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Eye Catching Creations

Beautifying One Building at a Time

By Gretchen A. Peck

The large format outdoor graphics market is holding strong despite economic constraints. As other forms of advertising falter, marketers turn to a selective, targeted, and impacting means to convey messages. In bustling urban regions, nothing attracts more attention than stunning building sized print.

“Advertising is shifting toward print as a lower cost, more targeted media and building wraps meet the demand driven by this shift,” shares Udi Nachmany, application and systems development manager, Scitex division, Hewlett-Packard (HP). “There is a growing understanding among advertisers on the importance of multi-touch campaigns, beyond traditional in-home advertising. They now see the value in reaching consumers in all aspects of their lives.”

Producing the Print
When large format print is hung, fastened, or adhered to architecture, it’s commonly referred to as a building wrap. It’s a term somewhat deceitful in its simplicity, for building wraps possess few limitations and are bound purely by dimension, environment, and budget.

While the spectrum of print engines equipped to produce building wraps was once narrow, today there are an assortment of devices well-suited for this specialized application.

Nachmany notes that three of HP Scitex’s print engines “were designed with building wraps as a primary target application.” The HP Scitex XL1500 printer is known for its versatility, productivity, and print quality, as well as the potential for a fast return on investment. The HP Scitex XP5100 printer is a UV-curable solution suited for both indoor and outdoor applications. The HP Scitex XP5300 printer is a five-meter UV printer with unprecedented ink coverage.

Mutoh America, Inc. offers several models in the ValueJet line including the ValueJet 1614, 1604, and 1304, which feature Eco-Ultra inks with improved scratch resistance, needed for maintaining image quality for outdoor graphics and signage.

The ValueJet 1608 Hybrid is an adept and environmentally friendly solution, which enables print service providers (PSPs) to forego costly ventilation systems and disposal of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), adds Brian Phipps, director of sales, Mutoh. The solution potentially enables PSPs to reduce costs associated with media, for specialty and coated substrates are not necessarily needed.

“Mutoh’s patented Intelligent Interweaving print technique is standard on its ValueJet line,” Phipps explains. “This technology allows for increased print speeds and virtually eliminates banding, creating exceptional image quality. Its increased accuracy and consistency of dot size and dot release during printing improves the image—in addition to increased dot-gain control, allowing for more latitude in profile settings.”

“The Jeti five-meter series is the most efficient product our customers use for producing building wraps. Either the Jeti 5024 or the JetSpeed XL 5048 is a great solution,” notes Cory Brock, director of marketing, Gandinnovations.

“Five-meter models allow customers to print up to 16 feet wide, which eliminates some stitching and sewing, compared to a building wrap completed on a traditional three-meter printer,” asserts Brock.

In addition to speed and resolution improvements, ink manufacturers introduced new solvent and UV ink sets with a durability guarantee.

According to Chuck Dourlet, VP, marketing, EFI VUTEk, the majority of building wraps are produced on solvent printers, but he foresees a transition to UV. “The five-meter VUTEk GS5000r is going to become a mainstay for building wraps,” he predicts. “The speed of the GS5000r is more than 3,000 square feet per hour—faster than the more traditional five-meter products on the market.”

“The GS5000r is not only a fast billboard printer, but a high-quality point of purchase (POP) printer. The standard resolution on our GS5000r is 600 dpi, but it goes up to a true 1,000 dpi, and features a variable drop that goes from 12 to 24 picoliters, depending on the print. You make that decision when you RIP the file,” he says.

“One attraction to UV—as the industry transitions away from solvent—is the ‘green’ aspect of UV solutions. They’re safer to produce. They don’t have VOCs. The carbon footprint is much smaller. It improves the overall eco-friendliness of the solution by moving to UV,” shares Dourlet.

Textiles—like in other cases of large format print—are becoming popular for building wraps. “Most solvent inks require a coated material for building wraps,” explains Dourlet. “UV can be used with either coated or uncoated materials, so it actually expands the range of materials.”

“We have a very large list of qualified products on our Web site,” reports Brock. The Gandi Approved Media Program is comprised of substrate options from manufacturers including Aberdeen Fabrics, Inc., Berger Textiles, SMI Technology, TEXtream, and Ultraflex Systems, Inc.

Mammoth Media
Founded in 2004, Mammoth Media’s roots are in jumbo print. The Pembroke, MA-based wholesale supplier produces billboards and building wraps for a national customer base of creative and advertising firms and property managers and owners.

“The term building wraps is really generic,” notes Kenneth Rowell, VP, Mammoth. “It could be a graphic that’s printed on mesh and then drilled into the face of the building. Now we have companies like 3M Graphics Market Center introducing materials that apply right onto a building’s concrete surface,” he adds.

Mammoth deploys an array of print engines from HP and EFI VUTEk, including an HP Scitex XP5100 and a VUTEk PV200. Most recently a VUTEk QS3200r was installed.

Today, Mammoth’s nearly 30 employees produce a slew of print products including banners, vehicle and transit print, wallcoverings, trade show displays, floor and window graphics, in addition to billboards and building wraps.

Print is often seasonal. “POP gets busy between July and December, come December, we look for other types of print to subsidize the workload. Building wraps tend to get huge play from March to September, when the weather is nice, and the advertiser gets better exposure,” attests Rowell.

Last February Mammoth started a job for Avalon Communities at the Prudential Center in Boston, MA. The building was being renovated with new luxury condo units and the Avalon needed a creative way to draw attention to it. The application was targeted to last two to three years, with some of the graphics changing out periodically.

Rowell recalls that pre-production challenges were immediately apparent. “It’s an all-glass building, so there was no way we could just drill in a mesh banner or stick a giant building wrap up without obscuring the views of the people inside. Another challenge was that the residential complex doesn’t have the benefit of height. Visibility would therefore be limited to street-level traffic—less than 20 feet high,” he explains.

An initial site survey included a photo shoot, so Mammoth could refer to digital photos and mock-up schematics of the building throughout production.

Results from the survey led Mammoth to design templates for seven types of windows, based on different dimensions. These were first done to scale and each window literally became its own image file.

The job was printed on the QS3200r using One Way Vision perforated window film from Clear Focus Imaging, Inc. The One Way Vision film solved the initial problem of obscuring the views of the building’s tenants. Media choice is especially critical in the case of building wraps.

Once pre-production consultation is completed for a building wrap, Mammoth receives the creative content from the customer or agency, runs it through prepress, and generates PDF soft proofs for the customer to adjudicate—ensuring that color, fonts, and placement are intact.

For the Avalon project, a proofing meeting was scheduled and attended by representatives from both the creative agency and the property management firm.

“We printed some of the graphics at quarter scale, some to full scale, and then installed them on the windows in our shop,” Rowell recalls. In total, approximately 200 prints were created for each corresponding window.

The Value-Add
Building wrap installation really sets this genre of print apart from its large format relatives. Besides the ability to physically erect a job of this kind, installers must be considerate of local zoning laws, weather conditions, and the possibility of disruption to a building’s inhabitants and passersby. While Mammoth doesn’t physically install the prints it produces, the company draws from a network of reputable installers, which the customer can work with directly or subcontract.

To excel in building wraps, a PSP needs to act as more than just a printer. Rather, it must be adept at providing knowledgeable creative consultation and be able to draw from a stable of expert installers, concludes Rowell.  

Dec2009, Digital Output
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