"Vehicle wraps are a definite craze right now," comments Trevor Kräcker, of Highet Kräcker Design. Kräcker’s NC-based business is 60 percent vehicle wrapping. Many sign shop owners like Kräcker pushed full speed ahead into wraps, giving their customers an easy, inexpensive, mobile way to promote their product. Of course it isn’t just the sign shops themselves that fully support the customer, they have the support of both the print manufacturer and media suppliers.
Many players in the print industry like EFI, Gerber Scientific Products, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Mimaki USA, Mutoh America Inc, and Roland DGA Corporation are all promoting printers that are accessible to a range of sign shop owners and are ideal for wrap media.
Gerber Scientific’s EDGE FX is labeled by Gary Soltoff, Gerber’s thermal product manager, as a perfect fit for sign shops who are just going digital. "The proven technology allows customers to print, cut, and apply vehicle graphics immediately without concern for color management, dry time, or handling issues." Thanks to Gerber’s Matched Technology System (MTS), Gerber integrates the equipment, software, and materials so the output is right every time.
HP offers a variety of printers suitable for the outdoor printing market, more specifically its Scitex TJ8300, XL1500, and XL1200 models. "The HP Scitex TJ8300 is one of the fastest wide format digital presses available on the market," explains Itai Halevy, director, Global Marketing and Business Development for HP Scitex. He continues, "with a print speed of up to 400 square meters per hour—4,305 square feet—at POP/POS quality, printers can meet advertisers’ challenging demands and grow their businesses." Both the HP Scitex XL1500 and 1200 are a bit more versatile in that they are offered in 2- , 3- , and 5-meter models. Another attractive feature is that both models can print on a variety of substrates including, PVC materials, textiles, Tyvek, and self-adhesive vinyl.
Steve Urmano, product manager for Mimaki USA, expects to see a lot of the company’s user base transferring to its newest product, the JV5. "Since 2003 the JV3 has had a large base of followers. There are close to 3,000 in use in the U.S., so JV3s are doing a majority of the vehicle wraps in the country. With a new twist on an old favorite, the JV5 has a production time of seven times faster than the JV3—promising more output in less time," Urmano states.
The Mimaki JV3 is clearly a favorite at SkinzWraps, Inc. in Dallas, TX. Peter C. Salaverry, chairman and CEO of the company, whose primary output is vehicle wraps, is adamant when he says, "The print division only uses Mimaki printers. Right now they have three JV3 SPs going non-stop and they just got their fourth. These printers are the best printers hands down."
Randy Anderson, program manager for Mutoh America Inc., explains that most of their printers are used to print vehicle wraps, from their Falcon Jr. to the full solvent Toucan 6464. However, he believes that, "our workhorse in this market, from a quality and performance aspect, is the Toucan LT with its fully integrated heavy duty media handling system allowing for unattended overnight printing." Mutoh’s newest entry into the fray is its 48-inch ValueJet printer that offers production speeds and exceptional quality at an entry-level price.
Paramount Promotions, Inc., out of Phoenix, AZ, prints exclusively with Mutoh printers, "due to their durability, reliability, and speed." Brad Bergamo further explains that they have stayed with Mutoh for so long because of, "the overall results we have had over the last years with Mutoh and their products."
Roland DGA Corporation offers printers ranging from 54 to 104 inches in width, all ideal for vehicle graphics. Particularly its SOLJET, VersaCAMM, and Advanced JET inkjet printers can be found in the production rooms of many sign shops across the country. Matt Richart of KY-based Digital EFX Wraps says that the shop specializes in printing and installing vehicle wraps, which is about 90 percent of its business. He uses Roland as Digital EFX’s hardware supplier because it is, "dependable, reliable, and effective."
Roland’s SOLJET and VersaCAMM are especially instrumental in the creation of a vehicle wrap according to Brian McLeod, managing director for Roland’s color products division, because of its print/cut technology. "Roland print/cut technology offers tremendous advantages for vehicle graphics applications. Vehicle graphics that previously required professionals to print on one device and contour cut on another can now be created easily on one device, through seamless workflow." The technology saves time and ensures a close to perfect product.
