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Everyone's a Star

A Bright Twist on Specialty Graphic Films

By Melissa Donovan

Specialty graphic films expand a marketer’s canvas. Today’s innovations allow for the placement of graphics on walls, ceilings, and sidewalks and unlimited surface compatibility including concrete, cement, or even sand.

Promoting a brand isn’t the only way to use specialty graphic film. Sign shops should also consider specialty graphic films in decor. Enlarged images of family and friends, digitally printed, and then hung—with the reassurance that walls won’t be ruined—are an innovative, affordable decorating concept for households, events, and more.

The Digital Evolution
Plymouth, PA-based Fleet Decal & Graphics evolved from a family-owned sporting goods business. Screenprinting and embroidery were the shop’s main offerings. From there, a plotter and two salesmen produced auto magnets, decals, and printed shirts. The business eventually grew to several plotters, a solvent screenprinter, and die cutting. In 2007 the shop made the leap to digital printing.

Today digital output accounts for 50 percent of the 15 year old company’s business. “Digital printing changed the way we do business. Our only regret is not implementing it sooner. Before our jump to digital we were limited to spot colors without gradients,” explains Brian M. Vnuk, co-owner, Fleet Decal & Graphics.

With a staff of 20 in a production facility just over 20,000 square feet, Fleet Decal & Graphics serves the Eastern U.S., but conducts business nationwide and worldwide on occasion. The shop expanded its original services thanks to digital printing.

“Before, when we used a plotter, a three-color job meant individually cutting three different colors of vinyl, then weeding, masking, and lining them. It was the same thing with screenprinting—three plates, screens, and prints with three runs through the dryer,” explains Vnuk.

Vnuk believes a large part of the shop’s current success involves a clean, finished digital proof. “The visualization invokes emotion and ties it into a product—whether it’s food, machinery, or services. The ability to show how that product is used prior to the final application is very powerful. It is really hard to pull that off with spot colors,” he says.

Fleet Decal & Graphics offers a variety of services including wide format digital printing, laminating, cut vinyl, solvent-base screenprinting, die cutting, screenprinted and embroidered textiles, graphic design, and fulfillment.

The shop uses a 64-inch six-color solvent Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet 9000s printer for digital work. Fleet Decal & Graphics purchased the printer because it uses low-solvent inks, is durable, and offers a high color gamut. The printer is powered by ONYX Graphics’ PosterShop 7.2 RIP software. Laminating is done using a Seal 62 Pro Series wide format laminator and the shop’s finishing department is complete with a Graphtec America, Inc. cutter.

Creating Super Stars
Fleet Decal & Graphics’ media of choice is Avery Graphics. It was Avery’s MPI 2611 Wall Film—formerly MPI 2601 Wall Film—that led the shop into specialty graphic film applications, which make up 20 percent of the shop’s business. Vnuk admits this is steadily increasing. “Customers request specialty graphic films because they spend a lot of time and money on product lines, graphic design, and corporate identity. They want them to reproduce brilliantly in the best possible way and stand above the competition.”

Not only are specialty graphic films an attractive way to stand out from the competition, they also help fulfill a client’s order, acting as a value add. Offering specialty graphic films provides more options and the opportunity to up sell a product line, which is something Fleet Decal & Graphics does regularly.

Vnuk’s company wanted to up sell product lines to customers and additionally offer specialty graphics on a consumer level. In 2007 was created. Users upload pictures to the Web and Fleet Decal & Graphics enlarges and transfers them into removable wall graphics.

“Rather than use pro sports figures, we use personal photos of kids, grandparents, pets, vacations, and graduations,” explains Vnuk. Popular submissions include recreational activities such as children in action during a sporting event or dance recital. Adults are also popular subject matter. One example featured on the site includes a man dressed in vacation attire holding a large fish he just caught.

Removable wall graphics are offered in sizes of 24, 48, 72, and 96 feet high; also referred to as compact, reasonable, life, and super sizes, respectively. Prices start at $28. Once a user selects which size they would like, they are given the option to print with the original background, knockout the background, or knockout the background and include up to two lines of text.

Life expectancy of a graphic is up to three years, with removability and repositionability up to one year. Avery’s MPI 2611 was chosen because of these high numbers. “We tested half a dozen removable wall graphic films and they didn’t have the level of removability we were looking for or the image edge would curl after printing and application,” explains Vnuk. MPI 2611 is a pressure-sensitive satin polymeric calendered face film.

Installation instructions are sent with every wall graphic. Fleet Decal & Graphics suggests cleaning the wall first with a damp rag and then allowing it to dry thoroughly. With the help of another person, lay the graphic flat on the floor and remove the backing. Stick the top part of the graphic on the wall and smooth it with hands or a card the size of a drivers license, working downward. Once the graphic completely adheres to the wall run over it one more time with a little pressure.

Big Winners
A recent order placed on the site was from the wife of a coach of the Shelton, CT National Little League Team. She ordered 16 48-inch graphics, one for each of the players, to be presented at the team’s celebration banquet. The images captured the young baseball players throwing, catching, batting, and sliding. “What was really cool was the intense emotion on the kids’ faces captured at that exact moment in time,” comments Vnuk.

One challenge that arose early on in the order was that the client did not have high-quality images of all the players. Luckily, she was able to mail hardcopies of the photographs to Fleet Decal & Graphics, which were then scanned. The images were printed on the shop’s HP Designjet 9000s.

Custom Decor is an example of an innovative way to attract customers from all of walks of life. The Web site is an accessible tool. Anyone can upload an image and receive digitally printed wall graphics. Those looking to creatively adorn bedrooms, recreational rooms, or even parties can turn to for fast, affordable, and easily removable decorations.

Fleet Decal & Graphics’ forward thinking continues to aid them in growing the company’s customer base. From screenprint to the digital age, this shop has truly come full circle.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Mar2009, Digital Output

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