“3M was founded in 1902 and was an early player in the graphics business, starting in the 1950s with 3M Scotchcal Films for vehicle graphics,” explained Jennifer Greenquist, inks and warranty business manager, 3M Commercial Graphics Division. “We’ve been making screen printing inks since the 1980s, added toners for digital electrostatic imaging in the early 1990s, and with the emergence of digital piezo printing technology, we began making piezo inkjet inks in 2001.”
In addition to inks, 3M Commercial Graphics Division manufactures translucent, opaque and reflective vinyl and polyester graphic films and flexible substrates that can be imaged using traditional solvent or UV screen printing, electronic cut graphic decoration and digital printing with electrostatic, piezo solvent, piezo UV and aqueous printers. These films are marketed under the 3M, Scotchcal, Scotchlite and Controltac brands, and many of them include 3M’s innovative Comply brand adhesive with air bleed channels. These products are widely used by sign companies, screen printers and reprographic service bureaus. 3M’s films and substrates are complemented by a complete line of 3M inks, toners, graphic protection and a range of application accessories.
According to Ms. Greenquist, innovation and a comprehensive portfolio is what sets 3M apart from its competition.
“Not only does 3M manufacture ink, but we also manufacture the film and graphic protection,” she said. “And then, because our extensive testing of product compatibility and quality gives us such confidence, we can offer a strong finished graphics warranted durability when all 3M products are used. With inks we focus on flexibility and durability. This allows printed film to stand up to the force exerted on the film, and our inks can go around curves or flex with a banner when needed.
“The 3M MCS Warranty was the first finished graphics warranty in the industry and is still the leader,” said Ms. Greenquist. She explained that 3M’s state-of-the-art testing facilities allow the company to test individual product performance as well as finished graphic performance and accurately determine expected durability.
“A key differentiator in our offering is that we manufacture the inks used in the graphic. When graphics are produced using the 3M recommended combination of products and to 3M specifications, the finished graphics are protected by the MCS warranty. The result is a range of balanced products that print, cut, apply and perform consistently,” added Ms. Greenquist.
Continual focus on customer needs and next generation technology are keys to 3M’s success. “In developing inks for digital printing, we work in concert with the printer manufacturers to offer 3M inks that are qualified and supported by both companies,” said Ms. Greenquist. “We continually look for and listen to what new graphic solutions customers are demanding. We invest a lot in research and development to help our customers achieve these solutions.”
3M Commercial Graphics Division will continue to focus its efforts on developing consistent, quality products.
“We’ll continue to focus on innovations in product technology, including the flexibility and durability of UV inks,” said Ms. Greenquist. “Specific to digital printing, we will continue to work with printer manufacturers as their technology advances.”