If you’re one of the growing number of digital decorators challenged with applying vinyl graphics to dirt bikes, ATVs or coolers, you may have already discovered that standard vinyls don’t work too well on these kinds of substrates. These substrates fall into a category called low energy plastics. For customizing items like this, you’ll need something different. That’s why we added special HT variant to our popular PrismJET 203 solvent-printable vinyl. PrismJET 203HT is ideal for application on polyethylene, polypropylene, powder-coated metal and more. Offering a special vinyl for these applications decals begs the question; why can’t I just use my standard vinyl? I’m glad you asked! The short answer is; because it won’t stick. The long answer is a bit more involved. Read on…
LSE and adhesives
Certain plastics, including polypropylene and polyethylene have low surface energy. This property inhibits an adhesive’s ability to ‘wet out’ or bond to the surface. This of course causes problems with adhesive backed vinyls leading to weak bonds or failure of the applied graphic. Some low surface energy plastics can be flame treated or “flashed” to create a better bond with standard adhesives. (See our pdf instructions on Plasticade sign preparation for more on this process).
Recent advances in adhesion chemistry have produced a new solvent free two stage acrylic adhesive that bonds well with LSE plastics. These materials can be applied to smooth polypropylene and polyethylene surfaces as effectively as standard adhesives on high surface energy substrates like glass and aluminum. PrismJET 203HT is such a product. It’s an intermediate calendared vinyl, so not only does it bond well to LSE plastics, but it adheres to simple curves extremely well. These properties make it a great choice for decorating the high density polypropylene body panels used on dirt bikes and ATVs.
What about abrasion?
Bonding to polypropylene body panels isn’t the only challenge for sign makers wanting to sell motocross graphics. They don’t call them “dirt bikes” for nothing. Those things take some serious abuse. Your graphics will need some extra abrasion protection. This added toughness comes from special overlaminates used to protect your pretty pictures from rocks, grass, and brush. The preferred PrismJET solution is 238 Armor Overlaminate film. PrismJET 238 is a tough, 12 mil clear overlaminate designed to provide extreme abrasion resistance. It’s used on challenging decal applications like dirt bikes and football helmets. When used with PrismJET 203HT, it completes a graphics solution that prints well, sticks well, and wears well.