How long should a digital print last?
From experience, and the guarantees that are offered by the various ink suppliers in South Africa, it can be seen that the life of a digital print will vary depending on three variables. 1. The location of the print, 2. the type of ink used and the substrate that the print is printed on, and 3. the printer that is used.
Since indoor prints are generally protected from the elements of sun and rain, I will not discuss them, as they can last for a VERY long time.
Outdoor prints, on the other hand, are a very different matter.
Location: In southern Africa, because of the harshness of the sun, prints tend to last for a maximum of three years, depending on location and exposure to the elements.
In the above picture you can see how the inks have faded, and these signs were only up for 30 months. What is important to note is that these signs are located in the Sua Pan – a VERY harsh salt pan in Botswana, where they are pounded by the harsh Africa sun all day. These signs were also UV coated to protect the inks, but, as you can see, the colour has still faded substantially.
Inks and Substrates: Certain printers inks are less expensive, as are ‘pirate’ inks, and these inks tend to be less expensive because they have a shorter life span. The logic here is that the current substrates generally only has a three year life, so any inks lasting longer than three years are wasteful.
It is also worth noting that there are printers who blend their own inks in order to keep costs down. While I am aware of printers guaranteeing their prints for longer than three years, I have yet to find inks – especially red based inks – that will last much longer than three years, so be wary of any prints guaranteed for longer than the industry norm of three years.
Printers: Different digital printer manufacturers have different quality inks, as well as the printer’s printing quality differing. The result is often that ‘cheaper’ prints tend to ‘run’ or ‘bleed’ after a short time being exposed to the harsh African elements, creating an image that you should not want as a representation of your business.
At SignForce we use a Roland printer (that can print to 1,300 mm wide) with original inks. Roland has proven to have very stable inks, and even these are not expected to last longer than three years.
If longevity of your outdoor sign is important, while you may not get the colour match of a digital print, and the cost will be higher, you may want to consider flat colour, cut vinyl’s. These do cost more but they also tend to last about twice as long as the average digital print.
For further information on the life of a digital print or if you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VLAUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while considering any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, please contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.