Why PVC for wide-format printers from Obeikan? Print

I have noticed the Obeikan booth at many trade shows in recent years. But there are so many booths that it is hard to meet and get to know every single company in the world (at ISA there were so many dozens after row after row of substrates and media booths that even making a list is a multi-day task, and trying to figure out which is which is unrealistic).

Obeikan OTF frontlit, backlit, mesh, 5 meter
Here is the Obeikan Technical Fabrics booth at ISA trade show 2010.

But I gradually learned that Obeikan is one of the better known producers of signage substrates. I also learned that some of the leading name brands in North America and Europe were OEMed from the Obeikan factory. In other words, Obeikan is a known and respected producer of signage materials for many years.

Since thousands of printshop owners read the FLAAR Reports about grand format printer brands and models, I thought it would be an added service to also write reviews on the companies that produce substrates. This way all the labor of our FLAAR team could benefit our readers.

I have also noticed that most printshops do not have time to experiment with new or unusual substrates. Once they find something that works they tend to stick with it.

And every single really large printshop, and distributor, said that when they tried to import cheap substrates from Asia that the container loads often contained either leftovers or rolls that were not marked or rolls that were nothing like the kind that were paid for.

Clearly it will be a service to the industry to tabulate which producers of PVC are reliable.

So I spent about four or five days at the various factories of Obeikan, inspecting every aspect of the production of their technical textiles.

Frontlit, backlit

Obeikan offers frontlit, backlit, and blockout. They also offer mesh, truckside curtain material, and Stickmatic PVC film for vehicle graphics applications.

It is crucial to learn the differences between woven and knitted technical textiles

Obeikan was honest and clearly identified the difference between woven and knitted materials. Their engineer carefully explained that knitted materials are lower price but not as strong. Woven technical textiles are stronger but a slightly higher price.

Obeikan offers both knitted and woven and informs you the benefits and downsides of each.

Beware of other brands, however, which slyly do not inform you whether their product is woven or knitted (or do not tell you the differences). Most PVC from Asia is knitted.

Glossary of basic terms for grand-format signage materials

FLAAR Reports offers dozens of full-length glossaries as separate PDFs. Here we list only a few of the basic terms for substrates.

acrylic-based. Material from Heytex includes acrylic . This is a Gerrman company, but they are honest, they clearly indicate they also have a factory in China. But it is a bit surprising to see a company in the heart of Europe that is still featuring PVC.

backlit means the POP sign or graphics has a lightbox behind it.

blockout means a layer of dark colored material so you can’t see the otherside of the material.

fabric means woven or knitted material; in our case, a textile that can be printed on.

frontlit means illuminated with a light from the front.

media has many meanings in other industries, but in the inkjet printer world, media means a printable material that has an inkjet receptor coating added to the upper layer(s) of the material.

mesh is open weave so wind can blow through a flexible substrate; traditionally printed on with solvent ink in the past but nowadays with UV too. Mesh may be used for building wrap.

nonwovens, a film, meaning no weaving or knitted structure within the material. Film is used for indoor signage; technical textiles more for billboards, banners and large signage outside.

PE, Polyethylene, is a Polyolefin as is PP. PE is increasingly considered a preferred alternative to PVC.

PET, Polyethylene-Terephthalate. The printable media PET used by Roland in past years was the absolute highest quality printable results I have seen.

Polyamide resin, PA, a thermoplastic substrate. These nylon fibers may be woven to create a signage substrate.

Polyurethane. Spandex is a polyurethane, as is Lycra from DuPont (Lukkassen and Meidell 2007, Advanced Materials and Structures and their Fabrication Processes, is useful reading for many of these materials, though is not dedicated to the uses of these materials specifically for signage).

PP, Polypropylene, is a Polyolefin as is PE. PP can be printed on and/or can be molded and hence made into crates for packaging vegetables.

polyester films are widely used in signage, previously for solvent inks, now for other kinds of inks. And dye sublimation and disperse dye inks work best (or pratically exclusively) on polyester material. There are probably a thousand useful web sites on polyester and hundreds on polyester for signage.

PVC, Polyvinyl Chloride, known commonly simply as vinyl. Has chlorine (as suggested by its very name)

soft signage, means material that is soft, such as textiles, rather than “hard” meaning plastic or PVC or even paper.

technical textiles means material for billboards, banners (and tents) that is woven or knitted. When used for printing, the woven layer is covered on the top by a printable material, usually PVC.

vinyl, the common name for the plastic Polyvinyl Chloride.

Competing brands for PVC technical textiles

Every print shop has options of where to obtain their technical textiles. This is precisely why FLAAR has a goal to inspect the leading factories in-person so we can assist our 470,000 readers of this web site.

Obeikan OTF technical textile fibers for banners and billboards
This view shows Nicholas Hellmuth inside Obeikan Technical Fabrics factory visit.

Obeikan OTF reviews and evaluations
In this picture you can see the mill at Obeikan Technical Fabrics factory visit.

When you go to every major signage graphics trade show you will see the booths of each media company: row after row of them. So it makes little sense not to mention them. I list here primarily those in North America or Europe. Mehier Texnologies is a company I have never noticed at any trade show. I have never heard any industry analyst mention this company either.


Fisher textiles




Glen Raven

Verseidag Seemee

Ultraflex, a popular brand in America especially.

Obeikan coating line

The list of all the Chinese PVC manufacturers is a separate. This documents how many hundreds of PVC manufacturers exist around the world. This FLAAR list also reminds us how unrealistic it is to figure out which manufacturers produce high quality material and which companies are, politely put, a bit iffy.

To distinguish which companies produce the higher quality material, we undertake the factory visit to inspect the company and evaluate their potential. With Obeikan you are assured of a reliable company that stands behind their product. So inside each container you can expect to find the media that you ordered (not just left-over butt-rolls just to make the container appear full).

Media and Substrates at ISA 2010

Alternatives to PVC for signage, building wrap

Obeikan produces primarily PVC but they are also making available non-PVC material if you desire alternatives. PE, PP, and PET are the best known and most practical non-PVC products. To ask what new non-PVC materials they are offering contact Kenan Aljazairi, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

You can meet Obeikan managers and inspect their substrates in-person

Obeikan exhibits at Dubai, FESPA, ISA and many other international expositions. You can inspect their substrates and obtain samples at any of these trade shows.

DRYTAC VersaCoater - XL
DRYTAC VersaCoater - XL
DRYTAC VersaCoater - XL


Edited July 20, 2010. Glossary added June 1st, 2010.
First posted May 13, 2010.