Summer’s approaching and the Nevada sun is going to do its best to cook your outdoor signage like bacon in a hot skillet.
So we thought it’d be a good time to review the different things that can impact the lifespan of your vinyl graphics.
When a manufacturer prints the expected lifespan of their product, it’s important to remember that that’s under ideal conditions. And let’s face it, conditions are rarely ideal.
So while sun exposure is the most obvious factor, it’s not the only one. Lifespan is also affected by the type of vinyl, environmental issues and maintenance.
What you plan to use the vinyl for will determine what type of vinyl you use.
Used for short- to medium-term outdoor vinyl signs and graphics, calendared PVC will generally last from 3 to 6 years depending on the color.
Some pigments are more prone to UV fading than others. For example, metallic colors like gold and silver fade more quickly because the metal flake traps and holds more heat.
Standard colors are more durable. Out of these, red colors will fade faster than others. Black, white and transparent colors are the most durable.
This is the higher performance version of calendared PVC. The casting process gives cast PVC better dimensional stability that gives this material a lifespan of 5 to 12 years depending on brand and type.
This broad range is caused by a variety of factors including the amount of UV inhibitors baked into the material during the casting process.
Not all cast vinyl is standard PVC film, though. There are also cast metallic and ultrametallic films, which have shorter outdoor lives because of the metal flake content. These types of film usually last between 3 and 7 years, depending on the color.
A great way to mimic brushed and smooth chrome, gold leaf and holographic foils, these films actually contain a layer of metallic foil instead of metal flake mixed into the pigment.
Silver and gold chrome will only last for up to 2 years outdoors, while others last as little as six months. The stored heat will eventually blacken them, kind of like old silverware.
Advances in technology have created metalized films that can last from 3 to 5 years outdoors. Just be sure that you’re choosing “durable” instead of “decorative.” Decorative films are not meant for outdoor use.
Fluorescent pigments are at the shallow end of the pool when it comes to durability in the face of UV exposure. So while fluorescent film can either be calendared or cast PVC, it’s only useful in short-term applications.
Some hues can last up to 2 or 3 years, but the average lifespan is often much shorter. Fluorescent reds and yellows are drama queens and will fade dramatically fast.
These pigments should be reserved for short promos and indoor graphics.
Awnings and windshields are generally slanted on a 45° angle. Vehicle hoods are horizontal.
Yet most manufacturers stipulate that the lifespan noted for each of their products applies to vertical installation.
So when the sun’s beating down from a slightly or not vertical angle, it will significantly reduce the lifespan of your vinyl and will carry a reduced warranty. The expected lifespan is often half that of a vertical application.
While the vinyl may have an expected lifespan of ten years before it starts to shrink, crack, yellow or peel, it doesn’t mean that your pigments won’t fade. For example, solvent and ecosolvent inks are rated for 3 to 5 years outdoors. This means that your vinyl can still be entirely intact, but that the graphic will be completely erased by the time its life ends.
The outdoor lifespan of printed vinyl graphics ultimately depends on the combination of printers, inks and films that your shop uses. They’ll generally be best equipped to tell you what kind of life you can expect from your outdoor signage. Just keep in mind that they’ll likely tell you it will last “up to” a certain number of years, which means it’s possible that fading can occur in less time.
The climate in which you live will also affect the lifespan of your wrap. Even film manufacturers are aware that certain areas where the sun is so forceful that even the highest performing vinyls won’t last as long as they should. Many will identify these areas in their warranties or product data bulletins.
For example, Avery Dennison identifies Nevada (along with Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and South Florida) as “Zone 2” areas, which have a reduced warranty vs their standard warranty for “Zone 1” areas.
In Southern California, Arizona and some areas in between, there is a new phenomenon called “acid dew.” Basically, this “dew” occurs when corrosive pollutants in the air condense in the dew and collect on vulnerable surfaces, such as a sign or a vehicle wrap. When the dew evaporates, the pollutants are left behind and will eventually erode the overlaminate.
Before we pick the materials we’ll use to fabricate your sign or wrap, we’ll get a good understanding of what you want and where you’ll use to it to help determine how long you can expect it to last.
If you have any questions about outdoor signage or vehicle wraps, today and we’ll get you the answers.contact us