According to Jane Cedrone, marketing communications manager for EFI’s VUTEk, printers creating vehicle wraps do not need to be real wide, all you really need is a printer that is ideal for printing on self-adhesive vinyl. EFI’s VUTEk UltraVu 150 and 3360 are two printers that fall into that category. Cedrone explains, "The UltraVu is more affordable because of its size. It is truly a stepping stone for shop owners to get a footing into VUTEk printers. It is a small, industrial strength machine so it serves as a good start for a shop owner."
Motorsports Designs, Inc. is a NC-based shop that uses two VUTEk 150s to print its vehicle wraps. According to John McKenzie, CEO, the company chose the VUTEk 150 because of its speed. Speed is key for this wrapping business that does everything in-house, from design to installation. Most well-known for its patented Race Wraps, the company is constantly wrapping racecars for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series as well as commercial graphics locally and regionally.
All In the Family
Printer manufacturers are not only providing their end users with hardware. They are also offering customers their own branded media and ink to use in conjunction with their machinery.
For the Gerber EDGE FX there is a variety of almost 30 EDGE READY materials, including both cast and calendered vinyl film, perforated window film, removable and changeable film, and reflective film; which are all offered in a range of colors. Gerber’s Gary Soltoff also shares that Gerber uses a dry ink process labeled the GerberColor Series Foils. "These foils are constructed with resin-based pigments to produce highly durable output that is UV, chemical, and abrasion resistant." All foils are initially put through an evaluation process to make sure that they live up to the three to five year outdoor durability expectation.
HP Scitex offers its own ink for use with the TJ8300, XL1500, and 1200 models. There are two types of inks available, the HP Scitex Supreme ink and HP Scitex Classic ink. Both inks are tested and developed exclusively for HP Scitex print head technology. The Supreme series inks are recommended for demanding, added-value applications. The classic series is targeted for high-capacity applications. Inks are water-based, solvent, or UV formulations.
Mimaki also offers its own branded inks—ES3, SS2, and HS. All inks are available in six colors. Steve Urmano says that with the debut of the new JV5 printer, Mimaki is offering, "an HS-1 ink that promises to dry faster and be more durable." Out of the three, this rugged solvent is best for outdoor signage because of its abrasion resistance.
Mutoh offers three types of ink that it recommends for vehicle wraps—Eco Ultra, Mild Solvent, and True Solvent. It also has its own media line, Diamond Shield. The media line offers both gloss and matte calendered vinyl for use with Mutoh’s solvent and eco-solvent inks.
"Roland offers a complete line of tested, certified, and profiled media featuring more than 50 products. For complex vehicle graphics, Roland recommends its line of cast vinyls, which are very dimensionally stable and offer excellent durability. These products are generally more opaque, conformable, and tear-resistant than calendered vinyl," explains Brian McLeod. Furthermore, all Roland VersaCAMM and SOLJET printers come with Roland’s own ECO-SOL MAX ink. Characteristics of the ink that are central to vehicle wraps in particular, continues McLeod are, "greater scratch resistance, denser color, wider gamut, faster drying time, broader media support, and lower overall cost per square foot." With a greater scratch resistance, any graphic printed with ECO-SOL MAX ink has a guaranteed outdoor durability of up to three years.
Although EFI has not yet traveled into the media industry, it does promote its own ink company, Inkware. Based on the premise that using any other brand of ink could clog the machine, the inks are specially matched to function best in a VUTEk machine using matched fluid technology.
Just recently, the company introduced environmentally friendly ink, BioVu, recognized by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency. The solvent-based ink is composed of mainly food-grade ingredients, namely corn, and delivers durability, strong bonding to uncoated surfaces, and resistance to UV light and mechanical wear. The ink prints directly to substrates without harmful fumes and emissions. At press time the ink was only available for use with the VUTEk UltraVu 3360 II but EFI hopes to expand the availability in 2007.
Outside of print manufacturers offering accessories with their hardware, the media industry itself is pushing the envelope when it comes to media for the wrap market.
