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Imagine you’re replacing the tires on your car or repainting your home. You often have two choices — a cheaper option that will last short-term and a second that costs a bit more. However, the latter will give you long-term results. If you’re a wise investor, you pick long-term over short. The same scenario goes for the type of vinyl when it comes to different applications. Cast vinyl film and calendered are almost the same, aside from a few crucial differences.
Depending on the application, cast or calendered may be the right fit. Rvinyl experts are here to help you invest in one that will last for an extended period for your specifications.
Cast vinyl is the younger brother of films and represents the next step in the evolution of self-adhesive, colored vinyl. They offer a wider range of colors than their calendered counterparts because smaller casting machines make for more pigment options.
When vinyl is cast, this references the production method used to manufacture the vinyl. Cast vinyl films start as a liquid that’s similar to paint but thicker and more plastic. Next, a machine blends polyvinylchloride (PVC), pigments and plasticizers into a consistent mixture at a specific speed for a specific amount of time. The gooey mix, called an organosol, gets cast, or squeezed, into a flat mold known as a casting sheet. The casting sheet determines the final texture of the vinyl.
The next phase in the engineering process is to send the organosol mixture through several ovens to evaporate the existing solvents, leaving behind a solid film. The film then rolls onto a large-diameter core to add an adhesive coating. Made between a 1 and 2 mil thickness, cast film is a drying process as opposed to the melting progression of calendered vinyl.
Properties of cast craft vinyl include:
The casting technique creates a vinyl that’s thinner compared to calendered film. Casting vinyl onto a sheet helps it stay relaxed, creating a conformable, dimensionally stable, durable and flexible vinyl that holds color well. This makes cast films ideal for complex surfaces and applications needing a smooth finish, such as on vehicles.
Furthermore, because cast films can be produced in small batches, you receive a wider variety of colors and finishes compared to what’s available with calendered films. Cast vinyl is also the superior preference for complex surfaces that require a seamless finish like vehicles and instruments. You can also apply the film to signs and use it for graphics that necessitate long-term life.
When you want a painted-look on your vehicle without paying the ghastly costs of an actual paint job, cast vinyl is the best solution. As the perfect vehicle wrapping material, vinyl gives you a seamless finish that looks professional and clean. Because of the film’s air release adhesive property, your new cast film application can last between five and 12 years.
It’s one thing to know that you want a vehicle wrap, but how popular is it on a worldwide scale? According to Grand View Research, the global market for automotive vinyl films in 2015 equaled 1.62 billion revenue in USD. The U.S. dominated the global market in 2015, accounting for 35 percent of vinyl film revenue thanks to new technology.
Also during that year, light-duty cars dominated auto vinyl wraps, making up about 49 percent of the global revenue — which represents people like you who wrap their cars for an impressive new appearance. The wrap market is estimated to be worth $10.8 billion by 2025. Think of all the new vinyl wrap DIYs you can complete with your car!
Other than vehicles, further popular applications for cast films include:
However, it's important to note that cast films usually have an air release adhesive. This makes them excellent for wraps but less functional as lettering or decals. Components to consider when choosing a cast vinyl option are the surface of your application, the needed durability, opacity of the film, its adhesive properties and your potential cutting methods.
Known as the industry premium, cast craft vinyl upholds excellent properties that can remain as good as new for many years. It’s a unique solution for outdoor use because it can withstand extended exposures to hot and cold weather. The film also has a minimum level of shrinkage compared to calendered vinyl because the sheet, rather than the film itself, moves through the casting device.
Advantages of cast vinyl film are as followed:
Cast vinyl has higher durability because the plasticizers and raw materials used are of better quality. It’s also thinner, giving it the ability to conform to a substrate that has ridges and intricate curves. Cast film doesn’t keep its original shape and can change as needed. The less intensive manufacturing process even means it’s a cost-effective film for small productions of various colors, giving you a more massive paint board of shades.
Calendered vinyl, also known as an intermediate film, is thicker than cast, reaching about 3 mils in thickness. The measurement refers to the film without the addition of adhesives, which can add about 1 to 2 mils. The method of creating calendered vinyl begins by mixing raw materials like resins, plasticizers, pigments and stabilizers, similar to the casting process. Next, an extrusion technique takes the dry powder and fuses it into a lump.
