5 Things You May Not Know About Printing on Plastic

Plastic is an excellent material to utilize for print projects. It’s durable and gives print pieces a modern, sophisticated look. Additionally, items printed on plastic can be placed almost anywhere because they work well in environments with limited lighting and high humidity.

Although printed plastic offers these benefits, it is often overlooked due to sustainability concerns around recyclability. While this may be true with some plastic materials, those made from PET are recyclable; those from RPET include recycled water bottles. EarthColor has developed a process for printing on plastics called Earth•Everlit for use in displays, at point-of-purchase or signage. It is made of PET/RPET, contains no additional laminates or lenses, is recyclable and does not require any backlighting which saves energy.

Plastic is a good choice for creating unique print materials and, as stated above, can be environmentally friendly. However, printing on plastic requires attention be paid to some unique issues. This is why we highly recommend that you speak to your print vendor once you’re ready to start your project to ensure you get products that carry the best environmental attributes.

Here are 5 things that you may not know about printing on plastic:

  1. You can print plastic on a Digital or a Litho press

Only thin substrates can run on a Digital press while both thin and thicker materials can run through a Litho press. Running your print projects through a Litho press with UV drying has its perks – the UV lamps throughout the press allow you to run inks that are designed to dry immediately in one single pass. These capabilities depend on the equipment your print vendor has. We recommend that you and your print vendor discuss which print method is going to be used to achieve the best results.

  1. Not all Digital presses can run plastic

While your print vendor may assure you that they have the digital equipment available for any type of project you want to produce, be sure to discuss if they have the right equipment needed to print on plastic. Some Digital presses can run plastic, but some cannot. In some cases, plastics can actually have an adverse effect on the presses because some stocks are designed specifically for a particular type of digital press. This is why we suggest you check and see if your vendor has the right equipment.

  1. The purpose of the print determines how it should be printed

This is extremely important. You selected plastic because of its durability and its tolerance of different situations –high heat, cold temperatures, or wet environments. Therefore, be sure to consider where you intend to display your print piece and then determine the most appropriate materials that should be utilized for the project. For instance, outdoor signage requires custom fade resistant inks so that it can last longer in direct sunlight.

  1. All plastic runs are unique and utilize custom stock sizes

Ever notice that restaurants utilize printed menus as a necessary part of their business operation? But there is no standard industry size, material or design that is used. That goes the same for products printed on plastic. Not all plastics are the same and they do not all provide the same results. What your vendor may not tell you is that each run is custom, so your printer may need extra time to order the right materials for your project. Don’t be surprised if it could take as much as 2 to 3 weeks to produce your print project. Be sure to consider the time it takes to produce print pieces when planning your print projects.

  1. Climate control is important

Climate control is often overlooked as a factor when printing on plastic. Temperature must be managed when printing on plastic in order to reduce the risk of the plastic expanding while on the press. Additionally, if the climate control is not set at the right temperature and humidity level then plastics could take up to 48 hours (or more) to dry. As we discussed above if you’re utilizing a UV press you won’t face these obstacles.

Be sure to take some time to sit down with your print vendor to explain your next plastic print project and expectations, and to learn more about their capabilities. This conversation could make a difference in the quality, lifespan and recyclability of your print piece.

Are you interested in learning more about EarthColor’s Earth•Everlit? Click here to contact one of EarthColor’s sales representatives for more information on how we can help you.

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