Mesh Banners | All Your Questions Answered
Banner Mesh is a hugely popular material for wide format print. It is the gold standard for building site branding in Australia. We have put together the ultimate guide for buyers of banner mesh touching on just about every question we have had in 10 years of selling and installing mesh.
How is banner mesh made?
Banner mesh is made from a polyester scrim (thinking lightweight netting) covered in a layer of plasticised (softened) PVC. The scrim lends strength to the material and makes it very hard to penetrate. The PVC coating adds extra protection and water-fastness. PVC is also one of the best materials for digital printing. The mixture of the two materials creates a very flat surface which has inherent rigidity. This means that mesh banners continue to present well many years after installation.
The density of banner mesh is measured in threads per inch. The more threads per inch, the denser the mesh and the better the print. The lower the thread count the more wind is able to flow through the mesh.
Outdoor banner mesh applications can often be a trade off between print quality and wind flow. In windy locations the print quality comes second to the ability for prevailing winds to pass through the mesh without blowing the fence over or damaging the banner.
How long does banner mesh last?
Mesh, or scrim, as it is also known can last many years even in outdoor applications. There are a number of factors that will affect the longevity of banners made from PVC mesh.
- The quality of the inks used to print it. As with all things, using cheaper materials invariably leads to a shortened lifespan. In Australia, most banner mesh sold is printed here where printers and inks tend to be better quality. Printing from overseas, particularly China, is often done with cheap inks which cannot stand up to the UV conditions here.
- The quality of the substrate. There are many manufacturers of banner mesh. They are of varying quality. Our experience is that there is not a huge amount of difference for mesh banner installations of up to 2 years.
- The climatic conditions the mesh encounters once installed. High winds and long exposure to UV can drastically reduce the life of mesh.
- The method of installation can factor in mesh signage lifespan. For example, mesh banners installed onto solid wood fences will last longer than banners installed on wire fences where wind forces will pull the banner.
- Moving banners can reduce their longevity. Banners kept in situ for extended periods tend to fare better than banners which are constantly installed and removed. In these situations banners can have the inks scratched off or creases can be created if not stored correctly.
As a general rule, you should expect around 2 years from the print of mesh banners. The mesh material itself will degenerate much slower than the print. After 3 years the plasticisers in the mesh will start to harden and it will become brittle.
How high can mesh banners be?
There are two limiting factors to the size of mesh banners. The first is the size of the printer. Printers can be up to 5m wide. When larger banners are required for applications like stages or building wraps then lengths may need to be welded together. Theoretically banners can be joined with endless seams but the second limiting factor is weight and the ability to move the banner for installation.
For most applications, banner mesh is limited by the size of the object it is installed onto. In the case of construction signage that is generally on fences. By far the majority of banner mesh that we sell is 1.6m high (or 1.55m after reinforcing the edges by welding them together). When installing banner mesh onto temporary fencing it is always a very good idea to leave space underneath the banner for wind to escape.
Are custom sizes possible?
Custom size mesh banners are easy to make. As long as the banner is 100m or less in one direction and 5m or less in the other then it is possible to make any size you want. Even when those dimensions are exceeded we can still join banners together with plastic welding.
Are custom shapes possible?
Custom shapes are possible however mesh is best in rectangular portions of some description. The only exception to this rule is on sloped applications where parallelogram shapes follow the contour of the fence leaving clean edges.
How big should your mesh banner be?
A tip for anyone that has never ordered banner mesh before it to make it slightly smaller than the object it will be installed onto. This is because proper tensioning is the difference between great looking mesh banners or banner installs that look sloppy. It is always better to be slightly smaller than the full size.
Is banner mesh flammable?
In short, yes, it is plastic and plastic burns. Due to incidences of fire on fence wraps, whether by accident or vandalism, flame retardant mesh is available. Flame retardant mesh is often used on government building projects. The flame proof treatment is part of the manufacturing process. Flame retardant mesh should not be confused with fire proof mesh. There is no such thing as fireproof mesh, just mesh that will withstand a naked flame for longer before igniting.
What can banner mesh be used for?
The applications for banner mesh as a print substrate are quite varied. Banner mesh is unique for its ability to have intrinsic flatness – even solid vinyl will not sit stiff like banner mesh does. It is also a cheaper substrate than many other substitutes.
How can banner mesh be attached?
Attaching mesh banners to an object will depend on what the object is:
- Attaching to a solid wall will require using tek screws and washers in the eyelets.
- Attaching to a temporary fence will require cable ties, wire ties or toggle ties
- Attaching to a building will require using pole pockets, poles and ratchet straps
- Hanging banners will require pole pockets, poles and wire or line.
- Banner mesh curtains can be hung with keder or rope edges in sail track.
What are the best cable ties for installing banners?
Most mesh banners will be installed on temporary fences so what are the best cable ties for installing mesh. For installations which will last up to 24 months without maintenance look for the following:
- Cable ties should be black nylon. They are the only ones that are UV treated and they tend to last much longer than coloured or clear ties.
- Choose a cable tie that is at least 7mm but no larger than 10mm (the eyelets are generally smaller than 11mm).
- Give yourself enough slack. We will typically take a range of sizes to an install and choose a predominant length based on the circumference of what we are attaching to.
