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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Printing on Plastics

If you are considering printing on plastics with your commercial digital press, or you have been using plastics for years, it is wise to be aware of the benefits and obstacles of the most popular plastic substrates.

Styrene (Polystyrene or PS)

Advantages: Good impact resistance, machineable, low cost, FDA compliant for indirect food contact, bright white, multiple opacities, formable, good general purpose use, recyclable

Disadvantages: Poor solvent resistance, can become brittle, can crack under environmental stress, poor thermal stability, does not score and fold well

Common Uses: Signage, packaging, molded applications, point-of-purchase, cost effective general purpose use, backlit applications 

Synthetic Paper (Polypropylene or PP)

Advantages: Good chemical resistance, flexibility, recyclable, soft hand feel, scores and folds very well, FDA approved for direct food contact

Disadvantages: Difficult to bond, can suffer from UV degradation, high thermal expansion and shrinkage, less tear resistant than PVC or PET

Common Uses: Tags, synthetic menus, signage, package, low cost high clarity applications

Rigid Vinyl (PVC)

Advantages: Excellent durability, easy to use, most widely used print plastic, resistance to UV degradation, good rigidity, low flammability (resists ignition)

Disadvantages: Not suitable for laser cutting, not considered environmentally friendly in most applications, lower thermal stability, does not score and fold well

Common Uses: Signage, gift cards, credit cards, general purpose plastic, applications requiring good rigidity, point-of-purchase, shelf wobblers

Polyester (PET)

Advantages: High impact resistance, high optical clarity, high toughness, good chemical resistance, higher heat stability

Disadvantages: Lower impact strength than PETG, can be difficult to cut, expensive

Common Uses: Button panel, nameplates, packaging, high heat applications (heat stabilized varieties)

Polycarbonate (PC)

Advantages: High impact strength, high heat stability, high clarity, very durable, formable, unbeatable strength

Disadvantages: Often over engineered for the application, prone to stress cracking, requires high processing temperatures, toxic chemicals used to produce, expensive

Common Uses: Nameplates, overlays, button panels, harsh environment products, outdoor weather-able applications

Masterpiece Graphix engineers our substrates to be compatible with HP Indigo, Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Kodak, MGI, Canon, and other digital presses like yours. And if you need advice on production or the best applications, our digital specialists are available for one-to-one service and support. For more information, call us at 636-349-6401 or email our sales team.

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