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Today’s magnetic printable substrates are created using a rubber-ferrite media with an ink-receptive top-layer. Printable magnetic material is available in both pre-cut sheets and rolls of various lengths. For many years, 24" was the widest available width, but a growing number of manufacturers now offer wider materials.
One thing to keep in mind with wider media is that magnets are heavy. Some manufacturers offer those wider rolls in shorter lengths to keep the weight down. Make sure the roll-weight is not greater than what the printer’s feed/take-up system can handle.

What about all those metal parts in a printer? Randy White, director of sales and marketing for Magnum Magnetics, Marietta, Ohio, says some of these issues can be resolved.
“Many print beds are made of aluminum or other non-magnetic surfaces — it depends on the model. But in cases where the bed is metal, you can create a gap or barrier with a plastic like Lexan, chip-board or even tape to keep the magnet from hanging up,” White says.

John Kanis, director of sales and marketing for Cincinnati-based MagX suggests keeping the heat down to a minimum. “Turn the heaters way, way down on those solvent and eco-solvent type printers. This will help avoid creating distortions in heat-sensitive rubber.”

Printable magnetic substrates are available in coated or uncoated versions. A solvent printer, for example, will have no problem printing onto an uncoated vinyl, but coated versions offer better ink adhesion and higher print quality. “We have special lines for an array of printing technologies,” says White. “There are multiple laminates and finishes available. A lot of guys who are doing outdoor applications also laminate over the top, but that’s not needed in all cases.”

Another issue when working with printable magnetic substrates is color. Like any substrate, a profile should be created to get the best color results from the digital printer. Magnum Magnetics now offers ICC printer profiles for its DigiMag line. Their Web site lists specific printers for which profiles are available.
The thicker the magnet substrate, the heavier the stock and the stronger its magnetic pull. For example, a 12-mil magnet will have a pull-force of approx 30 pounds per square foot, while 20-mil will pull at about 60 pounds per square foot, and a 30-mil product will pull at 85 pounds per square foot.
It’s smart to choose the magnet thickness that’s appropriate for the job at hand. In general, 12- to 20-mil thicknesses are ideal for advertising specialties items. A 30-mil thickness is recommended for magnetic vehicle signage and should be strong enough to resist wind sheer at highway speeds.

Printers selling magnets for outdoor applications need to be aware of a phenomenon called “migration” that sometimes occurs when a rubberized magnet is left on a painted surface for too long. Heat and moisture can sometimes cause material from the rubberized surface to migrate onto the surface of the vehicle. When this happens it’s very difficult to remove, but can be easily avoided by regularly removing and cleaning the magnet and painted surface.

Industry insiders emphasize that migration issues are more common with magnetic substrates of lesser quality. Unfortunately, there’s no quick or easy way for the casual observer to tell which substrates are prone to migration. “I’m afraid that all car magnets will get a bad name because of migrations issues,” says Kanis.



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