Tips to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Inexpensive Foam PVC Sheet

Posted in Sign & Display
Tips to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Inexpensive Foam PVC Sheet
By Anthony Martin, Business Unit Manager Industrial Plastics Division

Manufacturer tolerances are a necessary part of the print substrate business. Some manufacturers have tighter tolerances than others. Top quality manufacturers maintain ISO quality assurance certification throughout their company to help ensure consistent production quality and supply. If you’re buying the cheapest product, it may be costing you elsewhere. 

Inconsistent dimensional uniformity can have unforeseen effects that can result in poor quality output, lost production time, and added material cost. Problems are compounded if your project requires 2-sided printing and problems don’t appear until the second surface is printed. In this article, we will show you what to look for and where problems typically occur. 

Inconsistent Thickness 

Printer operators should always gauge the media thickness in every media batch received in order to protect printer heads from damage, and set the printing height to the highest point of the media. 

If sheet thickness varies widely across the sheet, image quality will suffer greatly. Ink jet technology is very precise, and wide thickness variations on the surface cause ink droplets to impact the surface at different distances and velocities, resulting in dot density variations and inconsistent coverage. 


Furthermore, if sheet thickness varies from sheet to sheet, additional calibration will be required, or print quality will suffer. The visual result may create out-of-focus details, smeared areas of color, uneven ink spread and more.

Contaminants/Inconsistent Raw Material Bends

Problems with raw material blend or excessive use of “re-grind” (recycled material) can manifest in a variety of ways, most notably sheet density and consistency. The sheets might also have specs that show up after printing or cutting. 

Manufacturing PVC is like baking a cake. It requires a well-tested recipe, precision ingredient measurements and mixing, and consistency, from compounding all the way through the extrusion line. And like a great cake, quality PVC requires a great “baker.” Buying from quality manufacturers should help avert problems.

Out-of-square Edges

If your print application requires a square edge, don’t assume the edges of the sheets are square. Out-of-square issues are compounded if your project requires 2-sided printing and problems don’t appear until the second surface is printed; registration will be off.

If needed, re-cut them or use a router table to square the sheet(s) prior to printing. For larger jobs that require many sheets, you can request precisely-squared sheets from your distributor. There may be an added charge.


Printer vacuum table pressure can usually flatten sheets prior to printing, but when the vacuum pressure is removed, the waviness will return. Wavy sheets can also cause print head damage. Sheets should be fully supported when stored, and flat & smooth when used.

Invisible Fingerprints and Surface Stains

If your substrate arrives without a protective film on the surface, there is a chance that the sheet has been handled by workers at the factory or your distributor, which could result in fingerprints or residue that are invisible until the sheet is printed.

To avoid waste, thoroughly clean the sheets prior to printing. Better yet, avoid the problem altogether by using a sheet with protective masking in place.


Surface Scratches

Surface scratches can also be difficult to see prior to printing, but easily noticed after printing. Most scratching and abrasion can be avoided if the sheet has a protective polyethylene mask in place.

Surface or Internal Voids

Foam PVC is “foamed” during production. Problems can occur if the foaming process is not carefully controlled and monitored. Voids can develop on the surface, as well as within the sheet itself.

Panel Rigidity 

Sheet density can affect rigidity and strength. Cheaper panels are less dense, which helps lower cost, however, it could result in reduced structural strength and a softer surface, which typically leads to increased breakage or surface scratching.


Wrapping Up 

You can better ensure success by specifying a trusted brand with ISO manufacturing certification and a reputation for consistent quality. Just as important, select a responsive manufacturer who will stand behind their products! 

Palram maintains ISO 9001 certification and has been manufacturing PVC products since 1963. Palram is the trusted supplier to many of the world’s most advanced printer OEMs for their print demo rooms and trade show demos, including HP, Canon Solutions America, Agfa, EFI, Roland, Mutoh and others. PALIGHT® is available from a variety of responsive and service-oriented sign & display product distributors in North America and around the world.

About Palram Americas

Palram Americas is an end-to-end, state-of-the-art thermoplastics manufacturer based in the Lehigh Valley, PA. For 60 years, Palram has provided high-quality polycarbonate & PVC solutions used in countless markets spanning construction and architecture, sign and display, agriculture, safety & security, transportation, DIY and outdoor living.

Whether you’re a contractor, fabricator, designer, architect, printer, or even a homeowner interested in DIY projects, Palram’s range of polycarbonate and PVC solutions will help transform your vision into reality. Together, we will build on.

To learn more about Palram’s PALIGHT product line, see here

Follow Palram Americas on social media: 

  1. Facebook
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Instagram
  4. YouTube
  5. Pinterest