Are there any printers that can print on aluminum, 4' x 8' sheets with inks that will last 25 years in direct exposure to sunlight?
Obviously, a UV coating will be required, but I'm wondering if there are any commercial solutions for making prints that will withstand the rigors of Florida sunshine. Additionally, does anyone know of any professional printers (print shops) that do this? (Not necessarily sign printers).
Is there a particular brand/model printer made that one can buy that will print on aluminum and create an image that will last 25 years without fading?
Looking at a job of making about (60) unique 4' x 8' panels.
Are you talking black-and-white, or colour?
UV resistance, is one thing, but the other, potentially more difficult, issue is physical, chemical and microbial resistance - an outdoor display will have to deal with chemical attack by acids formed from dissolved atmospheric pollutants, varying temperatures and humidity levels, rainfall and potentially human hands, and will have to be amenable to cleaning after attacks by birds or bird droppings!
As far as I know, no current colour inkjet process - aqueous, UV or solvent - will be suitable for these conditions for such a long duration, nor will the dye-sub processes used by Imagewizards, Bay Photo, etc.
Carbon printing using stable coloured pigments are extremely stable, essentially fadeproof against UV light and are protected from atmospheric pollutants because they essentially consist of pigment particles suspended in hardened gelatin. On the minus side, they can be susceptible to physical attack, given that they have a slight relief surface over the substrate, and, uncoated, are difficult to clean.
Also, I believe Sandy King has done some testing with carbon prints on uncoated aluminium, with the result that, although the print itself held together just fine, the bond with the uncoated aluminium failed after a few months. Therefore, the aluminium would likely have to be coated with Gesso, or some other primer, in order to adequately hold the gelatin layers in place. Or you could form the carbon print on paper, then permanently affix the paper to aluminium - the final result would not be reversible or 'archival' in the true sense of the word, but may hold up physically for 25 years in a harsh environment. One must remember that, in this situation, if even one component fails, the entire system fails, and you're not displaying or keeping the print in ideal museum storage conditions!
Having mounted the carbon print on aluminium (either via a primer or by mounting a paper carbon print to aluminium), you would then have to protect the whole thing against physical attack, humidity, rain and biological attack. Sealing the whole thing - face, edges and back - in polyurethane, or a non-yellowing, chemically-stable sealant, could be an option. Again, it definitely won't be 'archival' - it's irreversible, and, once the sealant fails, the whole image is gone - but it will certainly be more durable against rain, heat, humidity, pollutants, birds, human hands and cleaners than any 'archival' process could ever be. After all, you need the entire assembly to last 25 years in a harsh environment. You're not after a print that will last centuries in a dimly-lit gallery, away from rain, birds and human hands, hidden behind glass.
Tod Gangler, of Art and Soul studios (http://www.colorcarbonprint.com
) is, I believe, one of the only commercial carbon printers in the world, and has done some large displays. Not at 4'x8' size, but quite large - and, I believe, yours is a one-off special project. He may be able to give you some more insight into this process, and the feasibility of using carbon printing for this sort of project.