For the 3M Graphics Market Center, 3M Controltac Plus Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive Series IJ180C and 3M Scotchcal Lustre Overlaminate 8519 are big sellers. Tim Boxeth, marketing supervisor at 3M, says, "people tend to migrate toward the 180C family. It is a no-brainer, they don’t have to think about it." The flagship product line is what Boxeth refers to as, "the industry standard." Series IJ180C films combine patented pressure-activated, repositionable Controltac and the Comply air-bleed adhesive system that releases air bubbles. The 3M product can be applied in temperatures ranging from 40 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Boxeth claims no other films on the market can do all of this.
SignZoo, a sign shop out of Sarasota, FL that specializes in fleet and marine wraps, uses 3M’s 180C family. Todd Stuart, co-owner, explains, "it is the most consistent, widely used media available. We know exactly what to expect, and not changing solidifies any variables that could otherwise be in question."
"Arlon Graphic Films’ most popular media lines are the DPF 6000 and the 3220 Crystal Laminate," says Gabriel Maxwell, product manager. The DPF 6000 is a conformable cast film with postionable adhesive, allowing for installation to go smoothly. Both products are considered the more prevalent ones of Arlon’s media line because they were made specifically with vehicle graphics in mind.
Additionally, Arlon offers a variety of products that compliment its vehicle wrap line, such as the DPF 40 WF One Way View Graphics Window Film. The film is useful for those customers that want to cover the windows of the vehicle being wrapped.
Avery Dennison Graphics Division is another big player in the media industry. When it comes to vehicle graphics the company has aggressively pushed its Easy Apply technology. Tiffany Witham, senior marketing manager, explains, "Easy Apply is an air egress technology that puts channels into the adhesive and when you go to apply it lets the air out of those channels." With this technology bubbles are less frequent during the installation process and there is also clean removability after the life of the graphic.
Peter C. Salaverry of SkinzWraps, Inc. is an Avery customer. He shares, "the air channels inside the MPI 1005 EZ adhesive are such that our installers can apply seamless wrap applications on the most challenging vehicles much faster than our competitors can and also achieve a bubble-free and wrinkle-free application every time."
KAPCO Graphic Products also offers media for vehicle graphics. Its PSA 2 mil Gloss White Cast Vinyl is a favorite because it is a positionable adhesive. This flexible cast vinyl has an extended outdoor durability, perfect for fleet graphics. Another one of its more popular products is best used for bus graphic applications, the PSA 3.5 mil Opaque Matte White Vinyl. It is a calendered vinyl with removable adhesive. Priced competitively, these products according to Mike Popovich, sales manager of digital products for KAPCO, are more, "targeted toward the professional installers in the business who have been wrapping for quite some time."
MACtac’s first bubble free film is the IMAGin JT5000 Series. A differentiating factor that makes this MACtac product unique, according to Jennifer Payne, graphics product manager, is the, "very smooth, very white surface that results in a high printability. There is no pattern show through on the face of the vinyl from the adhesive technology." Payne believes that MACtac’s vehicle wrap business is substantially growing because of its new bubble free product. "We definitely expect it to grow, it is a big focus for us."
Finally, Oracal is another major competitor in the vehicle graphic market, offering a broad range of wrapping products. David Grant, marketing manager, lists the most popular as ORAJET 3951 Professional Wrapping Film, ORAJET 3551RA Fleet Wrapping Film, ORACAL Series 870 Wrapping Cast, and ORAGUARD 290 Premium Cast Laminating Film.
Just recently, Oracal released the ORAJET 3551RA with RapidAir Technology. The product features a RapidAir line with an advanced air-release liner for quicker and easier installations and reduces bubbles and creases. According to Grant, this makes it ideal for flat, corrugated, and riveted surfaces. Grant also shares that Oracal’s 870 Wrapping Cast is rapidly gaining popularity among fleet users and racing teams, "as a lightweight and economical alternative to paint."
Trevor Kräcker from Highet Kräcker Design is an Oracal user through and through. "We prefer Oracal 3951 because of the application and the finish. So many people tell us that it looks like it was painted on."
Users want access to the most useful, cost-effective solutions available. With such an array of products designed for vehicle wrapping, it will take some research to decide which is best for your operation.
In the October 2006 issue of Digital Output, we take a look at installation tips, tools, and techniques. Hear from end users, as well as the manufacturers themselves, about available and useful installation training programs.
Sep2006, Digital Output