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Protecting Your Decals from the Elements

When purchasing a decal, you want one that won’t yellow or fade quickly–you want one that will last. Even though there are different grades of vinyl (e.g. five-, seven- and 10-year), images ...
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Cast vs. Calendered Vinyl for Your Cosmetic Decal

Which is better for your application?

Cast or Calendered Vinyl

Vinyl. It’s a word heard often in the graphics industry. Cut vinyl. Rigid vinyl. Roll vinyl. Calendered vinyl. Cast vinyl. 

What is vinyl, anyway? “Vinyl” is short for “polyvinyl chloride,” also referred to as PVC, and it is a synthetic thermoplastic material. The core ingredients of all vinyls are the same, but the manufacturing process and additives can differ.

The two most common types of vinyl in the graphics industry are cast and calendered. Both are used for cosmetic decals and labels including product logos, warning decals, and vehicle graphics. Designs can be printed onto the material or simply cut out of either type. While they look extremely similar on the surface, the distinctions between cast and calendered vinyl can greatly affect the durability, pricing, and final appearance of your product.

CAST VINYL

  • Widely considered the industry premium
  • The most expensive option
  • Made by liquifying and blending PVC with a solvent, pouring the mixture into a casting mold, and heating to a high temperature. This produces a thin gauge film, usually 1 to 2mm thick. The mold determines the vinyl’s sheen (gloss, matte, high-gloss, etc.)
  • Durable and flexible, retaining color well
  • Available in standard color options
  • Likely available in a matte finish, which is an uncommon request (mostly because a gloss finish is easier to keep clean)
  • Heat-resistant, which is helpful when applying to multi-level or rounded surfaces (but because the films are so thin, they can be trickier to handle than thicker films)
  • The ideal choice for complex or curved surfaces, such as vehicles, where a smooth finished look is expected and when long-term durability (7+ years outdoors) is required

vinyl

Cast and calendered vinyl can both come in an array of colors, although cast vinyls have a more diverse selection.

CALENDERED VINYL

  • Often referred to as intermediate or economy vinyl films
  • Made by melting the PVC, plasticizers, and pigment that uses about 50 percent less heat than curing cast vinyls. This mixture is extruded through a die and fed through a series of calendering rollers
  • Thicker than cast vinyl–3 to 4mm is the most common thickness
  • Prone to cracking and less conformable, with a tendency to shrink when exposed to heat
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Easy-to-handle during application
  • The ideal choice for flat or simple curved surfaces, low sun exposure, short-term use (up to six years outdoors), prioritizing low-cost

 

SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON

So which is best? That depends on your job specifications.

  Cast Calendered
Flexibility/Conformability X  
Long-Term Use (6+ yrs) X  
Short-Term Use (up to 6 yrs)    X
Heat-Resistance X  
Color Range X X
Scratch Resistance   X
Ease of Handling   X
Cost   X

 

An easy rule of thumb: Use cast for long-term use and calendared when appearance or cost is most important or surfaces are flat and out of the sun and heat.

Questions about which material is best for you? Get in touch at 260-748-0577 or sales@gographicsoutput.com, and we’ll make sure you get the best product for you.

Shawn Van Pelt
Shawn Van Pelt
Shawn Van Pelt is an accomplished industrial graphic sales engineer with over three decades of material and production experience. He strives to be a great partner to his clients and bring practical solutions to their graphic needs by combining his problem-solving skills, extensive industry background, and knowledge of the customers' needs. In addition, he's friendly, outgoing and very helpful.