Conventional signage is everywhere, but what about hard to reach, strangely contoured areas? Whether it is a brick wall, concrete column, or sidewalk, it shouldn’t stop sign shop owners and their clients from utilizing a potential marketing spot. Many media manufacturers create products to handle these difficult surfaces. Adhesive vinyl and magnetic signage are two of these applications.
Terry Brown knows digital printing. In the late 1980s and 90s he was a large format printing specialist. Before digital inkjet printers were popular, Brown used magnetic walls to expose photographic paper in the dark, then fed the paper into processors. Now, he owns Impact Sign Co. in Ipswich, MA. In operation since 2003, the 3,000-square-foot space houses three employees and services greater New England.
A full service custom sign shop, Brown offers CNC routing, carved signs, dimensional letters and logos, as well as digital and vinyl graphics. Only about 25 to 30 percent of the business is digital printing, but its presence shows. "Digital printing has really changed the way we do business," notes Brown. He continues, "The media is better and eco-solvent inks are top notch."
The shop owns a 54-inch Roland VersaCAMM VP-540, an eco-solvent printer and cutter system. Brown purchased it because it is an all-in-one device. Media of choice includes 3M and Oracal; and for magnets, Impact Sign Co. uses Magnum Magnetics.
Being a full service shop, magnetic signage is just another important service available to clients. However, only two to five percent of Impact Sign Co.’s output is magnetic signage. This Spring Brown expects an increase with the addition of new services such as magnetic menu boards and directory signs.
A common application for magnetic signage is vehicle advertising. The biggest challenge Brown finds with magnets exposed to the outdoors is the weather. He notes that, taking a magnetic sign off and on will sometimes scratch a vehicle.
Whether it is inside or outside, the life expectancy of magnetic signage varies depending on its creation. Generally, a magnetic sign topped with vinyl will last as long as the vinyl warranty. If a magnet is printed on directly, it will last around five years.
Although vehicle signage is one of the primary uses of magnets for Impact Sign Co., Brown sees other opportunities. This past Fall they created a 4x8-foot magnetic signboard for the non-profit organization Angel Flight New England (AFNE). AFNE, based out of North Andover, MA, consists of a group of pilots with a passion for volunteer work. The organization provides flights to adults and children in need.
Brown joined forces with Hasbro Toys, a sponsor of AFNE. Targeted toward the children of AFNE, Impact Sign Co. created a magnetic board that holds either a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head magnet with a child’s name on it. With an airport theme in mind, Mr. Potato Head is dressed in a pilot uniform and Mrs. Potato Head is a flight attendant. Their appearance mimics the gifts given to the children by Hasbro Toys before they board their flight. Hasbro Toys created these Potato Heads specifically for the children of AFNE.
It took seven to ten days to create the final product. With a little help from North East Digital Imaging in Tewksbury, MA, Impact Sign Co. mounted a 4x8-foot sheet of 28 gauge galvanized steel to a 4x8-foot skin foam sheet made of rigid PVC KÖMACEL by Kömmerling USA. The final graphic was printed on a HP Designjet 9000 and mounted on top of the steel sheet. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head graphics were printed on the Roland VersaCAMM VP-540 and then applied to Magnum Magnetics’ magnets which were contour cut on a ShopBot PRSalpha 96 CNC. Cutting the magnets on the CNC was Impact Sign Co.’s biggest challenge. "We never cut magnetic material on our CNC," explains Brown, "but when we got the right end mill (router bit) it was a piece of cake."
Impact Sign Co. personally mounted the magnetic board in AFNE’s lobby with two, 6-foot v-clips. The end result not only brought joy to the children of Angel Flight but to Brown as well. Citing what made the project unique, he says, "The children of Angel Flight, and it’s one of a kind."
Based out of MI, Weaver Media is relatively new to the scene, being all of three years old. The owner, Ben Weaver, was involved in outdoor media as well as printing before he started the company. Prior to Weaver Media, Weaver sold billboard space and noticed that clients always wanted something different to help them stand out. As more clients voiced this concern it became Weaver’s passion to accomplish just that.
