The Advantages and Disadvantages of Printing on Plastics

October 23, 2015

October 22, 2015 – If you are considering printing on plastics with your commercial digital press, or you have been using plastics for years, it is wise to be aware of the benefits and obstacles of the most popular plastic substrates.


  • Advantages:  Good impact resistance, machineable, low cost, FDA compliant for indirect food contact, bright white, multiple opacities, formable, good general purpose use, recyclable
  • Disadvantages:  Poor solvent resistance, can become brittle, can crack under environmental stress, poor thermal stability, does not score and fold well
  • Common Uses:  Signage, packaging, molded applications, point-of-purchase, cost effective general purpose use, backlit applications

Polypropylene (Synthetic Paper)

  • Advantages:  Good chemical resistance, flexibility, recyclable, soft hand feel, scores and folds very well, FDA approved for direct food contact
  • Disadvantages:  Difficult to bond, can suffer from UV degradation, high thermal expansion and shrinkage, less tear resistant than PVC or PET
  • Common Uses:  Tags, synthetic menus, signage, package, low cost high clarity applications

Rigid Vinyl (PVC)

  • Advantages:  Excellent durability, easy to use, most widely used print plastic, resistance to UV degradation, good rigidity, low flammability (resists ignition)
  • Disadvantages:  Not suitable for laser cutting, not considered environmentally friendly in most applications, lower thermal stability, does not score and fold well
  • Common Uses:  Signage, gift cards, credit cards, general purpose plastic, applications requiring good rigidity, point-of-purchase, shelf wobblers

PET (Polyester)

  • Advantages:  High impact resistance, high optical clarity, high toughness, good chemical resistance, higher heat stability
  • Disadvantages:  Lower impact strength than PETG, can be difficult to cut, expensive
  • Common Uses:  Button panel, nameplates, packaging, high heat applications (heat stabilized varieties)


  • Advantages:  High impact strength, high heat stability, high clarity, very durable, formable, unbeatable strength
  • Disadvantages:  Often over engineered for the application, prone to stress cracking, requires high processing temperatures, toxic chemicals used to produce, expensive
  • Common Uses:  Nameplates, overlays, button panels, harsh environment products, outdoor weather-able applications

A manufacturing and coating center for digital printing substrates, Masterpiece Graphix offers traditional and specialty materials for HP Indigo, Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Kodak, MGI, and Canon digital presses. Masterpiece is North America’s first and only HP-authorized treatment facility for HP Indigo. The company also provides toll coating services for a variety of applications. For more information, visit the company website at www.mgxdigital.com.

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