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Advanced R&D lab drives vinyl giant Hexis

French vinyl manufacturer Hexis has committed 2.5% of its expected €100 million+ global turnover this year to its groundbreaking research and development laboratory.

   Adhesive coating line at Hexis Frontignan in southern France

The Hexis lab, led by director Christophe Baudrion, who manages a team of 24 chemists and specialist technical staff, has delivered a range of innovations in recent years including multi-layered cast film, patented anti-microbial film and a series of specialist adhesive variants to suit a range of application conditions and substrates, including flat, structured, tinted and reinforced adhesives.

"Our research and development laboratory is the basis for our previous success and mainstay to secure future progress,” says Caroline Mateu, chair of the Hexis Board. "We are proud to have received international recognition and multiple awards for our product research and development efforts. Hexis is committed to a continual investment of 2.5% of its turnover into research and development." 

2019 will be the company's 30th year in business, churning out 25 million m2 of film with an expected turnover well in excess of €100 million and a workforce of more than 400 people worldwide.

In October 2018, Hexis launched a new cast vinyl and patterned adhesive compound for wide format digital printers. The new product, THE190EVO - the ‘THE’ stands for Take Heat Easy - consists of a multi-layered cast vinyl with a newly formulated micro structured adhesive. The adhesive is solvent based and uses a new formula which, combined with the flattened pyramid pattern of the adhesive, makes the film easy to apply.  Hexis says that film will slide on the target surface and remain repositionable throughout the application.

The vinyl is a 50µm/2mil cast PVC made of several layers to achieve improved opacity, conformability and superior gloss. It is supplied on an embossed silicone liner, which gives the adhesive its pattern. Ideally the printed vinyl should be combined with the matching gloss, matt or patterned laminate for extended durability and long term UV protection.

The product is the first in a series to be produced on a new CAST4 - a 75m long casting line at the company’s manufacturing site in Hagetmau in southwest France. This site now operates two 1.6m wide casting lines in a dust free, air conditioned building hooked up to a thermal oxidiser for environmental compliance. Using multi-purpose coating heads, the machine can be used for casting and adhesive coating purposes.

The original manufacturing site in Frontignan in the south of France has benefited from the expansion of the two existing casting lines with the installation of a dedicated second thermal oxidiser to accommodate increased production rates.

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 A Lamborghini Aventador wrapped by Eye Candy Motorsports, Carrum Downs, VIC in HEXIS purple satin superchrome. 

Hexis has expanded considerably over the years beyond its core business of vinyl film for signage applications. Since the launch of its in-house production of cast vinyl films in 2007, the range of both marking and print media for wrapping and decorating applications has brought a steady increase in volume and provided access to new markets. The trend is set to continue over the next few years, in line with the increasing demand for environmentally friendly and energy saving products, production and installation methods. Hexis has recently developed several PVC free products that use a water based emulsion, thus reducing the amount of solvents used in production by 85%, whilst simultaneously achieving better durability than their PVC equivalent.

Hexis says it is targeting substantial growth in market segments such as interior design, retail fittings and furnishings and decoration. Other promising areas include protective laminates, textile marking and industrial applications such as paint replacements, anti-graffiti and anti-microbial surface protection on unusual substrates, for example, on solar panels and touch screens.