- Check on the state of the cable ties after very windy conditions or after 12 months. Cable ties are affected by UV and they can easily snap. If you want to keep your mesh as long as possible make sure you are using every eyelet on your banner. Skipping eyelets will create excessive tension on the eyelets that are being used. If the cable ties break then it will create a chain reaction until all the ties are broken, the mesh is flogged and lying on the ground.
Cable ties vs wire ties
For long duration mesh banner installs it may be necessary to change cable ties frequently to maintain the mesh. On building sites this may not be a reality so there is an option to use wire twists instead of cable ties. There is a balance here. Cable ties are undoubtedly more maintenance than wire ties – they break over time and need replacement. Wire twist ties on the other hand will generally not break but their attachment to the base is so strong that in windy conditions the eyelets can pull out of the mesh or the mesh may tear. So instead of replacing cable ties you may end up replacing the banners which is considerably more expensive.
Banner mesh and wind
Wind is the enemy of banner mesh on temporary fences. As soon as even a small banner is attached to a temporary fence the wind drag on the fence is increased. There is no avoiding it but certain things can be done to mitigate the effects of the wind.
In most circumstances, the fastest wind a banner can be guaranteed to withstand is about 60kmph. This is not to say that all mesh will fail at 60kmph but consistent wind coming from directly behind the banner will put enough stain that one of a few things might happen; the temporary fence will blow over; the cable ties will fail or the mesh will rip or eyelets fail. These are in the order of likelihood.
If your project is in a particularly windy area then you should consider the points which follow this as a way of reducing the effects of the wind on your advertising.
Do wind holes make a difference?
We are frequently asked to create wind slits in mesh or in solid pvc banners. Aside from the obvious fact that wind holes only work in one direction they simply aren’t very effective. We also have to manually add the holes so they can be expensive.
Rather than ruining the look of your advertising, consider other ways of mitigating the wind’s effects on your banner. If you don’t believe us then read this study done at the University of Queensland on the effectiveness of wind holes (the holey version of wind vents).
It is a nice way for banner manufacturers to make money from you but in reality wind vents are virtually completely ineffective.
Different types of mesh banners?
Banner mesh comes in different weights, or threads per inch or effectively wind flows. However, all is not as it seems. The standard TPI of most mesh in Australia is either 12 TPI (250-300gsm) or what is known as premium banner mesh. 9TPI (230-180gsm) is also common and less so is 6TPI (200-180 gsm). From the sounds of it one might think that 6TPI might be twice as effective in the wind but in actual fact the difference is minimal. The difference in wind drag between the densest and least dense mesh is probably around 20% at most. Still 20% is quite a lot when we are talking about the risks of a fence blowing over onto someone.
Premium (12TPI) banner mesh, as most sellers seem to call it, is premium because it produces the best print result. The quality of the mesh itself is not any better than anything the other types – it simply has smaller perforations. As it is more dense there is less light coming from behind it which results in a more vivid print. There is less light washout which makes the printed mesh appear less faded. Premium mesh is best of intricate artwork and best at reproducing photographs or renders.
The drawback with premium mesh is that what makes it look great also makes it have greater wind drag. Greater wind drag means more chance of temporary fence toppling over or eyelets ripping out. Caution should be used on open field sites where there is nothing to blunten the force of the wind.
Standard banner mesh has nine threads per inch. It strikes a good balance between wind drag and print vibrancy. It is also quite a bit cheaper. We have found over the years that experienced clients favour 9 x 9 mesh if their artwork is simple. This type of mesh is only about 10% better in the wind than premium mesh but it does seem to make a difference on a lot of installations.
Air mesh, or wind mesh as some call it, has 6 threads per inch. This does not make it twice as good in the wind as premium (12 x 12). As soon as a banner is placed on a wire fence then it changes the wind drag exponentially. 6×6 mesh is the best option for windy locations but a lot of print quality is lost because of the larger perforations. This type of mesh should only be used for logos and simple artwork. Light washout is a standard consequence of this type of mesh.
Wind mesh should be considered if there is potential for temporary fences to fall over and cause damage to property. Fences should be braced with enough weight to ensure that this doesn’t occur even with strong wind gusts.
Can mesh banners be recycled?
The short answer is no. Mesh banners are made by combining two materials to create a very strong hybrid material. The base for banner mesh is polyester – which can be recycled or reused. Mesh is also covered with plasticised PVC (basically soft PVC as opposed to the stiff variety like you see for pipe work). In order to recycle the two materials they need to be separated. Material separation as a recycling solution is in its infancy. There is a process that can separate the two materials in banner mesh but that then creates a few other issues.
Recycling is all about material pathways and end markets for recycled materials. Just because there is a method to separate materials doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a market for those products. In the case of polyester, it is possible to recycle it back to PET (rPET) but at this stage no company is taking polyester recyclate and processing it to rPET.
The PVC in banner mesh is plasticised with phthalates, some of which are seen as harmful to health. It is not possible to remove phthalates from this PVC so in order to stiffen it it must undergo another chemical process by mixing it with epoxy.
There are moves away from using PVC as a signage substrate, particularly in Europe. It is however an incredible material for printing and will unlikely be replaced by anything in the short term.