there are variations of magnetic media that work best with offset printing, screen printing, and other processes.”

Working with Optimized Inks

Gertz says most printable magnetic topcoats for solvent, eco-solvent, UV and Latex inks are vinyl or a coating receptive to these ink types. “Aqueous inks can print direct to magnet that has a paper topcoat or one that’s designed to be receptive to aqueous inks. These graphics would need to be laminated to protect from handling or if using outdoors.”

Cannon reports that they use an eco-solvent ink to print directly to their flexible magnets. “This ink does not smear, run, or change in any way after printing. There is no dry time so we never have to worry about handling the magnets after they are printed. The eco-solvent ink is also outdoor and marine-rated, which is very beneficial for car magnets and other magnets intended to be in various conditions, including under water and in direct sunlight.”

She adds that the magnet material responds very well to the eco-solvent ink that we use. “The piece looks complete, accurate in color, and is able to handle detailed artwork.”

Magnetic Media Going Wide

Miller says that they offer products in this area especially for wide-format applications. “MegaMAG is Adams Magnetic Products’ wide-format direct print flexible magnet sheet, available in both 40- and 48-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 mil thickness. It’s available plain, with adhesive or with white PVC that works with most ink systems. We can cut or slit it to any length, and provide it on rolls or in sheets.”

He adds that MegaMAG product works well with MAGbond magnet-receptive product, allowing designers the ability to create a seamless display measuring 60 inches wide. “MAGbond is our magnet-receptive printable material. It comes 50-, 54- or 60-inches wide, in 10 mil PET or 13 mil Art Paper laminate that can be used with most ink systems. It works in combination with all flexible magnet sheet and most existing magnetic wall systems,” Miller concludes.

Magnetic-Receptive Projects

Deetz says it’s very important to educate your clients on the benefits that magnetic-receptive print medias will give: the tremendous flexibility and ease of change as well as cost savings. He reports that they recently completed some interesting projects for a wide variety of clients, including the UNICEF "70 Years for Every Child" exhibit now on display at UNICEF’s global headquarters in New York City, which features stories and images curated from seven decades of working for children.

Michelle Siegel, brand development specialist at UNICEF, New York, New York, says that the Visual Magnetics (VM) system was selected because it was ideally suited for the graphic design requirements of the exhibit, and it can be efficiently changed for future exhibitions.

“The installation of the exhibit using VM upgrades the UNICEF visitors’ center for future exhibits,” says Siegel. “The dynamic system will allow UNICEF to use highly visible exhibition wall space to feature engaging and informative content about children.”

The VM system was also recently at Day’s Jewelers, a full-service jewelry store, with locations in Maine and New Hampshire. At the company’s new 5,400 square foot Topsham, Maine, location, Day’s Jewelers wanted graphics that were changeable, could easily be stored in a library-style catalog, and would gracefully promote the high-end jewelry brands they sell. The newest location has a store design that celebrates the Maine coast via a nautical theme. The new store features changeable imagery printed on Visual Magnetics’ MagnaMedia collection of magnetic-receptive media. He adds that Day’s Jewelers has also installed Visual Magnetics’ graphics in four other store locations.