From there, the material releases from the extruder and lands onto a sheet. Referred to as milling, counter-rotating rollers heat up to 350 degrees F and flatten the blob of powder. One of the rollers determines the rough gauge, and the other defines the gloss level and thickness of the film. The heated, steel rollers form vinyl into thin sheets, making it wider and thinner. It is a practice called calendering. The next phase is cooling, then transportation to the winding stage where the vinyl goes through a continuous pressure process.
With constant pressure and stress on the film, calendered vinyl pulls through the machine like pasta. It takes extreme forms of temperature to affect the vinyl shape, as it can quickly shrink back to its original form. Calendered vinyl film has a higher tendency to shrink when exposed to the sun or heat. It strives to retain a flat shape, which is why it’s not great for vehicles and other curved surfaces.
While the material can form into many contours, it doesn’t stay too long because of the excessive tension between the adhesive and film. The vinyl pulls away from the adhesive, which is the part that sticks to your car or another surface, as it attempts to return to its initial shape.
In contrast to cast vinyl film, calendered vinyl is best for when you don’t need it to stretch or adapt to tough corners. As mentioned, the material does well at retaining its shape but can crack and peel if formed into other contours. Calendered is ideal for lettering and smaller decals because its thickness allows it to stay in place. Other uses of the vinyl include:
If you need vinyl for short-term purposes, calendered is your best bet. It’s also great for indoor uses because it’s more affected by moisture, sunlight and solvents compared to cast.
Many people believe cast and calendered vinyl are complete opposites when it comes to quality — or at least that one is better than the other. However, they both are ideal for particular circumstances. Advances in the calendered manufacturing process make the film not that far off from cast vinyl. Measures are now in place that limit the amount of its shrinkage which makes it more competitive with cast vinyl. Calendered contains beneficial properties such as being:
The dense, firm characteristics of calendered vinyl make it easier to manage and to use for smaller applications like decals. Having a boost of resistance toward scratches, and being the perfect material for flat surfaces, calendered can be the right solution for you.
The evaluation between cast and calendered vinyl comes down to a difference in how the two are made. There is no longer a relationship between the level of quality each possesses. It’s not the quality of the sign that’s lacking, just the wrong type installed to a specific application. For example, applying calendered to a vehicle and cast to a floor decal will likely give poor results.
Cast craft vinyl is the best option for projects that are exposed to outdoor environments while calendered does well inside. Consider the calendered film’s exposure to sunlight. UV rays deteriorate the vinyl and adhesive, which can often lead to consistent reinstallations. And not to mention, it usually costs more to replace the second time around than the first application of labor. The sun can cause cracking, peeling and fading.
However, the cast vinyl film resists fading, the bubbling of sticky adhesives and peeling. While cast and calendered share the polyvinylchloride polymer, which is a basic and rigid plastic, cast vinyl can include additives to resist UV rays. Cast also has reflective aspects.
Choosing the correct category of vinyl ensures long-term profitability for your DIY or your company, and reduces the chance of redoing the installation after a few months or years. Never base your decision on cost. Instead, consider components such as the values and properties of the film along with its potential exposed environment. When you try and “save” money on a cheaper option, you will only have to replace the vinyl more often.
Now that you understand which vinyl is paramount for your task, it’s time to determine which kind of cast can give you the best results. Rvinyl has four varieties of cast films in stock including:
Rvinyl is all about supporting DIY crafters with the best of the best. We know the ins and outs of vinyl films and want you to get the most info to receive the highest-quality vinyl for your work. You can personalize almost anything you want at a fraction of the price of detailers and other shops. Our films come with a three-year warranty against cracking, peeling and fading. And not to mention, if you submit a photo of your incredible wrapping, we will extend you to a rebate program.
If you are dying to learn more about cast vinyl films, check out our additional articles that discuss more in-depth features, benefits and issues when working with various cast films. But if you’re ready to dive into your DIY wrapping endeavor, shop Rvinyl or reach out to our team of experts for more information.