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Monomers and Polymer
Written by Trine Larsen

Monomeric, polymeric and cast vinyl, what is the difference?

If you’ve ever been in a sign shop to talk about your signage, you may have heard terms like polymeric, monomeric, cast and calendered vinyl. If you don’t know what it means, don’t worry Signs WA Joondalup is here to set the record straight so that next time you hear these terms you know their significance and what it could mean for your signage.

Vinyl is made from Poly Vinyl Chloride material (shortened to PVC). PVC is a synthetic substance, a type of plastic made from Chlorine and Ethylene. When these materials are combined, it forms a PVC resin also called vinyl.

Calendered vinyl.

Calendered vinyl takes its name from its production method. The manufacture of calendered films can be likened to pasta making. Stay with us, it’ll all make sense. Calendered vinyl is cheaper to make than cast vinyl, because there is no need for solvents or casting molds to create the final product. But as a result from the cheaper production, calendered vinyls do not have the same resilience as cast vinyls. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their uses. Calendered vinyls are great for many things, and we use them everyday for our signage needs.

When making Calenderd vinyls, the ingredients of the PVC is mixed and then kneaded. It is expelled through heated, steel rollers (like lasagna sheets) to form the vinyl into thin sheets. The process is where it gets its name; It’s called Calendering. In this initial step all raw materials are mixed including colours, and great leaps in pigments have been made over the last decade, giving our clients a wide range of colours to choose from.

The next step in creating calendered vinyl is called milling. This is made up of two counter rotating rollers, which are heated up to 175 degrees Celsius. The sheets are pulled into the rollers and flattened. As it passes through a number of rollers, the film becomes thinner and wider according to the designated vinyl type. Once finished, the film is cooled and then wound into rolls. The quality of calendered films range from low – intermediate, depending on the type of plasticizer used.

Monomeric vinyl

When adding plasticiser to PVC it promotes flexibility and reduces brittleness. Without plasticisers our PVC products would be brittle and would shatter when we bend or flex them.

In Monomeric vinyl production, small molecule plasticisers are used, which has more molecular migration, and as a result has a greater effect on the adhesive used.

Monomeric vinyl is a good choice for short term flat applications, such as 2-5 years indoor use. The problem with Monomeric, is due to the way it’s produced it means the vinyl has a tendency to shrink over time. The shrinkage is worse when exposed to sunlight, so therefore we do not recommend using monomeric vinyls on outdoor applications, unless it’s short term, I.E. under a year.

The price for monomeric vinyl is relatively low, because it’s easier to produce, and this fact makes it a popular choice for flat short-medium term indoor applications.

Polymeric Vinyl

Polymeric vinyl is manufactured using long-chain plasticisers with a larger molecule size that binds well into the vinyl. The bond created has less molecular migration than Monomeric vinyl and therefore has less effect on the adhesive used.

Polymeric vinyl has a longer life span than Monomeric. 5-7 years, and easily more if well cared for. The uses for polymeric vinyl are both indoor and outdoor, and shrinkage is at a minimum, even in sunlight, as the manufacturing method creates a more stable vinyl. Polymeric vinyls can also be used on slight curves, making them far superior to monomeric.

Cast vinyl

Cast vinyl is considered the industry premium vinyl. When manufacturing cast vinyl, the main difference is how the vinyl is made into thin sheets. Cast vinyl is made by turning the PVC ingredients, plasticizer and colourant into a paint like substance with the help of solvents. When different textures, like Matt, Semi-gloss or gloss is required, the paint substance will reflect this in the texture. Cast vinyl is then, as the name eludes to, cast into a mold and cured at high temperatures. Creating the vinyl in this way, means the finished product is in a more relaxed state, and therefore more malleable when installing. An additional bonus, is that the cast vinyl handles heat much better than any other type of vinyl. For more information about heat on vinyl check out our blog post.

Cast vinyl is a premium quality vinyl with a lifespan of 8-10 years. It’s soft, thin and flexible, which makes it the perfect fit for car wraps. Unlike calendered films, cast vinyl will not shrink, and if correct heat has been used, it will not pull back to its original form when stretched to fit contours of a vehicle.

At Signs WA Joondalup we take great pride in knowing our products and knowing exactly when and how to use them. With 20 years in the signage industry, we have a long history of quality signage behind us. We are also one of the few 3M select platinum graphics suppliers in Perth, an accreditation which is hard to achieve.

We take each individual job and determine which vinyl is best used for that particular job, making sure our clients receive the best possible result at the best possible price. In signage, it’s not about being the cheapest, it’s about giving value to our clients.

For more information and to find out what type of vinyl would suit your signage project, call our friendly sales team today on 9300 0254. We look forward to talking more signage with you.


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