Whether you’re simply printing stickers or printing large-scale wraps for cars, the professional’s choice for a durable product is vinyl. Far more durable than its paper-printed cousins, products using rolls of printed vinyl are designed to last for years.
There are a variety of factors at work when it comes to how long printed vinyl will last, so while no one can say exactly how long this material will last, we can extrapolate some estimates based on environment and use.
Calendered Versus Cast Vinyl
Before we get into environment and use, we need to understand that when it comes to vinyl printing, there are two main types:
Calendered vinyl is more affordable than its cast vinyl cousin. Calendered vinyl is manufactured by taking a clump of vinyl and running it through progressively smaller and smaller rollers until it reaches its desired thickness.
Cast vinyl is exactly what it sounds like. Similar to how you would turn molten metal into any shape you want by pouring it into a mold, cast vinyl is made the same way. However, the mold isn’t a 3D object. In this case, the mold is extremely long and thin, just as a sheet of paper would be. Liquid vinyl is poured onto the mold and baked. It is then peeled off, so another mold can be poured.
Cast and Calendered Pros and Cons
In terms of durability, cast vinyl has almost twice the lifespan of calendered. That being said, the cost difference can push someone to use calendered vinyl if they have no expectations of a long-life product. This can include things like product labels, seasonal vehicle wraps, vinyl stickers, and temporary signs.
Cast vinyl, on the other hand, is extremely durable and is made to last for years. It’s also far more resistant to UV, water, and heat damage. Its cost is more than made up for in the quality of the final product. As they say, you get what you pay for, and those looking for longevity will get their money’s worth with cast vinyl.
Lastly, cast vinyl can be imprinted with designs. Because it can be poured into a textured mold, cast vinyl can be made to appear as substances like carbon fiber or snakeskin, allowing for a wide range of design possibilities.
Factors That Influence How Long Printed Vinyl Lasts
Indoor or outdoor use is going to be the most important factor in how long vinyl lasts. Even the sturdiest vinyl will degrade over time, if left in extreme conditions. Heat waves, rain storms, high humidity, and freezing temperatures will all contribute to shortening the lifespan of printed vinyl. Does printable vinyl wash off? No–but the colors may fade in harsh UV light.
If you intend your vinyl to be outdoors for long periods of time, cast vinyl is a must. However, if your application is indoors, calendered vinyl may be more cost-effective with almost the same results.
Both cast and calendered vinyl can last for years—some estimates put the lifespan of calendered vinyl between one and five years and cast vinyl between three and seven years. In most cases, you can expect cast vinyl to last about twice as long, if all the conditions are equal.
Airmark offers a variety of vinyl types, including calendered and cast. We also sell a variety of machines to print and cut vinyl. Our world-class customer service and support team is ready to help you should you have any issues.
If you want to learn more about printing options and are wondering which is better between screen printing and vinyl, check out our latest article!