Weaver Media specializes in creating unique imaging applications inside event venues all over the U.S. by utilizing their current structure. The goal is to prevent clients from building something new just to service their sponsors. Instead they strive to use art that lends to the space. For example, a concrete column could be home to a giant Coca-Cola bottle adhesive graphic. Most of the applications are installed at venues including racetracks, hockey rinks, and collegiate sporting arenas.
The company’s endeavors are widely seen on the racing circuit. "Weaver Media took off in a year and a half because it is so unique," says Weaver. They started working with Michigan International Speedway and offers started rolling in. Now they are a strategic partner of International Speedway Corporation.
A typical job from start to finish includes photographing the venue, creating a mock up, and pitching to a desired sponsor. Weaver Media subcontracts the actual creation of the application, but does the full installation. They have their own creative team, ready to design if needed.
To create these unique, one of a kind applications Weaver Media works closely with 3M. "3M is synonymous with quality," shares Weaver, "I built the business based on providing a quality product and I am able to do that thanks to 3M." 3M originally saw Weaver Media’s work at a MI event and approached them about creating a partnership.
Some of the 3M products Weaver Media uses include the new adhesive 3M Scotchcal Graphic Film for Textured Surfaces IJ8624, which is excellent for split block, brick, and stucco. Also utilized is 3M Scotchcal Graphic Film 3662 for sidewalk applications because it is easily removable and leaves no adhesive residue. Another new product, a 5 mil 3M Mesh Banner Material IJ5, is used for grandstand wraps and banners. This new product is a combination of 3M ingenuity and Weaver Media’s needs. The company needed a 3M product that created a seamless application and 3M delivered.
Weaver finds that people don’t forget past adhesive blunders. "One of the real challenges is dealing with vendors who had bad experiences with adhesive signage. At the Darlington Raceway in SC they had an adhesive application on the track wall and it came off in the middle of a race. NASCAR proceeded to ban all track wall adhesives," explains Weaver. With a 3M product, it is Weaver’s firm belief that this would not have happened.
Making a Grand Entrance
One unique application that Weaver Media created is at Richmond International Speedway. Fans generally park at the back of the property and are trammed in through tunnels. Weaver identified the tunnels as a valuable media opportunity, "Weaver Media prides themselves in unique media placement. This particular opportunity was created because of the captive audience and high traffic."
Richmond International Speedway presented the idea to one of its sponsors, UPS, who followed up by providing Weaver Media with artwork for a Spring 2006 installation. Pre-application consisted of power washing the tunnels. Installation itself took three and a half days with three people on the job.
The two tunnels coming into the track from the parking area were wrapped in 3M Scotchcal Graphic Film 3662 with a 3M Scotchcal Overlaminate Film 3647. The third tunnel, an exit tunnel, is even more appealing. Using 3M Reflective IJ680CR film it creates a glowing effect to the graphic similar to a stop sign. The graphics for all three tunnels were printed on a HP Scitex XL1500 solvent printer.
UPS and Richmond International Speedway liked the graphic so much they renewed it in Spring 2007. The adhesive itself went beyond Weaver’s expectations. It lasted a full year, despite the fact that Weaver only guarantees graphics like that for one season. He believes that since it isn’t a traditional vehicle wrap or billboard application it is hard to guarantee.
With both applications there was the potential for graffiti or theft. Someone did get to the second tunnel application with a marker, but it was easily removed with soap and water.
Magnets and adhesives are two great service offerings. While adhesives may be a little more expensive than traditional signage, the quality and longevity really outweigh the cost. And for a quick, inexpensive sign option there is always magnetic signage.
Weaver explains the allure of unique applications, "In today’s event media world our sponsors are craving something creative that will separate them from the clutter." Both magnetic signage and adhesives certainly come under that heading.