One of the oldest technologies for making one thing cling to another is exhibiting some attractive properties.
“Size, speed, and customization are the most notable innovations for flexible magnetic materials,” says Heather West of Adams Magnetics. “To keep up with demand, high-volume customers seek bigger and bigger rolls. To keep costs down, the push is toward thinner and thinner material. Twenty years ago, .030-inch thicknesses were standard. Today, some materials are less than .010-inches thick. Correspondingly, the laminates are thinner, too. Some thin sheet materials can be treated almost like paper with binding and stitching. There are more choices than ever for flexible magnetic media.”
The future for magnetic products is bright, says Oosterhuis: “I think there’s a lot of growth at the moment. There’s no question in my mind that it’s a growing segment. It will depend a little bit on whether people continue to look at new things. People are not as open to new things because of the recession. We need people to fully understand what they can do with the products. If they get one good experience with the product, then it will really take off.”
What Does This Mean for My Machine?
Printable magnet has been around for quite a while, but print providers are known to keep away from magnetic media for fear of the unknown. Will magnet negatively affect my machine? Will printheads be damaged? What kinds of problems will arise during and after printing? Is the risk worth taking? No one answer satisfies those concerns because problems and solutions honestly depend on the machine in question.
While it’s true that print providers who are looking to expand into magnetic media may need not purchase any special equipment, a couple of things should be considered:
• Technically, wide-format printers and magnets have just one issue: Magnets will naturally attach to anything ferrous or containing iron, like platens. Magnet manufacturer MagX suggests covering those platens with chip board made of non-ferrous material in order to break the bond.
• It's also important to know that excessive heat will distort thin flexible magnet below 30-mil thicknesses. It may be a good idea to turn down the heaters on digital presses when printing on flexible magnet, and it might also be a good idea to ensure that pinch or guide rollers are down and functioning.
To address these concerns, some manufacturers have gone to great lengths to ensure ease for machines during the magnet printing process. Companies such as Magnum Magnetics and Drytac sell unmagnetized sheeting and handheld magnetizers for print providers or installers to use after graphics have been printed.
Ashley Ferguson is the former assistant editor of The Big Picture magazine.
Editor’s note: This article was updated from a previous piece that appeared in the March 2009 edition of The Big Picture.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.